It’s a Mystery: Prior Bad Acts, by Tami Hoag

Prior Bad Acts (Kovac/Liska, #3)
Out of control

My rating:  3 of 5 stars

Carey Moore, former prosecuting attorney, has achieved her goal and is now a judge, like her father before her. As a judge, objectivity is essential, and Judge Moore is able, with effort, to abandon her former biases and consider each case on its merits. Now she bites the bullet to make a highly unpopular ruling in the case of an accused mass murderer, deciding that his record of “prior bad acts” is not admissible, on the grounds that they have no bearing on the current matter. And all hell breaks loose.

Tami Hoag has written an intriguing police procedural, in which Detective Sam Kovac is the lead investigator. When Carey Moore is brutally assaulted, he reluctantly undertakes her case. Although he goes in with the attitude that she has sold out on the cops’ best efforts to bring perps to justice, that attitude will undergo a marked transformation as events unfold. The prime suspect in the mass murders, Karl Dahl, escapes from custody, the cop who fingered him loses his sanity, and the situation spins wildly out of control.

There are plenty of suspects in this novel, but the sheer normalcy of one of them telegraphs his guilt. The subplot, regarding the judge’s lowlife husband, adds to the action. Some of the choices made by Detective Kovac are questionable, and Hoag, perhaps in counterpoint to the gruesome elements in her story, overdoes Carey’s emotional isolation, and the pity parties become tedious. This is an interesting crime story, watered down a bit by predictability, but there are enough surprises to keep the pages turning.

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