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Book 161: Ashes to Ashes by Tami Hoag

Book 161: Ashes to Ashes (Kovac/Liska #1).
Author: Tami Hoag, 1996.
Genre: Crime Thriller. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Paperback. 569 pages.

In Minneapolis a killer nicknamed 'The Cremator' has killed two prostitutes, dumped their bodies in public parks and then set them on fire. With his third victim he is officially designated as a serial killer and local law enforcement calls in the F.B.I. who send their top profiler, John Quinn, to assist them. The third victim is believed to be the wayward daughter of a powerful and wealthy local businessman, which leads to accusations that it is only because of her social status that the police are taking the case more seriously.

A homeless teenager found near the scene of the latest body dump claims to have witnessed the murderer as he burned the body. Yet she is deeply traumatised by her experience and is refusing to talk. Former F.B.I. agent Kate Conlan, now working as a victim/witness advocate, is brought in to reassure the girl and work with her to establish a description. Kate and Quinn share a history yet have to put that aside to work together.

This series is named for detectives Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska, who are part of the homicide team investigating the murders. Their roles here are as supporting characters but I would expect they'll take leading roles in later books. I always find I enjoy Tami Hoag's novels when I chance across them. In this case I had bought a copy of her latest crime novel 'The 9th Girl' in an Audible summer sale and then discovered that it was #4 in a series. As I hate to read a series out of order I sought out the first.

While not great literature this was an engaging read, which proved a page turner that I read in a couple of days as I was rather keen to discover whodunit. We do get some scenes from the killer's perspective though clues as to their identity were well concealed and kept me guessing.

I did have one minor quibble. While not a spoiler (as one expects dramatic confrontation in this kind of novel) I'll conceal it. My quibble is this: if a character has a cat and at the end of the novel there is a dangerous situation unfolding in that character's home not mentioning said cat's whereabouts during and after those events left me feeling concerned. I noted that over at Amazon a few reviews also mentioned wondering what had happened to Thor, the cat. A princess and the pea situation it rather bugged me. I was able to discover the fate of this fictional cat by using Amazon's 'search inside book' feature for the next in the series. An editor really should have caught this as all it needed was an extra sentence. Still it shows how gripped I was by the final pages that this was an issue.
Tags: crime fiction, police drama, thriller
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