Cover Image: A Burning Obsession

A Burning Obsession

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Member Reviews

Thank you to Mike Omer, Thomas & Mercer, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of a digital advanced reviewer copy in exchange for an honest review!

This book follows Lieutenant Abby Mullen, a hostage negotiator with NYPD, and Zoe Bentley, a criminal profiler consultant for the FBI who are investigating multiple brutal arsons. During the investigation, Abby gets the feeling that her father is behind the tragic murders.  Abby must face the demons of her past to stop her father once and for all.

This book very fast paced and I couldn't read fast enough to get my fill. I felt myself holding my breath while waiting to see what would happen next. I really appreciated the author's perspective of taking the reader into the cult member mindset. From reading this book, I have discovered that I love reading about the brainwashing that occurs in cults. Hopefully Omer will add another book to this series in the future.
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This is a well done, fast paced thriller. Would recommend for anyone who’s a fan of police procedurals and thriller enthusiasts.  Has well thought out characters and a suspenseful plot.
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I did not finish this book so I can’t give a review. Giving 3 stars for a fair rating because I didn’t finish it. I won’t review elsewhere until I read it fully - I intend to do so.
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There is a series of suspicious fires that are leaving multiple people dead is their homes and people know something is wrong. Abby who is a NYPD hostage negiogater and she knows that terrors from her childhood are coming back for her. As a child she barely escaped a fire that was set by Moses Wilcox who is a lunatic cult leader. But Moses is presumed dead for the past thirty years. Fast forward to now and these fires have Moses fingerprints , not literally, all over it. Abby who isnt investigating the fires gets asked for help by the investigator, Zoe, to help get an insight of what is going on. As the two pair together to figure out the cause and what is occurring they discover more secrets and deception. Memories are brought up from Abbys childhood and the race to catch the killer if upon them. 

Mike Omer is fantastic and it is another one of his Abby Mullen books that hits it out of the park! There is a build of suspense with a strong development of characters. The atmosphere keeps the readers on their feet and always wondering what is going to happen next. I personally like the development of Abby and the insights we get from her personal rrelationships and her career! She is vulberable in the right way and shows the disasters of the cult relationship to their members. From the first opening pages to the last pages I did not want to put down. The scenes are vivid, memorable, and enthralling. There is a lot at stake and that made me wonder what is going on and the answers to all the questions I had. I would recommend 100% and think anyone could enjoy it!
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When a series of suspicious fires leaves multiple victims dead in their homes, NYPD hostage negotiator Abby Mullen knows in her bones that the terrors of her childhood have returned. As a young girl, she narrowly escaped a fire set by Moses Wilcox, a fanatical cult leader who’s been presumed dead for thirty years. These murders have his fingerprints all over them.
Meanwhile, razor-sharp criminal profiler Zoe Bentley is investigating the arsons—but she’s never seen an offender like this. Zoe needs insight from someone who understands the mind of a cult leader. Someone like Abby Mullen.
As the unlikely duo teams up on the case, it’s time for Abby to face the memories she’s always wanted to forget: the cult that defined her childhood, the fire that killed her family, and the man who engineered it all. The race is on to catch a killer—even if it means braving the fiery wreckage of Abby’s past.

This is a wonderful addition to this thrilling series!
Wonderful well written plot and story line that had me engaged from the start.
Love the well fleshed out characters and found them believable.
Great suspense and action with wonderful world building  that adds so much to the story.
Such a thrilling read that I couldn't put it down.
Can't wait to read more of these.
Recommend reading.

I was provided an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher.  This is my own honest voluntary review.
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I really enjoy both the Abby Mullen and Zoe Bentley series so was excited to see them work together. It took them a while to find a rhythm and work well together. Their interactions came across a bit awkward and unnatural to start with but they made a great team eventually. I definitely enjoyed the cross over. I love that we also get to see Abby’s personal life and her adorable family. 

I’m so intrigued by the cult mentality and this series manages to cover it without being repetitive. I had no idea how or even if they were going to stop them. The end was so tense and you could feel the heat with Abby. This one is definitely darker than the other 2 in the series. 

I received a copy of the ebook via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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Fires burn through homes and claims many victims. Hostage Negotiator Abby feels like she has seen this MO before. When she was younger, a cult leader was doing the same thing, but she thought he was gone for good. Zoe, who is a criminal profiler is assigned to this case. She is flummoxed with the clues and decides to ask Abby for help. Together, they plan on tracking down the criminal and there are obstacles that is put in their paths. A thrilling story with twists and turns that keeps the reader engrossed in the characters and plot. A mysterious story with strong characters. 

Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer , I received review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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A series of fires and a link to Moses Wilcox bring together Abby Mullen & Zoey Bentley in this crossover. 

I am a huge fan of the Zoey Bentley series and have read the Abby Mullen series as well. I'm not sure what I expected from a crossover, but this wasn't it. The interaction between Abby & Zoey just didn't seem natural. I also felt like Zoey was in Abby's story and I think it would have been better if the two them teamed up against a new, unrelated bad guy. 

The writing is still good, I'd still read more from Mike Omer but this one just fell flat for me.
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A Burning Obsession by Mike Omer
Abby Mullens #3

Fire, obsession, madness, charismatic predator, and those out to stop the psychotic ruthless person behind it all are at the center of this trilogy that concludes with this book. 

* Abby: NYPD hostage negotiator, divorced, mother, obsessed with keeping her children safe from the man from her childhood that haunts her in the present
* Zoe: criminal profiler, has a series of her own that I have not read, seemed a bit clueless in profiling the criminal at the center of this story
* Tatum Grady: FBI agent working with Zoe and seems to have also worked with Abby in the past
* Sam and Ben: Abby’s children
* Carver: Abby’s love interest met in a previous book
* Being drawn into the story though it was creepy and difficult to read at time knowing that there are no doubt people as evil and deluded as those in this book
* That the series is concluded and hopeful that the bad guy(s) will never be able to harm others again

What I didn’t like: 
* Who and what I was meant not to like
* Thinking about cults and the harm they do

Did I enjoy this book? Yes, though it was rather dark
Would I read more by this author? Yes

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the ARC – This is my honest review.

4-5 Stars
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This has been an interesting series and the new addition keeps it interesting.  I loved the addition of Zoe Bently and team to Abby's story.  I thought it was a very clever way to combine two really good series.  This has all the suspense and drama I have come to expect, but the intensity was turned up a bit.  I could not put this one down.  Very well done.
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Book three of the Abby Mullen series, and the final one, unfortunately. You COULD read this book as a standalone but I would strongly recommend reading them in order. 

Abby joins forces with Zoe in this book, and the two of them are a study in contrasts. I really like Abby, she is real and flawed but hard working and dedicated. I didn't have as much of an emotional bond with Zoe, but some of their interactions made me laugh out loud, even though the subject of this book was very serious indeed.

Does Abby finally get to lay her past to rest? Moses has certainly been a busy boy and some of the things he has been up to, made me cringe. 

I am not that familiar with all things cults, but I like the author's descriptions of how an ordinary person finds themselves drawn to a community like that and how the cult works to break them down and have them become more pliant. Scary as. 

Great book, although it wasn't as "I can't possibly handle more suspense here" like the other two, until the very end, that is, which I almost read through my splayed fingers!

4.5 stars from me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer.
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Missed the first two books in the trilogy, so I may not be the best  reviewer, as there were past events/relationships, etc I didn’t fully understand. However, this does still work as a stand alone. The pacing is fast and the pages do turn as the read wants to follow the cult around and see how the final showdown plays out! Characterization and dialogue seem basic/wooden, but this is balanced by the tight and fun plot. I was intrigued enough to want to read the first two books in the trilogy, so that is a good sign and a credit to the author!  loved the parts about profiling cults-very interesting! 

Overall, a fun read, not sure if it offers anything new to the genre, but enjoyable and entertaining!

Advanced copy provided by publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
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Book #3 in Omer's Abby Mullen trilogy.  Mike Omer has several mystery/ thriller series running in which he crosses characters often.  In A BURNING OBSESSION, Abby Mullen is joined by Zoe Bentley and Tatum Gray, both characters from the Zoe Bentley Mystery series.  This actually makes his books even better since you are already familiar with characters.  While this is book #3, it is so well written you'd not notice if we hadn't told you.

Fire.....arsonists have unique methods to their fires.  They leave their signatures in many ways, investigators learn to "read" each fire quickly and identify the criminal.  This series of fires bears the signature of a man thought imprisoned for the last 30 years.  These three investigators must pool their talents to find and save the next victims before tradegy strikes again.  The story is fast paced.  The characters driven by their own demons to stop this one from killing again.  The background story of Abby Mullen adds to the sense of urgency Mike Omer conveys with his writing.  Overall, I'd say it will be a shame if this really is the last book for Abby Mullen.
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This book brings together Lieutenant Abby Mullen, a hostage negotiator with the NYPD, and Zoe Bentley, a criminal profiler consultant for the FBI. There has been a series of arsons in which somebody has died. Not just died, they were bound hand and foot and burned to death in these deliberately started blazes.

