Jack Chase is a good cop who made a bad decision. One night, he overhears how a drug bust is going to go down. He tracks down the buyer, and takes the money before the undercover cops can spring their trap.
Jack is a suspect—nearly everyone in the department is certain Jack took the money—but because Jack’s late father was the highly respected Police Chaplain, Jack is left alone.
As a penance, Jack is reassigned to walking a beat. One ungodly cold night, he chases a suspect into a warehouse. Shots are exchanged. The perp dies, and Jack is critically wounded. For a brief period, his heart actually stops.
When we die—according to official fiction rules—our souls see a bright light, and the welcoming souls of our loved ones who’ve gone before us beckon us to join them in eternal peace.
Jack went the other way, and he is seriously freaked out. Being scorched, and having demons tear at his flesh is not a good time, and Jack determines to turn over the money and confess his crime, anything to avoid going back to those horrible, evil beings bent on Jack’s eternal torment.
Jack recovers, and his best friend and fellow cop, Danny, as well as his girlfriend, Terry, are overjoyed to have him back. When Jack admits his crime to them, they do not take it well. Jack speaks to the new chaplain, Father Rollins, and he urges Jack to do the right thing. Before he gets his chance, the drug kingpin’s goons are trying to kill him. Worse still, some minions from the other side seem to have followed Jack home. He’s in danger, both real and surreal, with no idea how he’s going to survive.
“Burning Blue” is an interesting horror-mystery. I call it that, because it’s neither pure horror nor a pure mystery. There is a sense of police procedural to it. We follow Jack grappling with his decision regarding the money, and sense Internal Affairs breathing down his neck.
The horror element is very real, too. To believe Jack’s story—which we are called to do, since it’s told third-person—is to know he went to a very bad place, and some very bad creatures seem to have come along back to our world.
Jack’s also worried about his soul’s safety. After that glimpse into the Underworld, Jack has no desire to return. That’s the main reason it’s so important for him to make this right: he wants his soul cleared, so he goes to the normal Afterlife, with the bright light and happy loved ones.
I like the way author Michael Kannengieser combines the two genres. As a mystery alone, or a horror novel alone, “Burning Blue” doesn’t quite work. Combined, it becomes an interesting fusion. Jack becomes complicated, because there’s an added desperation to his wanting to make things right. He has seen what happens if he doesn’t. Jack’s desire for closure goes way beyond a guilty conscience. He’s scared to death. Or beyond.
Personally, I would like to have seen a broader glimpse of hell than we see here. Then again, I’m a masochistic big horror novel fan. The taste we get—and the descriptions are pretty good, if brief—keeps “Burning Blue” safe for non-horror mystery fans to enjoy the ride.
And “Burning Blue” is a damned good ride. (pun intended)