Review

Prior Bad Acts

by Tami Hoag



Tami Hoag initially came to the attention of readers as a romance
novelist, but now fans of the suspense genre are becoming aware of
her talent for writing taut thrillers. Her 2004 novel, KILL THE
MESSENGER, combined identifiable characters with a genuine mystery
and resulted in another personal best for her. Therefore, readers
who jumped on the Hoag bandwagon will find much to love in PRIOR
BAD ACTS, her latest work of fiction.

PRIOR BAD ACTS marks the return of Minneapolis police detectives
Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska, last seen in Hoag's 2000 novel DUST TO
DUST. That event alone makes this new book worth picking up. Kovac
is a rumpled knight whose tough exterior is as effective at scaring
the bad guys as it is in protecting (and hiding) his soft interior
self. Liska is Kovac's wisecracking foil. In lesser hands than
Hoag's, Liska would be irritating. Here, however, she shows a tough
tenderness, designed to mask the genuine if platonic affection that
exists between the two of them, even as they seek to protect a
Minneapolis judge from a threatened attack that has no shortage of
suspects.

The Honorable Carey Moore makes an extremely unpopular decision in
a motion hearing at the beginning of PRIOR BAD ACTS. Karl Dahl is
the sole defendant in a brutal triple murder case. While Dahl has a
prior record that raises the hackles of the prosecution, he has
never been arrested for violent crimes. Moore rules (quite
correctly, actually) that evidence of his prior bad acts cannot be
used in his murder trial. This decision does not sit well with the
police, the prosecutor's office, or the general public. Shortly
after the ruling is issued, two things happen: Moore is violently
attacked as she leaves the courthouse, and Dahl manages to escape
from Sheriff's custody. Kovac and Liska are assigned to investigate
the attack on Moore and keep it from happening again. Neither of
them wants the assignment, but Dahl's escape raises the ante, and
Kovac, in spite of himself, finds that he is slowly but inexorably
becoming attracted to Moore.

When Kovac's investigation indicates that Moore's husband could
possibly be the instigator of the attack, Kovac throws caution to
the wind and becomes a force of nature, stopping at nothing to
uncover the truth behind the attack, as two figures --- one
vengeful, one obsessed --- circle Moore for their own reasons. The
stakes are raised when Moore is kidnapped out from under the
watchful eye of the Minneapolis police, and Kovac finds himself in
a race against time to rescue a woman who is both a noted jurist
and someone he is slowly coming to love.

Those who have sampled Hoag's past work would do well to read PRIOR
BAD ACTS. Her timing and pacing are flawless, and her constantly
shifting perspectives heighten the atmosphere and keep the pages
turning at a rapid pace. There are plenty of surprises here, and
while Hoag uses sleight of hand and misdirection as plot devices,
she always plays fairly so that readers aren't fooled any more than
they want to be. PRIOR BAD ACTS is so well-written, however, that
by book's end you won't care how wrong --- or right --- you are.
Recommended.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 19, 2011

Prior Bad Acts
by Tami Hoag

  • Publication Date: March 21, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553801988
  • ISBN-13: 9780553801989