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by Tami Hoag
Orion, November 2006
496 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0752878131

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

DEAD SKY (or PRIOR BAD ACTS, the American title of the work) examines the effects a case may have on a relatively young judge -- although one trusts the effects are not quite so extreme on the friends and family of real life judges as they are on Judge Carey Moore, a woman trying a man on a triple murder charge. He is accused of having killed a mother and her two young foster children, after first having brutalised them.

In her courtroom, Carey rules inadmissible as evidence the past crimes of the accused murderer, Karl Dahl. While he is a nasty piece of work -- he has a history of being a Peeping Tom, of flashing and various other minor crimes betokening a misfit in society -- Dahl has never exhibited violent tendencies.

The judge admits that he is capable of committing these crimes but makes the valid point that a man can't be held because he may in the future commit such crimes. Thus, Dahl is taken back to prison, knowing he has a better chance when he is once again presented to the court, courtesy of Carey Moore. He begins to think of her as his 'angel'.

Karl becomes involved in a fight at the prison and is taken to hospital for treatment. Unfortunately, he has not been secured to the stretcher and is able to make his escape.

Judge Carey Moore has made herself one of the most hated people in Minneapolis by her action. Every man's heart is turned against her and she is attacked while attempting to get into her car and drive to her home. The detective who arrested Dahl and is convinced of his guilt, Stan Dempsey, is determined to see his own version of justice done.

Carey, meanwhile, is unhappy at home. Her husband has given her good reason to doubt his fidelity and he seems supremely unconcerned about Carey's welfare, a fact that astonishes Detective Sam Kovac (who first made his appearance in DUST TO DUST) to whose care Carey is consigned.

Kovac and his partner Liska have to protect Moore from the invasive attentions of the media as well as from those of people who would see her dead for her imprudence in doing her job to the best of her ability. They carefully examine the cast list of the drama to determine who are the most likely suspects. Even the adopted son of the murdered woman, together with his rather unsanitary cohort, does not escape suspicion -- and neither does the judge's errant spouse.

It is a while since Hoag graduated from the undiluted romance genre into the realm of suspense fiction but she never relinquishes the throbbing of the romantic heart entirely. DEAD SKY is another work in which the two become entwined although lust and pornography play a larger role than less fleshly love.

The tale contains a motley crew of characters some being, to my mind at least, more credible than others. Carey is the most realistic of all, although Sam Kovac and Lisker at times seem to step off the page. The reader is treated to appalling horrors and some villains that are bad beyond belief as well as callous and cruel. But DEAD SKY is another good effort from an excellent storyteller.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, April 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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