This tense psychological thriller shows Hoag at the top of her game.

THE BITTER SEASON

In Hoag’s (Cold, Cold Heart, 2015, etc.) latest, Minneapolis homicide detective Sam Kovac has been separated from his longtime partner, the diminutive yet hard-charging Nikki Liska.

Nikki wanted more time with her teenage sons, so she sought assignment to the department’s new cold case unit, where she's intrigued by the decades-old unsolved murder of Ted Duffy, a sex crimes detective, despite push back from a retired detective close to his family. Sam’s first case without Nikki is the double murder—"raw animal violence"—of Lucien Chamberlain, an Asian studies professor, and his wife, Sondra, who were slashed to death with the professor’s own antique samurai weapons. Chamberlain was an egotistical, misogynistic megalomaniac. Even his adult children hated him. Son Charles is damned by OCD and his father’s unachievable expectations. Daughter Diana is bipolar and hypersexual. Nikki's and Sam’s cases become parallel stories of anger, isolation, ambition, violence, revenge, and perversion. With Duffy’s widow married to his prosperous twin brother and reluctant to cooperate, Nikki has no lead until she discovers Evi, Duffy’s long-ago foster child. Sam has too many suspects, including an ex-con working for a handyman service, Charles and Diana, and professor Ken Sato, Diana’s lover and Lucien’s rival for department chair. Hoag adds depth to the tale with secondary characters like the preening Sato; fragile librarian Jennifer Duffy, broken and isolated by her father’s murder; and the new homicide lieutenant, Joan Mascherino, who's tough-minded and empathetic, with knife-keen intelligence hidden under a prim personality intolerant of swearing. With an ear for sardonic cop dialogue and humor—Sondra Chamberlain regularly ended her day with a "bottle of Chateau Blackout"—Hoag livens up these two already fast-paced, ripped-from-the-headlines mysteries with interesting factoids about such things as the history of female samurai.

This tense psychological thriller shows Hoag at the top of her game.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-525-95455-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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