Thursday, May 23, 2019

Book Review: Prior Bad Acts by Tami Hoag

Prior Bad Acts
Author: Tami Hoag
Series: Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska (Book 3)
Publication: Bantam (March 21, 2006)

Description: New York Times bestselling author Tami Hoag returns with a thriller that begins with a shocking crime scene you’ll never forget and follows two relentless detectives on a manhunt that ends in a chilling confrontation with the essence of human evil.

It was a crime so brutal, it changed the lives of even the most hardened homicide cops. The Haas family murders left a scar on the community nothing can erase, but everyone agrees that convicting the killer, Karl Dahl, is a start. Only Judge Carey Moore seems to be standing in the way. Her ruling that Dahl’s prior criminal record is inadmissible raises a public outcry—and puts the judge in grave danger.

When an unknown assailant attacks Judge Moore in a parking garage, two of Minneapolis’s top cops are called upon to solve the crime and keep the judge from further harm. Detective Sam Kovac is as hard-boiled as they come, and his wisecracking partner, Nikki Liska, isn’t far behind. Neither one wants to be on this case, but when Karl Dahl escapes from custody, everything changes, and a seemingly straightforward case cartwheels out of control.

The stakes go even higher when the judge is kidnapped—snatched out of her own bed even as the police sit outside, watching her house. Now Kovac and Liska must navigate through a maze of suspects that includes the stepson of a murder victim, a husband with a secret life, and a rogue cop looking for revenge where the justice system failed.

With no time to spare, the detectives are pulled down a strange dark trail of smoke and mirrors, where no one is who they seem and everyone is guilty of Prior Bad Acts.

My Thoughts: The horrible, brutal murder of a mother and her two foster children is the centerpiece of this thriller. Drifter and petty criminal Karl Dahl is assumed to be the perpetrator. After all, he has a history of smaller sexual crimes from peeping to exposing himself in public. But Judge Cary Moore isn't going to let those past Prior Bad Acts be presented in the current case.

This decision infuriates Detective Stan Dempsey who found his life changed by the crime. He's a loner who lived for the job but his obsession with this case has him on desk duty and on his way out the door of the police force short of the time needed for his thirty year pension.

When Judge Moore is assaulted in the parking garage where she keeps her car outside the court building, Kovac and Liska get the case despite the fact that neither of them are fond of the judge's rulings which seem to bend too much to the criminal's side. As Kovac gets closer to the judge and her five-year-old daughter, Liska is looking into the family of the murdered woman and coming up with troubling things.

Kovac begins to suspect that the Judge's husband might have hired someone to attack his wife. Their marriage is hanging on by a thread and he has been supporting a girlfriend. His career as a film producer never took off and he feels overshadowed by his wife, the judge.

Then Karl Dahl escapes from prison and focuses on Judge Moore who he sees as an angel who is on his side.

This thriller had a wide assortment of probable villains and I was led astray by a number of red herrings before the case finally came to its thrilling conclusion. I liked the banter between Kovac and Liska and the other police detectives. I'm glad that there are five other thrillers starring Kovac and Liska.

Favorite Quote:
For the very first time in his career, Stan Dempsey had committed the cardinal sin of letting a case get under his skin. He had allowed himself to imagine the last terrifying hours of the victims' lives, to feel their fear, their helplessness.
I bought this one sometime before February 2008. You can buy your copy here.


  1. Great review, I like the sound of this Kathy, adding to my wishlist

  2. I like the sound of this. Thanks for the review.


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