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Ashes to Ashes - Tami Hoag

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Author: Tami Hoag / Genre: Crime / Thriller

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    6 Reviews
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      24.03.2006 10:10
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      A gripping read

      Introduction
      Tami Hoag is an author I would probably have never come across if I hadn't lived overseas and suffered from a shortage of books in English. However, I did get to read quite a few, ranging from the frankly dreadful to the really very good. This particular book and its sequel, 'Dust to Dust' are two of the best and are incomparable with most of her other books, in particular the dreadful 'Lucky's Lady'. This is not a book for the faint-hearted, the descriptions of some of the murders are very graphic and probably unnecessary, although they do help to build up the suspense. An excellent book, one that I would thoroughly recommend.

      The author
      Tami Hoag's books have been appearing in US bestseller lists since the publication of her first book in 1988. Her books tend towards crime fiction with a generous dollop of romance. Most feature a career-minded, strong woman struggling against the odds. 'Ashes to Ashes' and 'Dust to Dust' are police procedurals.

      The plot
      A serial killer is torturing and murdering women, then setting them on fire in public places. To date, the police investigation has been lax; until the daughter of a well-known entrepreneur, Peter Bondurant, goes missing, followed by the discovery of a headless burnt corpse in the middle of a park with Jillian's ID nearby. There was a witness to the crime; a young girl Angie DiMarco, who refuses to give her real identity and is reluctant to cooperate with the police and the witness advocate that is assigned to her, Kate Conlan.

      FBI criminal profiles specialist, John Quinn, with whom Kate has previously had an affair is brought in to help with the investigation. Sam Kovac and his sidekick, Liska are police officers leading the investigation. Despite Bondurant's insistence that the murderer of his daughter is found as soon as possible, there are few clues to go on and the investigation looks doomed to failure.

      Then Angie goes missing from the safehouse she has been assigned to, despite being guarded by a police officer. The fear is that she has been kidnapped by the perpetrator of the crimes so that she cannot give away any information. Then another body is found, also burnt. However, it is not that of Angie, it is the body of another of Kate's witnesses, Melanie Hessler. It seems clear that the murders are turning into a personal attack on Kate, particularly as information the perpetrator has received on the witness' whereabouts can only be the result of an internal leak of information.

      The story continues at an amazing pace until literally the last few pages when we finally find out who the totally unexpected killer is.

      The characters
      Kate and John: Kate seems almost to be an afterthought - I felt that her role wasn't particularly necessary and that she was thought up because this role is what Tami Hoag would like to be - a strong-minded woman who gets her way despite the odds. Her romance with John is also unnecessary and I can't help but feel that the book would have been stronger without the cheesiness that the relationship brought - comments such as 'You have my heart', 'Well I'm not giving it back' sort of thing. Yuk. John is also slightly irritating; a man at the pinnacle of his career but without the love of a good woman…cliché and unnecessary to the excellent plot.

      Kovac and Liska: an excellent pair. Tami Hoag must have thought so because they feature in her next book, 'Dust to Dust'. Kovac is a typical American detective a la Pete Marino - he has been divorced twice and is cynical, but still manages to do his job well. Liska, as a woman, refuses to be put down by her colleagues and so has earned their respect. Also divorced, she can be foul-mouthed, but great fun.

      Conclusion
      I really enjoyed this book. It is about 600 pages long, so not a short read, but at no point did I get bored with the plot. It is fast-moving in the extreme and I found it hard to put it down. The ending is spectacular - very unexpected and thrilling. The weaker characters, Kate and John, and their irritating romance did not take away from the storyline, although were unnecessary. This contrasted with the gory descriptions of the murder victims - avoid this book if you don't like gory descriptions. Highly recommended to fans of crime fiction and thrillers.

