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Clean Burn

(Janelle Watkins, Private Investigator #1)

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  73 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Private investigator Janelle Watkins swore off investigating child abductions four years ago, when she left the San Francisco PD.

But when two clients beg for her help, one to find her missing 11-year-old son and the other to find a toddler who’s vanished, Janelle can’t say no. Even though it means returning to the scene of her nightmares – her hometown of Greenville.

Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 27th 2013 by Exhibit A (first published January 1st 2013)
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3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  73 ratings  ·  26 reviews

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Dan Schwent
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
P.I. Janelle Watkins left finding missing children behind after a failure that led to her leaving the San Francisco PD. Or so she thought. Now she's back in the town where she grew up, on the trail of two missing boys. Can she overcome her personal demons long enough to find the boys and bring their abductor(s) to justice?

I got this courtesy of Angry Robot/Exhibit A and Netgalley.

Karen Sandler has been around for a while but this is her first detective novel. I hope she sticks to writing detecti
Jul 23, 2013 rated it liked it
(I received a free copy of this via NetGalley.)

Janelle Watkins sure is a HOT mess!

Get it? Because this book is called Clean BURN and it's about fire and arson?

Oh, never mind. I don’t know why I even bother trying to entertain you people.

Anyhow, Janelle used to be a cop in San Francisco who had a knack for finding abducted children, but a freak injury ended her career and left her with a bad leg. She also has personal issues like being haunted by visions of a boy she failed to save and an unheal
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

Clean Burn is a gripping crime fiction novel introducing Private Investigator Janelle Watkins. An injured ex-cop, Janelle mostly makes a living from exposing cheating spouses but a personal plea for help has her reluctantly agreeing to search for two missing children. The cases seem unconnected but both lead Janelle to her hometown of Greenville where she enlists the aid of her ex-partner, and ex-lover, Sheriff Ken Heinz. Heinz has his hands full with a series of arson attacks in the small town
Cheryl M-M
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This author is usually known for her romance novels and often when authors hop-skip genres they can't separate them.
I am very pleased to say that Sandler has hop-skipped with great skill and precision into the crime/thriller genre without skewing the lines.
This story is dark, compelling and gritty. It is realistic and disturbing.
It broaches upon many painful topics like child abduction, child abuse and paedophilia. The subject matter has obviously been well researched and gives a disturbing insi
Clean Burn is a well written private investigator story, featuring a female heroine who makes mistakes and isn't perfect, but who gets what needs to be done done. I appreciated that she suffers from PTSD as well as having a disability (due to an injured leg). She was maybe a little too messed up for me to entirely enjoy -- given my own mental illness, I'm not that comfortable with books that show that of others in any detail! The prose doesn't sparkle, but it's solid and easy to follow, which is ...more
Jul 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways, 2014, crime
“With clean burn, the accelerant creates such an intense fire, the soot gets burned away. A fire so hot it would burn away all my sins.”

It is always tough to create a new private investigator, without resorting to over-used and well-worn clichés. Thankfully in this case, on the whole the author Karen Sandler has created a very unique PI in that sense, in detective Janelle Watkins. Private investigators in fiction are predominantly male, and have some form of reckless addiction, usually destru
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A private investigator swears off searching for missing children after one of them dies during her search. Years later, two mothers find her and beg her to search for their missing children back in her hometown of Greenville. She partners up with her ex-SFPD partner who she once had an affair with and goes on a hunt for the missing children while also helping him with a string of arsons happening in Greenville this month.

This book was just ok for me, I enjoyed it through the end. My only issue i
Oct 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime, 2013
Kay Scarpetta, Jane Rizolli, Maura Isles, Kate Beckett, Alex Cooper, Barbara Havers, Teresa Lisbon, these are all women cut from the same cloth as Clean Burn's protagonist Janelle Watkins. They're tough, if not fearless then certainly able to ignore their fear, and they are tenacious in their pursuit of justice. They are also one and all flawed in some profound way, whether it's Rizolli's traumatic experiences at the hands of The Surgeon, Beckett's enduring search for her mother's murderer, or H ...more
Mar 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.5 of 5

This is the first book in the 'Janelle Watkins, Private Investigation' series, though I have already read and reviewed the second book, Hangtown. It is nice to see that, even reading these two books in reverse order, it doesn't ruin too much of the character development. And character development is what author Karen Sandler does extremely well.

Janelle Watkins is a former San Francisco police officer, now a private invest
Aug 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Bravo to Karen Sandler for managing to create a brilliant leading character in Janelle Watkins. Dysfunctional, damaged, hard, cold, yet extremely likeable, Janelle is a tough cookie, with some serious issues, stemming from an abusive childhood, and a failed previous case that haunts her. Closed off, addicted to fire, and an affair with a married man are all the qualities of a female character that usually a reader would despise. But she is written so well that you can’t help but warm to her, and ...more
Nov 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, read-2013
This book had me hooked from the first page and kept me hooked till the very last. I really love the flawed main character and the relationship she has with her ex-partner. The plot was fast paced and intricate and deals with some very ugly subjects perfectly.
The only critique I might have is that it all seemed a little coincidental, the fact that the case takes her back to her hometown and her ex-partner just happens to have moved there and is now in charge, as well as the source of her demons
Vanessa Delamare
Jul 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
An excellent first crime fiction - because Sandler is a prolix author in other kind of book - with a heroine with multiple injuries and flaws, but very endearing.

