As the dreary, bitter weather of late fall descends on Minneapolis, Detective Nikki Liska is restless, already bored with her new assignment to the cold case squad. She misses the rush of pulling an all-nighter and the sense of urgency of hunting a desperate killer on the loose. Most of all she misses her old partner, Sam Kovac.
Kovac is having an even harder time adjusting to Liska’s absence, saddled with a green new partner younger than most of Sam’s wardrobe. But Kovac is distracted from his troubles by an especially brutal double homicide: a prominent university professor and his wife, bludgeoned and hacked to death in their home with a ceremonial Japanese samurai sword. Liska’s case-the unsolved murder of a decorated sex crimes detective-is less of a distraction: Twenty five years later, there is little hope for finding the killer who got away.
Meanwhile, Minneapolis resident Evi Burke has a life she only dreamed of as a kid in and out of foster homes: a beautiful home, a family, people who love her, a fulfilling job. But a danger from her past is stalking her idyllic present. A danger bent on destroying the perfect life she was never meant to have.
As the trails of two crimes a quarter of century apart twist and cross, Kovac and Liska race to find answers before a killer strikes again.
Review: At the very beginning of the book, the Doc Holiday murders are mentioned. It took me a minute but I knew I had read about that murderer recently and I realized it was in Hoag’s last book Cold Cold Heart. While Cold was one of the Kovac/Liska series, the detectives had only a small role. In The Bitter Season, they are back full force (although not working together).
Nikki Liska is a single mother to two teenage boys who is struggling with a detective’s work hours and a party-and-fun ex-husband. She has just moved to the Cold Case Unit to to make more time for her sons but she can’t let go of her first case, the 25-year old murder of a cop. I love her dedication. Even though she doesn’t think the case is solvable she puts her all into the case, interviewing people she thought the original detectives should have paid more attention to, looking for that one clue that would lead her in the right direction. I also admire her kick-ass-and-take-no-prisoners attitude. She can give as good as she gets and has a quick mind, prompting a new co-worker to task her, “Could we have some kind of signal for when you’re about to say something outrageous?”
Sam Kovac is an old-school detective, a sort of throw-back that reminded me a bit of Columbo. He is like Liska in his dedication but he seems more thoughtful during the probe of the murder of a college professor and his wife (by a ninja, of all things). With Liska now at Cold Case, Kovac has a new partner – the young and easily-nauseated Michael Taylor whom he nicknames Stench.
This was my first real outing with Kovac and Liska and I thoroughly enjoyed not only them but all the characters. Hoag’s writing is wonderful, full of twists and turns. She is able to take two murders, 25 years apart, and smoothly link them in a plausible manner. I’m looking forward to going back and catching up on the first of the Kovac/Liska series.