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.