Pat characterizations and shallow plotting make for a mix as indigestible as Savannah’s cuisine.

SOUR GRAPES

Given her steady diet of bacon double cheeseburgers punctuated by the occasional barbecued-rib blowout, it’s a wonder that transplanted magnolia blossom Savannah Reid (Sugar and Spite, 2000, etc.) is a mere 30 pounds overweight. Still, her extra heft endows her not only with a motherly wisdom that endears her to her cohorts—cheapskate Dirk Coulter, her ex-partner on the San Carmelita police force; her health-conscious assistant Tammy Hart; killingly handsome Ryan Stone, too-bad-he’s-gay ex-Fed; and his current partner, debonair John Gibson—but with a razor-sharp intuition that tells her instantly which of the svelte females who cross her radar screen are eating-disordered and which are simply nasty bitches. Neither gift, though, offers her even a whiff of success in her current assignment: providing security for the contestants in the Miss Gold Coast Beauty Pageant, held at the palatial Villa Rosa Winery owned by California senate hopeful Anthony Villa and his domineering wife Catherine. Not only does one contestant, obnoxious twit Barbie Matthews, get snuffed virtually under her nose, but a second, nice Francie Trent, is thrown to her death on her way to reveal to Savannah a vital clue to Barbie’s murder. (Youthful Francie’s untimely end does occasion Savannah enough grief to send her into a brief kissing spree with Dirk.) Now Savannah has a serious problem—how to catch a killer who may be zeroing in on the one contestant whose welfare really does concern her: her kid sister Atlanta.

Pat characterizations and shallow plotting make for a mix as indigestible as Savannah’s cuisine.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-57566-632-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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A top-notch psychological thriller.

COLD COLD HEART

In Hoag’s (The 9th Girl, 2013, etc.) latest, talented young newscaster Dana Nolan is left to navigate a psychological maze after escaping a serial killer.

While recuperating at home in Shelby Mills, Indiana, Dana meets her former high school classmates John Villante and Tim Carver. Football hero Tim is ashamed of flunking out of West Point, and now he’s a sheriff’s deputy. After Iraq and Afghanistan tours, John’s home with PTSD, "angry and bitter and dark." Dana survived abduction by serial killer Doc Holiday, but she still suffers from the gruesome attack by "the man who ruined her life, destroyed her career, shattered her sense of self, damaged her brain and her face." What binds the trio is their friend Casey Grant, who's been missing five years, perhaps also a Holiday victim, even if "[t]he odds against that kind of coincidence had to be astronomical." Hoag’s first 100 pages are a gut-wrenching dissection of the aftereffects of traumatic brain injury: Dana is plagued by "[f]ear, panic, grief, and anger" and haunted by fractured memories and nightmares. "Before Dana had believed in the inherent good in people. After Dana knew firsthand their capacity for evil." Impulsive and paranoid, Dana obsesses over linking Casey’s disappearance to Holiday, with her misfiring brain convincing her that "finding the truth about what had happened to Casey [was] her chance of redemption." But then Hoag tosses suspects into the narrative faster than Dana can count: Roger Mercer, Dana’s self-absorbed state senator stepfather; Mack Villante, who left son John with "no memories of his father that didn’t include drunkenness and cruelty"; even Hardy, the hard-bitten, cancer-stricken detective who investigated Casey’s disappearance. Tense, tightly woven, with every minor character, from Dana’s fiercely protective aunt to Mercer’s pudgy campaign chief, ratcheting up the tension, Hoag’s narrative explodes with an unexpected but believable conclusion.

A top-notch psychological thriller.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-525-95454-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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An anodyne visit with Tricia and her friends and enemies hung on a thin mystery.

A KILLER EDITION

Too much free time leads a New Hampshire bookseller into yet another case of murder.

Now that Tricia Miles has Pixie Poe and Mr. Everett practically running her bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue, she finds herself at loose ends. Her wealthy sister, Angelica, who in the guise of Nigela Ricita has invested heavily in making Stoneham a bookish tourist attraction, is entering the amateur competition for the Great Booktown Bake-Off. So Tricia, who’s recently taken up baking as a hobby, decides to join her and spends a lot of time looking for the perfect cupcake recipe. A visit to another bookstore leaves Tricia witnessing a nasty argument between owner Joyce Widman and next-door neighbor Vera Olson over the trimming of tree branches that hang over Joyce’s yard—also overheard by new town police officer Cindy Pearson. After Tricia accepts Joyce’s offer of some produce from her garden, they find Vera skewered by a pitchfork, and when Police Chief Grant Baker arrives, Joyce is his obvious suspect. Ever since Tricia moved to Stoneham, the homicide rate has skyrocketed (Poisoned Pages, 2018, etc.), and her history with Baker is fraught. She’s also become suspicious about the activities at Pets-A-Plenty, the animal shelter where Vera was a dedicated volunteer. Tricia’s offered her expertise to the board, but president Toby Kingston has been less than welcoming. With nothing but baking on her calendar, Tricia has plenty of time to investigate both the murder and her vague suspicions about the shelter. Plenty of small-town friendships and rivalries emerge in her quest for the truth.

An anodyne visit with Tricia and her friends and enemies hung on a thin mystery.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0272-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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