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The 9th Girl

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by Tami Hoag

Click Here to Download the Book On a bitterly cold Minneapolis New Year's Eve a young lady's battered body falls from the back of a vehicle into the path of oncoming vehicles. Questions as to whether she was alive or dead when she hit the icy pavement result in her macabre epithet, Zombie Doe. Unidentified and unrecognizable, she is the 9th unidentified female casualty of the year, and homicide investigators Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska are put in charge of the job of not merely uncovering who Zombie Doe is, but also which people in her life despised her so much that they would want to murder her. Would it be personal, or might it just have happened to be an offense of opportunity? The detectives greatest trepidation is that not merely is she their 9th Jane Doe of the year, but also that she may be the ninth murder victim of a malicious transitory serial murderer they have dubbed Doc Holiday.

Reviews We’ve read the other three stories featuring Minneapolis Homicide Detectives (Sam) Kovac and (Nikki) Liska, and generally found them to be suspenseful and entertaining crime stories. “9th Girl” is their fourth full-length outing, but somehow it seemed a crazy mix of young adult fare, centering almost exclusively on mixed-up teenagers, and vicious serial killings – hardly a “YA” topic. Liska’s son Kyle has a major role; and his mother’s angst over basically neglecting him leads to a lot of introspection and frustration on her part as she fills long days pursuing the identity of a young Jane Doe. An anti-bullying campaign also consumes pages, a conscious effort by the author to illuminate this issue, as confirmed in an afterword. Meanwhile, the high school kids endlessly text each other and so forth; we found that and the frequent publication of the dead girl’s esoteric poetry compilations rather tiresome. Eventually we meet the serial murderer and can watch his efforts to “up his game.” A twisty ending clears up who the “9th” victim really is and who did what to whom. Yet we felt rather ho-hum at the end – the plot was pretty good but the getting there was a bit wearisome; at our age, we don’t much relate to teenaged woes anymore.

That I'm in a bit of a reading slump and not finding much to satisfy me may account for the rating. I like Hoag, I like series like this that feature police teams, but I think she was dealing with too many issues--bullying and abuse atop a police investigation/serial murder plot--and that fragments the overall impression. Good suspense that builds in intensity as we have points of view of police and the serial killer they chase; good clues and plenty of red herrings; interesting secondary characters; sympathetic portrayal of female cop trying to balance family and profession; good teens and their issues; cinematic story line. Lots to like but for me, perhaps too diffuse. Plot twists, cinematic, grisly details and violence, along with a disturbing tone. A compelling series entry and a good bet for readers who follow Lisa Gardner's D. D. Warren series.

Nice mystery, well, actually two mysteries. The detectives are tired and human and there is some humor. I liked the detectives, but they did miss one huge 'clue' that seemed rather stupid. As soon as I read about it,


while the detectives were interviewing one of the characters, I thought, "hmmm, why aren't you looking at that?' But, I guess if they had, it would have changed the book and the ending, still, it seemed like a mistake experienced detectives would not make. One of the themes going through the book concerns bullying which seems to be the hot topic lately, and I didn't really think it added to the story, but it was interesting.

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