Abby has been following these deaths and thinks they are the work of her biological father - cult leader Moses Wilcox. After all they echo the blaze that killed most of his followers when she was just a child. Zoe is not convinced but it doesn’t take long until she realises that Abby is onto something and so they end up working together along with Zoe’s long suffering partner, Tatum.

Moses is now going by the name of Moses Williams but these fires have Wilcox’s fingerprints all over them. He has started a new cult and his fanatical followers are ready to die for him and believe his nonsense about a second baptism by fire. 

When Delilah’s abusive husband is found burned to death and Delilah and her children appear to be missing it becomes a race against time to find and stop Williams/Wilcox for once and for all. Zoe must defer to Abby’s experience in hostage negotiation and cult behaviour but Abby must face the demons of her past. Wilcox appears to be certifiably insane but somehow has a stranglehold on his brainwashed followers.

This was a fast paced thriller as the cult moved around and always seemed to be one step ahead of the authorities. The finale was very tense and exciting and the outcome was not assured. Apparently this is the end of the Abby Mullen trilogy. I’ll be very keen to see what Mike Omer has for us next. Thanks to Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer for the much appreciated arc which I reviewed voluntarily and honestly.
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A Burning Obsession is book three in the Abby Mullens Thrillers series. This is book two for me, but I am planning on reading book one so I will have read the whole series. I really believe when you read a series each book builds upon the previous and this is no exception. It can be read as a stand-alone, there are plenty of memories and back history carried over, but for me starting at the beginning is the best way to read a series.

Abby is a crisis/hostage negotiator for NYPD. Abby is calm in pressure situations, able to make others calm when listening to her. The more knowledge she has the better she is able to diffuse the situation.

NYPD Lieutenant Abby Mullen is determined to find Cult leader Moses Wilcox. She follows leads across the country to a series of fires in small towns where victims are left to burn alive and young women are disappearing nearby. Abby is sure that Moses is behind all of these events, but her help is not wanted. Abby is positive she is on to something and keeps following the clues until they finally believe her.

Abby joins forces with profiler Zoe Bentley. Who also happens to be hunting Moses. Each has their own profile of Moses and disagree that the other is incorrect. Abby's information of Moses is more person since he is her father. Much of what she knows is based on a child's view and so she can't see other things that Zoe is able to. Their partnership is interesting to watch as they slowly let their barriers down and work together, they will get a whole and correct profile to lead them to Moses before another person dies.

This is a fascinating and riveting story that keeps the pressure building until the conclusion. I like the story of Abby as she tries to find Moses but also the peace she is looking for from her past. It is easy to say how can they believe this stuff, but when you are raised in a cult or another way of life that is all you know. So, most don't question their belief system. You don't know what you don't know until your beliefs are questioned. The ending was really rewarding, for me it felt as if Abby was able to find her peace and finally break free.

I received an ARC from NetGalley for an unbiased review.
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This book had me on the edge of my seat so many times I’m surprised I didn’t fall off!

Thoroughly enjoyed the final instalment of the Abby Mullen and Moses series. 

The plot was interesting and well constructed with characters that had you rooting for them or wanting to bash their heads (looking at you Moses) 

The relationship between Zoe and Abby was a joy to read. Two strong women with Tatum and Carver in the background .. claps hands. 

I’ve never read about cults before and this has certainly peaked my curiosity. 

Recommend people to pick this up and buckle up for the ride! 

Thanks #netgalley and Michael for the advanced copy of the book for an honest review
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Apparently I have missed a lot in this story as I only read this last book in the trilogy. But I find it quite interesting nevertheless. 
It does go on a slow pace for me at least, and some scenes aren’t exactly what I was expecting in here but overall I found it interesting and intriguing. 
The cult type of stories are always interesting to read for me because where I was born, we haven’t even heard of them and I found this story entirely surprising. 
The most gruesome thing that I found was the scenes where Moses was feeling out of control while he was burning other people alive. He was obsessed with fire and I know that some cult lifers are all about sex. And that was just a bit too much for me. 

Overall it’s an interesting story but it needs to be read along the first two to make a complete idea of what’s happening here. 

Very grateful to the publisher for my review copy
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“She was going insane. The only way she could know peace was with Moses behind bars. Abby would chase Moses Wilcox to the ends of the earth to protect her children.”

This has been a good trilogy that I stumbled upon on NetGalley. A Burning Obsession is the final book.

I am a bit disappointed that my prediction on book title was wrong. (You can read my full list in my Damaged Intentions review)

But I suppose this title fits so I won’t hold a grudge.


What’s New?

It has the same suspense, crisis negotiation, and freaky cult stuff as the previous two but this one is a little different.

