September 18, 2000 12:00 PM

by Tami Hoag

Page-turner of the week

‘Tis the season to be jolly–but just try telling that to Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska. With Christmas fast approaching at the start of Tami Hoag’s cunning new thriller, the Minneapolis homicide detectives have plenty to deal with, including, in Liska’s case, a heartbreaker of an ex who won’t stay ex enough. Then the team catches the kind of case every cop dreads: the suicide of one of its own.

Or is it? Some things about the hanging death of Internal Affairs officer Andy Fallon, son of department legend and Kovac mentor “Iron Mike” Fallon (who was paralyzed in a shootout 20 years earlier), strike Sam as off-kilter. And as he and Liska begin to dig a bit into both the gay Andy’s private life and the highly sensitive case he was working on, Kovac becomes increasingly convinced that he’s looking at a murder–and that some of his fellow officers are prime suspects.

With the same sleight of hand displayed in last year’s Ashes to Ashes, Hoag sets her sharply drawn characters on a harrowing journey. Though it all comes together a bit too neatly at the end, her wintry tale of crime and punishment packs a powerful chill. (Bantam, $25.95) Bottom Line: Good cops + bad cops = killer suspense

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