THE BITTER SEASON Tami Hoag
Sam Kovac/Nikki Liska Series
, Book 5
Penguin Group
ISBN-13:  978-0-525-95455-2
January 2016
Suspense

Minneapolis, Minnesota Twenty-Five Years ago; Present Day

Twenty-five years ago, Ted Duffy was swinging his axe cutting firewood in the backyard.  It is his therapy, his outlet for working in the Sex Crimes unit.  Unfortunately, the longer he is there the better he gets at his job, and with his wife Barbie the Ball Buster only looking at him for his paycheck, he is pretty much stuck.  It was sure getting cold out and as he's cracking another piece of wood two rifle shots hit him; one between the shoulder blades and one below his right ear; Ted was dead before he knew what happened.

Twenty-five years later, the Police Department is getting government funds to start a Cold Case Unit; and Nikki Liska has transferred to it.  She is hoping that since the hours might be more normal, she can see her teenage sons more and develop a closeness with them before they grow up.  She and Gene Grider, a retired policemen who has volunteered to help with the Cold Case unit, have gone through numerous unsolved cases since the mid-seventies.  Gene is bound and determined to reopen Ted Duffy's case, a fellow police officer whose murder was never solved, despite being worked on several more times.  With no fingerprints, witnesses, DNA or evidence of any kind, Nikki sees no reason to take it on; how about the hit-and-run death of a father of six, with forensic evidence that could be retested?  The new Homicide lieutenant Joan Mascherino solves the problem; Nikki with all her hesitation, will take on the Ted Duffy case with new eyes, knowing nothing about him or how it was previously investigated.

Sam Kovac, Nikki's old partner before she moved to the Cold Case Unit, now has a new partner, Michael Taylor.  Sam misses Nikki, they meshed as a team, and now this Army MP thinks he might have what it takes to work in Homicide.  Sam isn't happy about it; he'll see how The Kid turns out.

Evi wakes up to dreams drenched in a cold sweat; she can't believe how someone as unclean as she is can have a wonderful husband like Eric and an adorable daughter like Mia.  She tries to forget the dreams and accept that her life is really pretty great, until she hears over the news about the reopening of the unsolved murder of decorated sex crime detective Ted Duffy.  She turns white, and the faces of the past are all she sees.

Professor Lucien Chamberlain, head of the East Asian studies at the University of Minnesota, hears a noise downstairs and goes to investigate.  An assailant slams him into the dining room table and continues to beat him, then Lucien sees the nunchaku, Ninja clubs from his collection, hitting him on his head, and is kicked in the ribs before another Ninja weapon is used as a garrote to choke him.  Then Lucien's wife hears noise and walks downstairs, only to be hit in the side of the neck with a long sword and ends up on the floor with the sword right through her body and stuck in the floor.

Tami Hoag has presented us with two murder cases, one years ago and another that just happened.  As the people who knew each of the victims are interviewed, nothing really seems to make sense.  Told mostly from Nikki's point of view, she struggles with Ted Duffy's family that is totally against having this case reopened again , and stirring everybody up.

Secondary characters abound, including Ted's twin brother who married Barbie the Ball Buster, their two children, two foster children, and the neighborhood cranky man, his wife who has been missing for years, and his son, also missing.  The Professor's suspects are his son and daughter, and associates at the University who, to a person, considered him hard to get along with and arrogant, especially with a promotion in the works.

THE BITTER SEASON is an intriguing and fascinating story of how these two crimes are indelibly linked, and the sheer determination and patience it takes to solve murder cases.  Enthralling and absorbing, if you enjoy a mystery even a little, this is a book even your significant other will enjoy with the fast pace and intricate details.  Give it a try!

Carolyn Crisher