Abby’s family is fairly absent in this book. I think her son, Ben’s, pet spider gets more page real estate than he does! We also don’t have her work partner, Will, or the other two cult survivors from her childhood. Not having the other survivors feels a bit unsatisfying because I feel like they needed this closure too and they had been talking with Abby about things in the previous two books.

This book is more about wrapping up Abby’s trauma with her past and focusing on the relationship between Abby and Zoe Bentley— a character from a previous trilogy Mike Omer has written— as their spheres intersect and they work the case together.


Another difference with this third book is that we have access to what Moses Wilcox is thinking and feeling. Up until now he’s been pretty elusive and mysterious. But if Abby is going to deal with her past, she is going to have to confront who Moses Wilcox actually is. Zoe is convinced Abby isn’t seeing him accurately.

“‘He’s not a demon,’ Zoe said sharply. ‘Or a cancerous growth. Or a monster. And he’s not a messiah either. He’s a man who happens to be very good at making people do what he wants.’”

Moses is all about control. And Abby is still being controlled by her perception of him. She has to recognize his humanity. He is just a man and he is not invincible. To follow this theme we have to understand more of who Moses is and I believe that’s why Omer decided to give us more access to what drives Moses.

That being said, the last notable difference with this book is that the cult stuff vamps up a bit. In this book we have people being burned alive at the hands of Moses and his cult.

As the book is titled, we figure out Moses’s burning obsession. He is obsessed with fire as a cleansing process but he also has a fetish. He is aroused by fire and is convinced that he must have sex with various members of his group (while the fire is raging and the victims are screaming) in fulfilling ‘God’s will’ of procreating little ‘angels’ to protect their group during the end times.

This sexual fantasy component is new to this book, but comes as no surprise considering the information we have on most cults out there.


The Context and Plot

This one picks up one month after book two— Damaged Intentions— when the hostage situation took place at Abby’s daughter’s school.

Now that Abby knows Moses Wilcox is her father and that he intends to get her and her children back into “his flock” she can’t rest until she has tracked him down and can be sure he can’t come for them anymore.

Following a trail of arson, Abby gets a solid lead on Wilcox’s whereabouts. He is traveling with his followers through a series of connected church locations. As they depart each church, they also leave behind a burning house where they have tied up a victim to meet their fiery fate.

Abby teams up with Zoe Bentley to try to correctly profile Moses and predict where he is going and how to stop him without more people getting hurt.

Can they get to him in time?


Other Comments

In his acknowledgements at the end Omer talks about how he had wanted to write a showdown between Moses and Abby. He wanted to make sure to add the ‘other’ character— the fire. That definitely added to the showdown scene but I felt that I wanted more dialogue about the past. We hear Abby’s thought process as she has some realizations but she doesn’t specifically voice them to Moses. We just watch her ‘negotiate’ her way through the situation. I wanted to see her confront him about some of the cult things.



This was an interesting quote:

“Fear flourished at night. But it didn’t necessarily lie. In Delilah’s own experience, fear mostly told the truth at night, a truth that during the day she could all but ignore.”

In some ways I disagree. When I think about some of the fears I have at night, they can be pretty irrational. But considering the context of her situation, this quote can be accurate. The cult is keeping her isolated and busy and inundated with information so that she doesn’t have time to think things through. As she lays in bed at night it’s quiet and she can process things in a way she can’t during the day. Her real fears tell her the truth that she’s not allowed to think about when she’s surrounded.


And this quote:

“‘She didn’t join this group. People don’t join cults. They’re recruited. And usually they have little control when it happens.’”

This is really insightful. We tend to judge people who ‘join’ cults thinking they’re idiots and why would they choose that, but we don’t recognize the strategies and manipulation that is at play. The more I read about cults and people’s experiences the more this statement resonates with me.

Check out Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism to see how words play a part in that.


And this one:

“What motivated a serial killer to kill repeatedly wasn’t the same as what necessarily motivated a cult leader to kill repeatedly.”

Zoe Bentley’s series is about serial killers. Abby’s series is about cults and negotiating. So what happens when these two worlds collide? Profiles have to be adjusted. The environment and principles of a cult do create a different system than a ‘normal’ serial killer. It’s interesting to think about what creates these two different types of killers. Or is the conception similar even if the outcomes vary?



Abby’s teenage daughter, Sam, gives a speech at her concert and says: “A few of us… pupils and teachers…” and I just wanted to point out that nobody uses the word ‘pupils.’ Nobody. Especially a teenager. The word choice should be students.



I hope no one needs this disclaimer, but I want to confirm that Moses’s interpretation of the Bible is wrong and twisted. It makes me sad and angry that people create these evil cult groups and incorporate the Bible into their wicked ways. They pervert truth and use it to hurt people and that is not God’s will. Moses’s cult is fictional but there is no shortage of real cults that function like that in the world today.



