Book #12 of 2016: The 9th Girl by Tami Hoag

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#1 New York Times bestselling author Tami Hoag brings back her fan-favorite Minneapolis investigators Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska in the haunting new thriller The 9th Girl.

“Kovac had seen more dead bodies than he could count: Men, women, children; victims of shootings, stabbings, strangulations, beatings; fresh corpses and bodies that had been left for days in the trunks of cars in the dead of summer. But he had never seen anything quite like this . . . “
On a frigid New Year’s Eve in Minneapolis a young woman’s brutalized body falls from the trunk of a car into the path of oncoming traffic. Questions as to whether she was alive or dead when she hit the icy pavement result in her macabre nickname, Zombie Doe. Unidentified and unidentifiable, she is the ninth nameless female victim of the year, and homicide detectives Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska are charged with the task of not only finding out who Zombie Doe is, but who in her life hated her enough to destroy her. Was it personal, or could it just have been a crime of opportunity? Their greatest fear is that not only is she their ninth Jane Doe of the year, but that she may be the ninth victim of a vicious transient serial killer they have come to call Doc Holiday.
Crisscrossing America’s heartland, Doc Holiday chooses his victims at random, snatching them in one city and leaving them in another, always on a holiday. If Zombie Doe is one of his, he has brought his gruesome game to a new and more terrifying level. But as Kovac and Liska begin to uncover the truth, they will find that the monsters in their ninth girl’s life may have lived closer to home. And even as another young woman disappears, they have to ask the question: which is the greater evil–the devil you know or the devil you don’t?

I have never read Tami Hoag before, but since I found an audio book at my favorite used book store (Jeannie’s Used Books in Portsmouth, VA), I thought I’d give her a try. I love listening to mystery books. There’s something about listening to the suspense and trying to figure out the killer with the hero/heroine.

I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t connect with the characters very well since they were a part of some books before The 9th Girl. That can become a problem with some mysteries; sometimes the characters have grown so much or you are given too much details about a previous book. I have come across very few books where I wasn’t confused because I started at a later book in the series (this goes for any genre).

That said, I had nothing to worry about. The 9th Girl was its own mystery with the same characters from previous books, but I didn’t need to know previous information on the characters to get into the story. The human dynamic of the book was thrilling. I found myself yelling at the cd player whenever someone said something that was an obvious lie or when Liska made a smart ass remark.

Liska is a strong woman who reminds me of my mom. She doesn’t take crap and she thrives in a world that is predominantly male oriented. She holds her own and even succeeds at making the most seasoned detective blush at times. She is a devoted mother who questions her ability to work and rear her sons. I felt a strong affinity with her.

It was the victim, Zombie Doe, who I felt the most kinship with.  When the reader learns about the victim, you can’t help but feel upset for her. There are so many people who go through similar events in their lives. It’s upsetting to see how little a person can matter to another.

There are some reviews that say this wasn’t a mystery, but a book about the humanity involved in a mystery. I would say that is true. I liked seeing the evidence and finding the killer, but it was the emotional and mental breakdown of the characters, alive and dead, that mattered the most to me.

I liked this book enough to get the first two in the Kovak and Liska series. I want to see if this human element is only seen later in the series or if it is throughout.

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