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Clean Burn (Janelle Watkins Investigations Book 1) and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

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Clean Burn: Introducing Detective Janelle Watkins Paperback – August 27, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


Karen Sandler's CLEAN BURN is a taut, timely thriller ripped from today's headlines.  Blisteringly paced, authentically told, here is a novel that demands to be read in a single sitting. I can't wait to strap on a side arm and join Watkins for her next case. --James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author of The Eye of God

Chilling, engrossing and addicting from page one! Karen Sandler weaves a tight, tense mystery, and with Janelle Watkins gives us an honest, tough, and flawed heroine - I can't wait to read what comes next for this exciting character. --Brenda Novak, author of When Snow Falls

"Karen Sandler's CLEAN BURN is a taut, timely thriller ripped from today's headlines.  Blisteringly paced, authentically told, here is a novel that demands to be read in a single sitting. I can't wait to strap on a side arm and join Watkins for her next case."
-James RollinsNew York Times bestselling author of The Eye of God.

 "CLEAN BURN is a guilty pleasure. Curl up for a snappy pace, and an ex cop P.I. heroine with attitude, and a haunted past.'
- Lynn Hightower, author of The Piper and The Debt Collector.

About the Author

Writing has been Karen Sandler's passion since the fourth grade. She took a circuitous route to the writing profession, however. Rather than major in English, she studied mathematics, physics and computer science. After earning a BA in math and and an MS in computer science from UCLA, Karen worked as a software engineer for nearly fifteen years.

With a move from the Los Angeles area to Northern California, Karen and her husband agreed she would stay home with their two sons and write full-time. In 1995, she optioned her first screenplay, and in 1997 she sold her first novel to Kensington Publishing, with several more novels following thereafter. Karen's first young adult book, Tankborn, a dystopian science fiction, was released in September 2011 by Tu Books.

You can find out more about Karen at: The author lives in Northern California.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Exhibit A (August 27, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 190922331X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1909223318
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,425,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Karen Sandler published numerous romances for adults in the late '90s and early 2000s, then shifted to young adult with the science fiction Tankborn Trilogy, which includes TANKBORN, AWAKENING, and REBELLION by Lee and Low/Tu Books. She is also the author of the gritty Janelle Watkins Investigations mystery series, which includes CLEAN BURN and HANGTOWN.

In addition to writing novels, Karen loves riding dressage and is also an avid folk dancer. She lives in Northern California with her husband and dance partner, Gary, and two cats--pleasingly plump Tenka and formerly feral Zak. For more about Karen, visit or tweet her at @karensandlerYA (young adult) or @karensandler (mysteries and romances).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By W.M.M. van der Salm-Pallada on October 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
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 Havers' quick temper. For Janelle it's an unhealthy fascination with fire and a tendency to burn herself to deal with stress and emotional pain, thanks to an abusive childhood. I love a good whodunit, especially police procedurals or narratives on the edges of those and Clean Burn gives you exactly that. Watkins isn't a cop any longer, but she still thinks like one, while at the same time not being bound by the same narrow rules as her former colleagues. It makes for an exciting book, with some whirlwind twists and complications and one I enjoyed tremendously.

Janelle Watkins is a compelling character. She's dark and broken and sees herself as irreparable, unworthy and unlovable. Haunted by a miserable childhood and the memories of the children she couldn't save during her career as a police officer, she turns to self-harm to find relief, whether it's the aforementioned burning or by drinking herself into oblivion. She's a sympathetic character even if she's not always good. She is self-destructive and nowhere does Sandler bring this to the fore more than in her relationship with her ex-partner Ken. He's a decent, stand-up guy--apart from cheating on his wife with Janelle, before moving away to save his marriage and breaking Janelle's heart in the process.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lynda Birch on August 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Janelle Watkins isn't your typical heroine. Gimpy leg, arms full of burn marks - many self-imposed and others not - a woman who spends restless nights haunted by dark dreams, that's Janelle. At times, the dreams terrify and torment her to the point that she awakens screaming and shaking. To keep her demons at bay, she creates an insular world to protect her vulnerabilities and to hide her madness from others.

A former San Francisco PD she once helped parents with the nightmare of missing kids; she has a photo gallery of happy children reunited with their parents adorning one office wall, a testament to her success. After leaving the police department, she became a PI and set about tracking down wayward spouses. However, when she is presented with two cases of missing children she allows herself to be pressured into investigating the disappearances. The investigations take her back to her home town, Greenville, the place where her nightmares began.

Greenville is also where her former San Francisco PD partner and ex-lover, Ken Heinz, now resides. He is the Sheriff and when Janelle arrives in town he is working on some local arson cases. There is still an attraction between them and things start to heat up when they eventually agree to help each other with their respective cases.

The quick pace of Clean Burn gets you hooked. But it is the unraveling of the plot and the flawed characters with their twisted minds that will reel you in. I enjoy stories that allow you inside the mind of a psycho. And believe me, Mama, the very first character you meet, is definitely a psycho.

Karen Sandler has written an essentially dark story about missing children, child abuse, arson, and broken families. There are many characters that you can't like and aren't meant to like.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Shelleyrae TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
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 but when two more children go missing, and a fire is discovered at each scene, Janelle begins to suspect their cases are connected...

Psychologically and physically damaged heroines are increasingly common in crime fiction, and Janelle Watkins is no exception. Her personal history of abuse at the hands of her father has led to an unhealthy fascination with fire, she regularly burns herself with matches to, among other things, relieve stress. PTSD from a previous case involving a murdered boy is also a factor in Janelle's fragile emotional make-up and the reason she attempts to refuse her client's pleas for help. In addition an accidental firearm discharge by a rookie cop all but destroyed her leg, leaving her with a painful limp, and forced her resignation from the police force. Despite Janelle's self loathing and disturbing affinity for fire, I found her a likeable protagonist. She is both a sympathetic character and an admirable one, many would have buckled under the weight of dysfunction Janelle is forced to live with.

While much of the novel is narrated in Janelle's first person voice, a third person perspective fills in the missing pieces of the story.
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