A new book by John Lindermuth is always a treat to look forward to. When it is part of the "Sticks" Hetrick series, that makes it all the better. And in A BURNING DESIRE, the sixth entry in this fine series, both Sticks and author Lindermuth do not disappoint.
Even though "off screen" much of the time on this outing, Sticks still remains involved in the events and interwoven characters/motivations behind much of the action in this complex tale. Sometimes he serves as little more than a sounding board, sometimes he can't resist poking his finger directly into the goings-on, and ultimately he ends up right in the thick of one of two shattering climaxes.
But the weight of the story, as various characters are introduced and threads from the past become entangled with circumstances of the present, rests mostly on the shoulders of Swatara Creek Police Chief Aaron Brubaker, Officer Flora Vastine (who had been closely mentored by Sticks when he was police chief), and two shady cousins with troubled pasts and troubling intentions for the future. A series of dangerously escalating fires, clearly set by an arsonist, is the fuel that ignites a secondary series of actions and reactions that result first in one murder, then another, and more potentially on tap as additional players with grudges and secrets are sucked into the entanglement.
It all ends one fiery night when answers are reached and mysteries solved, but not before more lives are lost and one old enemy fails at revenge while another achieves redemption.
This time out, author Lindermuth shows us a harsher, grittier side of Swatara Creek, home to a number of seedier, meaner residents. But, on balance, he also shows us the "good" side and how it prevails. It's a nice touch to see the continuing growth in recurring characters Brubaker and Vastine --- Brubaker becoming more confident in the performance of his duties (rather than feeling in the shadow of Sticks) and Vastine maturing in her professional life as well as her personal one. But the anchor to it all (which isn't to say he's not without his own transitions, in the romance department, with gal friend Anita) remains quiet, steadfast Sticks Hetrick.
Big, big recommendation!