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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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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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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