Review

The 9th Girl

by Tami Hoag

“New Year’s Eve. The worst possible night of the year to be the limo driver of a party bus.” Jamar Jackson, the driver, accidentally rear-ended a car, and when the trunk popped open, “a woman flipped out of the trunk of the car like a freak-show jack-in-the box. When the woman fell out of the trunk, she hit the pavement and came upright. She looked like a freaking zombie --- one eye wide open, mouth gaping in a scream, half her face looked melted away. She was covered in blood.”

Sam Kovac and his partner, Nikki Liska, catch the case. With just a few minutes left to this year, they are acutely aware of the eight other girls who were murdered over the last 12 months. The “Zombie” is number nine and the media labels her “Zombie Doe.” Other “Does” remain in the medical examiner’s refrigerators because they have not been identified.This is how Tami Hoag begins THE 9th GIRL. The opening of this suspenseful and carefully honed story grabs readers immediately. How could anyone not want to follow the team and see what lies ahead? This mystery/thriller is full of twists and turns that keep the suspense going higher and higher.

"Fans of Tami Hoag and newcomers to her work will find this pulse-pounding police procedural to be fascinating. A strong list of characters, sharply written dialogue, creepy murders and a pair of likable cops make for terrific reading that is not to be missed this summer."

The murders are not the only thread in the plot, however, as Hoag takes on the subject of bullying and single motherhood. Liska has two sons. Her 15-year-old, Kyle, is the butt of school bullies who hate him. He is a quiet boy, a loner and an artist. He goes to a private school for the exceptionally gifted and does very well there. That is, until the bullies get out of hand. He is partly to blame, according to school officials, despite the fact that he did nothing to provoke the attacks against him.

In his art, he has created a superhero who uses mixed martial arts to keep peace in the world. In an interview, Hoag says, “Mixed martial arts is about the essence of competition…not a street fight… it’s about mastering skills physically and testing yourself mentally.” That is why Kyle doesn’t want to fight his tormentors. Liska is at her wit’s end because Kyle won’t talk out his problems with her, and she just doesn’t understand what is going on with him.

But these problems don’t allow her to take any focus off of the killings taking place all around her. Since the murders seem to occur on or around a holiday, the killer has been nicknamed “Doc Holiday.” The ninth girl has been brutally tortured, and Kovac believes that the investigation will not go far if they cannot identify her. Or, for that matter, some of the others. It seems as though they were picked up in one location, and after the killer was through with them, they were dumped elsewhere, perhaps in another state.

One of the cops has a niece who writes a very popular blog and gets an occasional freelance piece. She is asked to write about the dead girls, particularly the newest ones: a schoolgirl named Penelope Gray and local newscaster Dana Nolan. Could these two innocent females be the next Doc Holiday victims? Kovac and Liska feel like “it’s déjà vu” all over again; it is as though the women disappeared in a swish of wind.

Fans of Tami Hoag and newcomers to her work will find this pulse-pounding police procedural to be fascinating. A strong list of characters, sharply written dialogue, creepy murders and a pair of likable cops make for terrific reading that is not to be missed this summer.

Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on August 2, 2013

The 9th Girl
by Tami Hoag