About the characters: Janelle Watkins, ex-cop, private detective, tortured (in every sense of the word) by his past. A heroin not too girly nor too tomboy, a nice mix - which is not always the case for female detectives or cops, I must say. There is also Ken Heinz, ex-partner (in every sense of the word), honest, straightforward and sin
Allison Campbell
Nov 08, 2013 rated it really liked it

This novel introduces Janelle Wallace, former San Francisco cop who is still traumatized, physically and emotionally, but a missing-child case gone badly. She has given up searching for missing children...until now. She ends up pursuing leads in her hometown of Greenville where her former partner/lover, Ken Heinz, is sheriff. Janelle is perhaps more damaged than your usual damaged heroine, with childhood abuse, physical injury, PTSD, and an unhealthy fasci
Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Clean Burn is a difficult read, not because the prose is heavy handed or difficult to read, but because the characters are so burdened with personal issues. Janelle Watkins character in particular is a broken, emotionally destitute ex cop with more personal problems than Courtney Love. Burn does an excellent job fleshing out the characters in the story. The reader can understand what drives them to say and do the things they do. Although at times I wanted to stop reading because it was so painfu ...more
Mar 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well, for you VI Warshawsky fans, there is another woman walking in the noir aisle of your local bookstore. Sandler's Janelle Watkins is darker, more flawed (physically as well as emotionally) than VI, and Sandler milks the genre for all the grittiness and darkness such a character allows. The presentation of the story is interesting as Sandler mixes in first-person with third-person peeks at the antagonist, which she does with a flair that reminds me of early Stephen King (think Dead Zone). For ...more
Don O'goodreader
Horror-romance mystery. Clean Burn by Karen Sandler has something for everyone: romance, mystery, arson, self harm, child abuse, and insanity.

Janelle Watkins is private detective drawn to cases by her twin compulsions for fire and missing children. The story starts with two missing children and a strings of small fires and eventually leads her to her small hometown in the hills outside Sacramento, and coincidentally Ken Heinz, formerly her "partner" in the SFPD.

I can recommend this to anyone loo
Oct 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
A good mystery novel. Jumpy at times with some strange physical damages along the way. As you can guess, this book includes a lot of fire. The ending was a good surprise. A former member of the San Francisco police force, Janelle Watkins, has set up her own private investigative shop. She used to be an expert in finding children but she has stopped that and tends to be looking for and photographing wayward spouses. Two different women approach her about the same time asking for help in finding c ...more
Jun 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
Janelle Watkins is a former police officer turned Private Investigator who is haunted by her personal past and a child she was unable to save. I was hooked from the beginning to the end of this wonderful introduction to a new heroine. I love flawed female Private Investigators who show their human side while fighting crime and Karen Sandler does a wonderful job doing just that. Her ability to show us what makes Janelle tick while moving the main story along is one of its main strengths. I am loo ...more
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A mystery/suspense story about a PI looking to find some missing kids. These kids fall beneath the radar - a runaway, an abandoned baby, a small boy whose mother died of drugs. The PI has a history in the town that clues point to as the location of the children plus a history with fire/arson. And there is a large part of the story that hinges on an arsonist.

Add in the PI's history with the local sheriff and the story is interesting with some romance plus a good deal of logical thinking and suspe
I received Clean Burn by Karen Sandler through Goodreads First Reads.

Suspense-filled. Four stars!!

Janelle Watkins, ex-cop, private investigator has her own dark secrets.

It's been four years since Janelle has investigated any child abductions and she would have liked to have kept it that way but children are disappearing.

She thought she had escaped from her hometown of Greenville, where she was once a helpless young child. Can she stay focused on the leads or will she be drawn back down into her
Lorraine Baker
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-thrillers
“No child should ever stay missing…”
Wry, smart, tough private eye Janelle Watkins swore off investigating child abductions four years ago, when she left the San Francisco PD.
But when two clients with missing children beg for her help.
A brilliant Novel that is a fast pace page turner - I really liked Janelle and warmed to her. A well written story that flows along nicely and I would rate Karen Sandler up with the top crime writers if she continues in this vein. BRILLIANT
Sep 07, 2014 rated it liked it
While it wasn't the best book I've ever read, I did whip thru it in a day, something I rarely do. It was suspenseful as heck and had some interesting characters. I am also intrigued about the sequel. I got it on b& for $1.99 and it was worth it and then some.
Lynda Birch
Aug 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to the next installment. Janelle Watkins is one of the more original characters to come around in quite some time.

I received an ARC through NetGalley for free. See the review on my blog.
Nov 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Good read. Insisted on keeping characters separated.
Jul 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Karen Sandler gave great depth to the characters and I found myself completely wrapped up in the story. I will definitely read the next book in the series.
Jun 06, 2014 added it
Keep me turning the pages, nice
rated it really liked it
Aug 29, 2014
rated it it was ok
Sep 02, 2014
rated it liked it
Oct 13, 2014
Howard K Monroe
rated it really liked it
Dec 23, 2016
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Karen Sandler is the author of 24 books for adults and teens. Her adult romance novels include the Pen Pal Sisterhood series and the Transcendent Love series. Her mystery series, Janelle Watkins Investigations, features a hard-edged heroine and gritty stories. Her young adult Tankborn Trilogy is multicultural science fiction with current day themes.

In addition to writing novels, Karen loves riding

Other books in the series

Janelle Watkins, Private Investigator (2 books)
  • Hangtown (Janelle Watkins, Private Investigator, #2)