Hoag continues to exploit the theme of mutilated women (A Thin Dark Line, 1997, etc.) in a romance thriller about the hunt for a serial killer. Someone in Minneapolis is tying down women, then raping, torturing, and killing them. While they’re still alive, the attacker sticks knives into the soles of their feet, then cuts off their nipples and aureoles. After they die, he stabs them in a ritual pattern, slices off their tattoos, and burns their bodies beyond recognition; to relive his moments of triumph, he audiotapes their screams for mercy and death. He’s the “Cremator”: just another “sadistic sexual serial killer” with low self-esteem and an abused childhood behind him. His first two victims are prostitutes, but when he turns his hand to Jillian Bondurant, the daughter of a billionaire, Minnesota calls in FBI agent John Quinn, world-famous expert on serial killers and related ilk. In the Twin Cities, Quinn is reunited with his ex-lover Kate Conlan, a former FBI expert in violent crime and the only woman he could ever really love. After the death of her daughter and a bitter divorce, Kate has moved to Minnesota and become a victim- and witness- advocate. In that capacity, she’s assigned to watch over Angie DiMarco, a runaway teenager who spied the Cremator while she was turning a trick in the park. As lots of tawdry details are dug up about Jillian (incest, etc.), the killer tortures and murders another woman, kills a small dog (in romance, always a sign of irredeemable evil), then begins to plot against Kate herself. Hoag’s strong dose of S&M resolves in fire, blood, stabbings, and Kate spread-eagled on a table. Though Hoag grows more and more adept at juggling a complex plot, her sort of violent entertainment isn—t for everyone.