No more meeting-cute for romancer Hoag. Here, couples bond over body bags as the author turns her deft hand to a grisly crime thriller, skillfully constructed if less than completely page- turning. In Night Sins
(1995), the first of Hoag's two-part combo, hard-nosed agent Megan O'Malley came to rural Deer Lake, Minnesota, fell in love with hard-nosed police chief Mitch Holt, and together with him tracked down Garrett Wright, the evil genius who kidnapped eight-year-old Josh Kirkwood and then beat up Megan, breaking nearly every bone in her hand—at least twice. This time, hard-nosed prosecutor Ellen North, who left the Twin Cities to get away from big-city violence, wants to rescue Josh and prosecute Wright to the full extent of the law. Complicating her case, though, is, first, handsome southerner Jay Butler Brooks, a millionaire author of true-crime novels whose face has been on the cover of People and whose sexy, smoky drawl insinuates itself under Ellen's tough exterior. (Brooks himself has come to Deer Lake to escape his own personal devils and to cash in on a great story, but he'll stay to be redeemed by Ellen's courage and dedication.) The second complication is young Josh himself, who's returned but is too traumatized to testify. Third is Wright's greasy big-time defense attorney, Tony Costello, who used to be Ellen's lover before he betrayed her. Fourth, no one believes that mild-mannered Professor Wright, an acknowledged community good-guy, could have done such a terrible thing. And, finally, someone keeps littering the icy Minnesota landscape with other bodies, including one of another kidnapped boy. After a lot of gut-wrenching dedication by Ellen, Jay, Megan, and Mitch, there's a bloody if positive resolution and both couples limp off into the sunset. This time out, Hoag abandons some of her outrageous romantic style to investigate more serious moral issues. Worthy, but much less fun.
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