The past is always with us.
The past comes back to haunt former police chief Daniel ‘Sticks’ Hetrick and his protégé, Officer Flora Vastine as an outbreak of arson shakes residents of rural Swatara Creek, Pennsylvania.
At first, the minor nature of the fires inclines authorities to see them as pranks, possibly the work of juveniles. Then, tension increases in the wake of a murder at the site of one fire and an increase in the value of targets.
Hetrick and Flora must confront troubling, dangerous people from the past, and errors in judgment add to their jeopardy.
A Burning Desire is the sixth in the Sticks Hetrick series. Sticks originated as a character in a short story—a story which, by the way, never found a home.
When I began work on Something In Common, first in the series, Sticks seemed right as a protagonist. Retired police chief of a small rural community but with a broader investigative background, he became unofficial consultant to his less experienced successor. As sometimes happens with such characters, he grew in my imagination and demanded a role in more books.
Like nature, readers abhor a vacuum. Change is essential, else a series will stagnate. Characters are the essence of a series and they must evolve. If they don’t, readers will soon become bored and look elsewhere for entertainment.
The Hetrick series has developed an ensemble cast and some readers have told me they view them as old friends and look forward to catching up on what’s new in their lives. I’ve expanded the original base to include some non-police characters who make regular appearances. The regulars include:
Police Chief Aaron Brubaker, a good, honest man; a family man, and a good cop. He has grown in the subsequent novels, gaining self-assurance and trying to be less reliant on Sticks. Occasionally he’s a bit jealous and harbors a suspicion Hetrick wants his old job back.
Rookie Officer Flora Vastine warranted no more than a few paragraphs in the first book.
She wasn’t a police officer then and only had a minor role in that novel. In fact, I didn’t even see her as a recurring character at the time. In Cruel Cuts I had need of both another protégé for Hetrick and a love interest for Corporal Harry Minnich. Flora, who expressed interest in a police career in the first novel, fit the requirements. She’s young and energetic. She has enthusiasm and genuinely cares about other people. Occasionally she makes mistakes and gets in trouble. All of which make her very human.
And Sticks, a widower in the beginning, is now involved in a new romance and has accepted a new job as county detective, which offers opportunity for further evolution of the series.
J. R. Lindermuth began his writing career as a journalist in the U.S. Army. Later he was a copy editor for North Asia Press in Seoul, Korea. Returning to the states, he worked on a weekly and several daily newspapers on nearly every beat and various editorial desks until retiring in 2000. Since then he has been librarian for his county historical society, assisting patrons with genealogy and research. He has published 13 novels, including six in the Sticks Hetrick series, and a non-fiction history book. His articles and short stories have appeared in numerous magazines. He is a member of International Thriller Writers, EPIC and the Short Mystery Society.