      Available from Amazon for £5.59. Can be purchased with 'Dust to Dust' for £11.18. Published by Orion, 576 pages. ISBN: 0752826913

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        07.11.2000 21:18
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        I picked this up at a discount bookshop, and on reading it realised why it was discounted. The premise is simple enough; a serial killer is on the loose in Minneapolis, dubbed "The Cremator" by the press because he burns the bodies of his victims. A young prostitute witnesses him burning one of his victims, and Kate Conlan from the Victim Protection Unit is assigned to look after her and draw the evidence from her. The book follows Kate, and through her the police investigation into the crimes. It attempts to fool the reader into suspecting one or other periphary characters of being the Cremator, and tries to keep a romantic interest between Kate and one of the investigators bubbling along as a subplot. This could all be readable, enjoyable enough stuff, if somewhat unoriginal in these days of serial-killer fiction overload. The problem is, however, that Tami Hoag credits the reader with no intelligence whatsoever. The metaphors and references in the book are bludgeoned home, then lit up with a big neon sign just in case you didn't get them. The general prose style is overly dramatic, with plenty of lines like "a void was welling up inside her, threatening to swallow her whole", and "fear hit him hard like a hammer in the solar plexus". It was the writing style that really made this book hard going for me - to say that descriptions of characters emotions just weren't convincing would be an understatement. Finally, the whole thing was just too predictable. It's pretty obvious who the killer is from early on in the book - the clue being, as is too often the case in cheap thrillers, that the guy who did it is the one who fits the profile and whom noone suspects. The killer's psychological profile is described early on in the book, and only about three people fit it. The relationship which is formed by a killer with another person is highlighted halfway through the book to add ano
        ther layer of intrigue, and this is central to the plot. However, at the end when all is revealed, this relationship is given only the most cursory of explanations, leaving the reader unsatisfied. Perhaps the best indication is that whilst in the middle of reading it, I put it down in a cafe and forgot about it. After leaving the cafe, I really had to think about whether or not to bother going back to get it. Having finished it, I wished I hadn't bothered.

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          16.09.2000 02:42
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          The story begins in Minneapolis, where a dead body is burnt. The newspapers call the killer the ‘Cremator’ and he soon brings his total to four victims. However, a teenage girl sees his face and she can bring him down. However, the girl refuses to speak, not even to her advocate, Kate Conlan. Conlan was once an FBI agent but she had to leave after a scandal. Now, she is happy to protect people rather than try to catch the criminals – but here, something is not right. Is the girl a witness, a potential victim or something else? Special Agent John Quinn turns up; a man from Kate’s past who has a powerful secret. Kate finds herself on the trail of the killer but it is a matter of whether she can catch him before he kills her. This was a story that I found incredibly interesting, right up to the revelation about the identity of the serial killer. You sometimes think you can guess who the killer is going to be but I assure you, it comes unexpectedly in this one. The story is full of intricacies and plot twists but the story is easy to follow, despite its multiple characters and plotting on different levels. The book is quite long but it never gets boring. The characters are well developed but I fee that you will see the ending coming a mile away. Sadly, there is a stereotype for nearly every type of book these days and I feel that this one runs into it with the ending. True, there are a large amount of surprises based around the serial killer but the ending for Kate Conlan is so predictable. Still, it is a novel that you will enjoy if you like reading about serial killers.

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            09.09.2000 04:44
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            I first discovered Tami Hoag when at a train station needing something to read for the journey. The book was called A Thin Dark Line, and was very thick, so I guessed it would keep me busy. And it certainly did. So when I spotted Ashes to Ashes in a bookshop, I didn’t hesitate to buy it. This book is about a serial killer, dubbed the cremator because he leaves his victims bodies burning. The heroine of the book is Kate Conlan, a witness advocate – which means she supports witnesses to crimes. After the third murder, a witness comes forward, a young runaway. As the book unfolds, Kate finds herself hot on the trail of the killer. A series of clues lead the reader to suspect first one person, then another, until the shocking truth is revealed in a thrilling climax. There are a number of twists and nothing is quite as it seems. If you like Patricia Cornwell, you will almost certainly like Tami Hoag as well.

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            24.07.2000 19:19

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            I thought that this book was very well written. The plot kept me guessing right up until the end. In fairness this was a book that was hard to keep reading in parts. It has some explicit violence in it, yet I felt that it wasn’t overly violent. The violence was there because the book needed it and it wasn’t just put in for shock value. I do think that the romance between John and Kate was unnecessary to the story. Other than that though I thought that this was a really good book.

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            24.06.2000 05:06

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            This book had me gripped, I physically could not put it down and had some nights of very little sleep because it was that good. Basically it is a crime/thriller book based in present day. Some one starts killing women and setting fire to them...thus the title. There is a witness to one of the victims, but she is a run away and has a past of her own that she wants to protect from the police and her advocate. If you have liked any of Hoags other books this is a must.

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