If you subscribe to the Tucker Carlson school of policing, this is a thriller for you. For everyone else, I would advise looking elsewhere for better written characters, less clichés and a more nuanced view of law and order in Minneapolis.
The action opens with our soon to be damsel in distress, Minneapolis Judge Carey Moore, making a private chambers decision to prevent evidence of ‘prior bad acts’ being introduced into a murder trial she is presiding over. Hoag’s villain, a loner with a fetish for hairlessness named Karl Dahl, is presumed by everyone to be guilty, which leads Moore to much handwringing when she rules that his prior unrelated ‘bad acts’ (minor theft, etc.) can’t be introduced as evidence in the murder trial. There was no actual evidence tying Dahl to the murders of a foster mother and her two foster children, yet the community and the police all seem to believe that their job is done and its only the judge that is standing in the way of justice being had. Hoag’s lack of knowledge about the law is evident, and I had a hard time buying the premise. Maybe this stuff sells to a certain subset of right wing TV viewers, but it felt lazy to hang a whole mystery off of a legal rule that Hoag has almost willfully misrepresented.
After Judge Moore’s verdict, a brawl at the jail sets Dahl loose and he is keen to find his saving ‘angel’, Judge Moore. I had more plot issues here- why would Dahl, who alleges he is innocent, want to draw attention to himself by kidnapping the judge who helped him? I would be running for Mexico or otherwise laying low to evade police custody. Hoag doesn’t really address this, and the reason is likely that such a move wouldn’t serve her plot. At the same time as Dahl is behaving unrealistically, two ‘wise-cracking’ and hardboiled buddy cops, Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska, are working to protect Judge Moore. Despite the duo, Hoag is really only interested in Kovac (lady detectives, amirite? Good for a side character but not really there to solve anything). Kovac is every stereotypical hardboiled detective, roughing up suspects, bending the rules, falling for the lady he is supposed to protect.
Finally, a note about setting: although Hoag sets her novel in Minneapolis, it doesn’t play much of a role beyond the superficial- a number of the characters have Nordic last names and lakeside backdrops pop up occasionally. I suppose I should be thankful that the villains are white, but as everyone is white that is faint praise.
I suppose I should be thankful that I got this book for free (who knows how- its been on my shelf for years and I certainly didn’t buy it).