Recommendation

If you’ve already been reading this series, then you’ll definitely want to read this one to finish it up!

If you haven’t started it yet, I think it’s worth checking out! But read it in order or you’ll probably be a little confused and not fully understand everything.

It’s suspenseful and very mild in terms of language and sexual content. I think his writing is good and his stories are interesting.

I haven’t decided if I’ll go back and read Zoe’s series or not. Zoe is quite a different character than Abby and from what I’ve read (which really isn’t much) it may be a bit more intense or violent as it focuses on serial killers who do some strange things.

It seems like Omer’s MO is to create a main protagonist who is still haunted by their past which becomes entangled in their present lives and forces them to confront that part of themselves that hasn’t fully healed or resolved.

If I decide to read it, I’ll link my thoughts here.

But I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for Omer’s next book! Maybe he’ll be starting a new series!


[Content Advisory: 0 f- words, 17 s-words]


**Received an ARC via NetGalley**
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A NYC Police Officer Just Shows Up At A Wyoming Crime Scene!

The novel opens with Moses Wilcox leads his cult congregation to a wooden shack in the middle of nowhere Wyoming. His followers pore gas and all over the shack and inside. They light the gasoline, and the shack goes up in flames. There’s a poor man inside. The site is a crime scene the next morning. New York City Police Lieutenant Abby Mullen shows up stating that she is investigating similar arsons. The local police accommodate her. Shortly after Zoe Bentley, an FBI forensic psychologist arrives. Bentley was cooler with her. She personally does know Mullen as they had met before. The novel grows from this start.

The main storyline consists of two major threads. The first is from the point of view of Moses Wilcox, who now goes by Fr. Moses Williams. Some minor threads support this thread that cover the recruitment of a new cult member and life in the cult. The second thread is the investigation and chase to bring Wilcox to justice. These two threads give the main storyline a cat and mouse chase flavor. To maintain a high level of suspense, there will be another deadly arson will occur shortly. Add to this is that Moses wants Abby and her daughter under his control that makes this chase very personal for Abby. My interest was locked in during Chapter 1.

The B-storyline is quite rich as Abby is juggling a long-distance investigation with Zoe Bentley not very appreciative of an interloper on an FBI investigation, as Abby works to forge a working or better relationship with Zoe and keeping her children under adult supervision. Her daughter is an active teen, and teen girls always are a handful. Her younger son has a menagerie of uncommon pets that are challenging to keep fed. I particularly enjoyed how Abby changes her normal approach to an investigation when now she needs to rely on the good graces of others to participate in the investigation. These aspects enhanced my reading enjoyment especially one incident where she had to hurry to prepare for the return of her children. That was my favorite scene in the entire series.

There are aspects that some readers can find objectionable. The story centers on the leader of a cult that uses his position of authority to carry out baptisms by fire and commit crimes against the women in the cult. These scenes are not dwelt upon but definite earn the caveat that the reader be forewarned. These aspects did not hamper my reading enjoyment of this novel. As for vulgar and impious language, it is near zero. Most instances were a low level of rude language. The last question in this category is that can this book be read first. I believe so, as I found backfill adequate. If you have not read the first two, I recommend reading them first and even the Zoe Bentley series as this novel’s storyline becomes more meaningful, but it is your choice.

There are many aspects that I really enjoyed in this novel. The major one was having Zoe Bentley as a major character in this novel. She was the main character in a very popular three-book series just before this one. I enjoyed each one, and having her here was like receiving an extra free scoop of ice cream. The Zoe Bentley character was a little different in this book from what I remember from her own series. I attribute this to seeing her from an external perspective. I honestly did not find anything that decreased my reading enjoyment. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, and it did keep me up late reading it. This novel just reaffirmed this author being in my Must-Read author rating. If you like this genre, I recommend reading this novel, but see my caveats in the possible objectionable aspects earlier. I rate this novel with five stars.
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I like the Zoe Bentley series and when I saw Mike Omer had another series,  read the first Abby Mullen book.  When I was approved for this one, I realized there was a second book, Damaged Intentions, and read that one prior to starting this one.  I enjoyed the first book, A Deadly Influence, but didn't like the second book as well.  This installment was better.  

I was invested in finding out how the story concluded and enjoyed seeing Zoe and Tatum making an appearance.  Cults and their leaders are always fascinating subjects and this example was no different.  The story was engaging and kept me interested enough to want to see how it all ended.

Thank you to NetGalley, Thomas & Mercer, and Mike Omer for the ARC.
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