Annie Collins, author Helen Starbuck’s wannabe detective, returns to help police solve another murder in The Burden of Hate. This sequel picks up where Starbuck’s The Mad Hatter’s Son left off, providing enough backstory for first-time readers to know who’s who and why nurse Annie is being stalked.
Annie is an operating room nurse who was involved in a romantic relationship with Ian Patterson in the previous book. Sentenced to a lengthy prison term after being convicted of murder in that novel, Ian has now escaped and is seeking revenge for Annie’s role in his arrest. Eluding authorities, he manages to infiltrate Annie’s wedding reception, where he seriously wounds her new husband, Angel.
The narrative is a double mystery centering on a new murder—that of the priest who oversaw Annie and Angel’s prenuptial instruction—and Ian’s haunting, vindictive presence. Annie and Angel require 24-hour protection from Ian, which hinders their ability to move around town, creating palpable tension for the couple.
Annie is blessed with an investigator’s instincts, if not the training. Even after being told to stay away from the new murder, she involves herself in identifying possible witnesses and suspects, rationalizing her preoccupation as a distraction from the danger Ian poses. Much to the police’s chagrin, the tips she offers them are helpful.
Starbuck injects humorous moments while also instilling a credible sense of fear and delivering intelligent, compelling characters. As Annie and Angel seek to recoup their lives from Ian’s disruption, their nemesis’s ability to evade authorities keeps everyone on edge—and readers turning pages.
Some suspension of disbelief is necessary regarding the months Ian is on the lam. Nonetheless, this mystery is engaging, with characters who project humor, frustration, sensitivity and inquisitiveness—in sum, a full panoply of emotions. The story’s fast pace generates a sense of urgency, and the priest’s murder, which Annie eventually solves, is a bonus plot that readers will also appreciate.