The joy of picking up a book by a new author, or even an author that is just new to the reader, is hard to describe. It is some nebulous mixture of anticipation, wonder, hope, and fear. This is odd given that what the author has done has been completed by multitudes of other people – the telling of a story in written format – and yet, as readers we know that no two books, no two storytellers, are the same; there are pitfalls at every turn. But in reality, it doesn’t take a reinvention of the wheel to make something a success. Joseph Schneider’s One Day You’ll Burn is not only his first novel, but also the launch of a new series. As such, it is no surprise that in many ways it follows the “guidelines” of those stalwart predecessors, but Schneider manages to hit a bulls-eye with a novel where everything is just a bit quirky and off-center.
Let’s look at the tropes and see how Joseph Schneider subverts them:
The main character in One Day You’ll Burn is Detective Tully Jarsdel. He’s a fish out of water in the Hollywood division of the LAPD. He is in constant conflict with his partner Oscar Morales, naturally a more experienced officer. Even Jarsdel’s family is not a fan of his career choice. All sounds pretty standard, right? Not so fast. The reason Jarsdel doesn’t really gel with his macho counter-parts is because he a much more analytical thinker, a former History professor with a mind more suited for academia. Morales refers to Tully as “Prof,” and fully expects – and helps to facilitate – moments when Jarsdel will trip up, fail, and realize that this is not the career for him. Oh, and Jarsdel’s family? His two dads, Robert and Darius, are also academics who fear every day that their precious son will be injured, or worse, killed in the line of duty. They would much rather he return to the quaint halls of learning facilities where the whole family shines.
Following on brand, the detective’s current case brings him into the vicinity of the beautiful Aleena Andreotti, an exotic beauty with whom sparks immediately fly. But don’t count Aleena off as just another pretty face. First off, she’s smart – a lecturer on industrial psychology – and despite having had something horrible happen to her, she is resilient, confident, and “takes no prisoners.” Rest assured, Aleena also has secrets, regrets, and more than her fair share of desires. Things between Tully and Aleena get steamy, but this is nothing short of an equally paired match.
Speaking of the current case, there are actually three that factor into One Day You’ll Burn. Naturally these cases dove-tail with some overlap and unexpected connections. Lest anyone mistake this novel for lighter fare, the central case begins with a human body burned to a crisp in Thailand Park, part of Los Angeles’ Little Armenia district. The second case involves the serial killing of dogs, with the crimes always committed on the day the owners get married. Fortunately, Schneider tones down the graphic gore for this investigation, but the slaughter of innocent pets is sure to be too much for some readers. The third minor case that weaves its way into the plot is the mysterious disappearance of street performers from the touristy areas of Hollywood central.
One Day You’ll Burn is quintessentially LA and specifically Hollywood. The very nature of the film industry feeds the core fire here. This novel is a look at the fantasy of Hollywood glamour juxtaposed with the current reality of life in Tinseltown. Yet more than that, it is the start of a journey with Detective Tully Jarsdel, one stepping stone on a path that seems destined to go to unexpected places via a very familiar route.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.