Soledad O'Roark and Eddi Aoki are cops on the LAPD's Pacific MTac team, the city's best mutant-hunter unit. At twenty-nine, Soledad is a streetwise veteran; Eddi, the young but talented protege--or rival. Their weapons--Soledad's custom-made O'Dwyer VLe handgun and Eddi's Hibben Bowie--and their deadliness are making them into infamous members of the police force. Unfortunately, the two women rarely finish a conversation without clashing; both are proud and angry. And too busy fighting to survive to waste time on talk.
Metanormals, mutants who have a superhuman ability, have infiltrated the city. The LAPD is losing good officers in vastly unequal fights. A relentless killer is littering the city with bodies. And the LAPD is wracked with internal power struggles and might contain a secret society of vigilantes.
Meanwhile, Soledad is deciding whether to marry Vin, an injured cop; her mother is fighting a life-threatening illness; and an Internal Affairs officer is trying to recruit her to spy on her fellow cops. In a wild series of clashes with mutants, Eddi burns through a lot of ammunition while trying to keep herself and her team alive.
These plotlines add up to an entertaining, albeit dark, story, and the novel is an excellent read. John Ridley writes in a frenetic, jazzy voice, and he layers a social critique of corporate greed, cultural conformity, and bureaucratic incompetence into this story.
Because Ridley weaves excerpts from Soledad's and Eddi's journals into the narrative, we get to know both women very well. We care about them and about what happens to them, which is one reason why this novel is riveting. Life is fragile and survival uncertain in this world, and we're still learning who can be trusted, who lives, and who has a secret even onto the novel's final page.
Armchair Interviews says: What Fire Cannot Burn will surprise you. Ridley is a writer willing to take risks, and he presents us with a story that seems like a simple morality tale at first but quickly deepens into an exploration of fear, evil, and human nature.