Tami Hoag has written many novels, but I have to say I have formed an attachment to the Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska detective crime series. Prior Bad Acts is a fast paced thriller involving the police department, Kovac and Liska, the advocate's bench Chris Logan and Kenny Scott and the judge Carey Moore. The police partnership of Kovac and Liska can be traced back to Hoag's previous books originally forming in her 1999 novel Ashes to Ashes. However despite the working relationship having developed over the novels, there is no romance to watch out for (yet) between these two cops.
Kovac is a fast thinking, fast moving police detective who likes to lead with his feet, thinking about the consequences later, whilst Liska is a petite female officer with blonde cropped hair and the ability to cut down a criminal verbally in minutes.
The pair work well together and the Hoag achieves a great working atmosphere between the two which captures the banter that keeps police officers going.
Prior Bad Acts begins with the murder of a mother and two foster children who have been hanged in a basement amidst a tornado in Minneapolis. The culprit in the police officers eyes is Karl Dahl a man with previous convictions for lesser crimes than murder. Dahl has been locked up but the investigation into the murders led to the leading investigator having a breakdown and being confined to a desk. Judge Moore causes public outcry by declaring that Dahl's prior bad acts cannot be brought into the courtroom as part of the criminal trial against him as they would form a bias on the case.
As a result of this verdict Judge Moore is attacked and a brawl starts in the prison holding Dahl. With both the Judge and the suspect in hospital, Dahl escapes.
As the story develops, Kovac becomes very protective of Carey, forming a close bond which he never believed he would instigate after his hatred for the Judge and her decision to turn from a proactive prosecutor to a fair and unbiased judge on the bench.
Liska and Kovac uncover a number of suspects which compels the reader to read on. When I was reading this book I didn't know until the final 5 chapters who the murderer was. All I will say is that it isn't as obvious as it may sound.
Liska - being female works her mothering side on the family of the deceased. The father is in emotional meltdown whilst the adopted son has previously witness the "accidental" death of his father's first wife, the suicide of his own mother and was the person to find his stepmother and foster siblings.
Kovac investigates the husband of Carey Moore, a man more interested in pornography and prostitutes than the welfare of his wife and child and between Kovac, Liska and the rest of their team they investigate the whereabouts of the investigating officer of the original case who has gone AWOL after trashing his flat and filming a message of destruction. Whilst they do this the bodies of Kenny Scott the defence lawyer for Dahl and an old woman are found dead.
The whole team are certain Dahl is their suspect for the assault on Moore and later her abduction. They concentrate on the original investigation and work on the basis that the investigation which put him away makes him guilty of the current murders.
Throughout the novel Carey Moore is in denial over the breakdown of her marriage until she realises the extent of her husband's deceit and begins to believe that he could potentially have had something to do with her attack for a sum of £25,000.
With several possible suspects the reader is intrigued and you will have to read on. From the eyes of the officers who are working on the case you can see they are so focused that they fail to consider other options.
I would wholly recommend this novel to anybody interested in crime/thrillers. It didn't take me long to read and I couldn't put it down. I found the characters were all very believable and that I could relate to their thoughts and feelings as I made my way through the book.
Tami Hoag also introduces some reality to her novels, for example Liska's family are part of the foundations, her two boys are at the forefront of her mind when she realises the risk she places herself at through her job, whilst Kovac is portrayed as a lonely singleton who lives for his job.
These underlying themes work as they detract the reader from the thrilling focus of the novel and make you realise that such detectives also have to go home at the end of the day and lead a 'normal' life for their family before going back to the grind the next day.
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