The Bitter Season
By Tami Hoag
May 2017 (paperback release)
An old crime that won't be left alone, despite the wishes of family members, and a new assignment for a tenacious homicide detective are just one thread in Tami Hoag's latest Kovac and Liska novel, The Bitter Season. Add in a brutal double murder scene and the wish of a young woman who has overcome abuse, and the tangled web that has been woven for decades begins to unravel.
Nikki Liska, wanting to spend more time with her sons, has left the Minneapolis Police homicide squad and her longtime partner, Sam Kovac. She's working on a newly formed cold case squad, thinking she'll at least be home nights. Instead of a quiet office job, she's thrown into a political battle in which an old cop gets the OK for the squad to work on the case of a policeman who was murdered years ago. But instead of that cop getting the case, Liska is assigned.
And no one involved -- including the widow and the brother (who are now married to each other) -- want to talk.
Meanwhile, Kovac catches a double murder of a cranky professor and his wife. The murder weapons appear to be from the professor's extensive collection of samurai swords and other antique Asian weapons. Their children -- an emotionally volatile young woman who was Daddy's assistant and who was pursuing a grievance against him at the university, and a quiet, tightly wound young man working as a paralegal -- and the professor's rival for department head, are no more forthcoming than the people Liska is trying to interview.
While both detectives display their determination to see a case through, a young woman named Evi counts her blessings in a beautiful home with a real life Prince Charming firefighter of a husband and lovely child. The ghosts of the past won't let her live without fear though.
That there are times when it appears the detectives' cases will collide is inevitable. But it is skillfully handled and the pace of the plotting is first-rate. Hoag is not afraid to write about the depraved as well as the determined as she uses these characters' stories to explore the ties that bind people to each other.
As the threads weave in and out, the rich characterizations are revealed through what happens and the suspenseful pace continues to build. As Hoag has added to the Kovac and Liska series, the main characters and those they are involved with have become both better known and more intriguing. It matters how Nikki handles her home life just as much as it matters how she handles the men at work and her caseload. It matters how Sam can take a long, hard look at his life as clearly as he can look at a crime scene.
The books have a flavor of the old 87th Precinct series with the interworkings of a PD where familiar faces are seen, combined with the intensity of today's suspense novels. Readers can start the series here and may well be tempted to go to the earlier books. They'll find other strong, compelling page-turner mysteries if they do.
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