@@@@ (4 out of 5)
In The Bitter Season — the biting cold days in the run-up to Thanksgiving in Minneapolis — the news is dominated by the gruesome home invasion murder of a university professor and his wealthy wife. The homicide detective assigned to the case, Sam Kovac, is a veteran of the police force for whom “the big five-oh was looming large on the horizon.”
Liska and Kovac are a mismatched pair who have worked together successfully as partners on the Minneapolis police force for a number of years. Liska’s ex-husband, also a cop, appears to have the emotional maturity of a seventeen-year-old himself, leaving Liska to raise the boys with little support.
To replace Liska, Kovac has acquired a promising young rookie as his partner, a former MP. “He didn’t want a new partner. He was too old and cranky to break one in.” And as the story unfolds, Kovac proves himself right.
Meanwhile, the force is abuzz with the creation of a new cold case unit, and Liska has opted to join it in hopes she can avoid round-the-clock investigations and spend more time with her two teenage sons. However, against her will she is assigned to a quarter-century-old case that she believes to be unsolvable. And, as luck would have it, the investigation requires far longer hours than she’d hoped.
“It’s cold in Minneapolis”
This being fiction, and genre fiction at that, you won’t be surprised to learn that eventually the two cases prove to be related. But the path from here to there is full of surprises.
The Bitter Season features two engaging protagonists with a colorful, bantering relationship; not one but two fascinating murder mysteries; exotic background information; plus a couple of bad cops, two key characters who are unspeakably obnoxious, and running dialog among the cops that is worthy of Elmore Leonard.
This is not a morality play. As Liska notes, “No heroes in this story . . . Just humans, good, bad, and otherwise.” Amen to that.
About the author
If you check out the New York Times bestseller lists from time to time, as I do, you’ve probably noticed the name Tami Hoag. As Wikipedia notes, “She has had thirteen consecutive New York Times bestsellers, including five in a 20-month span.” Hoag wrote some two dozen romance novels before turning to writing thrillers, many of them standalone titles. The Kovac and Liska series of (now) five books is one of several short series of crime novels. Hoag was raised in Minnesota but now lives in California and Florida.