Tami Hoag’s Kovac and Liska Books

the bitter season tami hoag

I met Tami Hoag when she visited Atlanta in January of this year. I read a few of her books about 15 years ago, and remembered enjoying them. She was touring to promote The Bitter Season, the 5th book featuring detectives Kovac and Liska. So, before reading The Bitter Season, I decided to return to the beginning and read all of the Kovac and Liska Books in order. I finished The Bitter Season last week, and I really enjoyed my journey which took me back to 1999.

1 – Ashes to Ashes (1999)
2 – Dust to Dust (2000)
3 – Prior Bad Acts (2006)
3.5 – The 1st Victim (novella, 2013)
4 – The 9th Girl (2013)
5 – The Bitter Season (2016)

1) Ashes to Ashes (Kovac and Liska Book 1) by Tami Hoag (borrowed from the local library)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

A serial killer (The Cremator) who burns the bodies of his victims has a witness, a teenager who refuses to talk with the FBI. Kate Conlan, victims’ advocate and Special Agent John Quinn combine forces to solve the case at great personal cost. Set in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Hennepin County. Chilling and adreniline inducing, including a wry sense of humor. Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska (homicide detectives) are first introduced in Ashes to Ashes. Raw and realistic dialogue with a conversational, fast-paced rhythmn. Attention to detail brings the story and the characters to life – including each scene and procedure. Not for the faint of heart as some details are graphic and gruesome. Also contains foul-language. Delves richly into the psychology of both the cops and the killer. Recommended for fans of romantic suspense, crime thrillers, and mystery novels who don’t mind blue language and gory details.


“Rationalization: the key to a clear conscience” (p. 56).

“If there was one thing she had learned in life, it was that you could escape circumstance, but you could never escape who you were” (p. 87).

“Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac” (p. 153).

“Negative emotion was still emotion. Indifference was the thing to dread” (p. 197).

“Everyone was a victim of something” (p. 410).

2) Dust to Dust (Kovac and Liska Book 2) by Tami Hoag (borrowed from the local library)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

Two cops investigate the death of a Minneapolis Internal Affairs cop, Andy Fallon. Officially ruled an accident, Kovac and Liska come to believe the death is a homicide and somehow to to Fallon’s work. However, the political climate and other factors mean they must put their careers and lives on the line to reveal the truth.

The author paid exquisite attention to detail. The climate of the time (2000) was reflected in the attitude toward homosexuality and added to the potential motivations for the crime. Hoag managed to answer questions for the reader before the reader even thought to ask them. Authentic sounding cop dialogue with gallows humor. Both a psychological and philosophical novel, I recommended it for fans of writers like Karin Slaughter and anyone who enjoys crime thrillers.


“Some days life just sucked when you were a decent human being” (p. 36).

“If you never want anything, then you can’t be disappointed when you don’t get it” (p. 98).

“Which was worse? Being too hard to feel, too remote to be touched, or being open to being hurt by that contact?” (p. 144)

3) Prior Bad Acts (Kovac and Liska Book 3) by Tami Hoag (borrowed from local library)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

Even with several years having passed between Kovac and Liska books, Hoag manages to maintain consistency in their characters – even the ongoing saga between Kovac and his neighbor with the Christmas lights. With several mysteries interwoven, Prior Bad Acts is riveting, chilling, dramatic, suspenseful and terrifying. The characters are well-rounded, and the relationships are complex. The story is heartbreaking with well-written, emotional scenes. Recommended for fans of crime/suspense novels.


“It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about rules and fairness, and making sure no one has the common sense to form an opinion” (p. 16).

“People never had a clue what an illusion their sense of safety was” (p. 41).

“This is what it’s like to lose your mind…” (p. 153).

“Zeal is right up there on the list of suspicious emotional behaviors like joy and despair” (p. 177).

3.5) The 1st Victim (Kovac and Liska short story/novella) by Tami Hoag (e-book purchase)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

To have the full Kovac and Liska experience, I recommend spending the $1.99 for The 1st Victim. Not only does it complete all the Kovac and Liska books up to this point, it serves as an enticing prequel to The 9th Girl.

4) The 9th Girl (Kovac and Liska Book 4) by Tami Hoag
My review: 4 of 5 stars

The 9th unidentified female victim of the year falls from the trunk of a car on New Year’s Eve in Minneapolis. Kovac and Liska must identifiy her remains and find her killer. Their fear is that she may be the victim of a vicious, transient serial killer whom they’ve nicknamed Doc Holiday for his penchant for killing on or around holidays.

After reading four of Hoag’s Kovac and Liska books back to back, I noticed repetitions that might have passed by me otherwise. She has a tendency to describe characters the same way repeatedly. For example, Kovac as the “poor man’s Harrison Ford.” While on one hand, such repetition provides consistency when years pass between novel, it feels redundant when the reader has just read that same description in the previous novel. One consistency that is consistently amusing is the ongoing Christmas decor of Kovac’s neighbor that he is aggravated by each and every year. It provides for a little light humor in what is often a dark novel. Hoag follows through on story threads, keeping the reader up-to-date on the lives of Kovac and Liska even though there have been several books in between. With secretive, surly teenagers and mysteries within mysteries, this Kovac and Liska novel was stressful, sad, disturbing and frustrating. (Note: foul language and graphic violence). The story kept me riveted and on edge, so I was relieved when the nightmare was over and the horrible crimes were solved. I also had to go find something happy to read afterward. Recommended for Karin Slaughter fans and those who enjoy crime fiction of the down and dirty, more graphic variety.


“Happy freaking New Year” (p. 12).

“You make life more complicated than it needs to be” (p. 31).

“Homicide detectives were to medical examiners what four-year-old children were to overworked mothers” (p. 48).

“Absurdity is the humor of the superior mind” (p. 53).

“We live our lives like hamsters running in wheels” (p. 143).

5) The Bitter Season (Kovac and Liska Book 5) by Tami Hoag
My review: 5 of 5 stars

The Bitter Season takes unhappy childhood bitterness to a whole new level. The beginning grabs you and never lets go. As with all the Kovac and Liska books, the humor is dark but also quite funny. The crime is gruesome and terrifying. The characters fascinate and captivate. The language is foul. The violence graphic. Several mysteries intertwine and grow increasingly complex. The reader senses impending danger throughout the novel. Hoag keeps the tension constant. Though always suspenseful and mysterious, the true thriller aspect comes later in the novel. A fascinating read with lots of dark secrets to uncover. Hoag adds psychological suspense to this Kovac and Liska novel that ramps up the drama and creates a riveting story. Highly recommended for fans of crime/suspense/thriller novels.


“If the Grim Reaper comes chasing me, he can just kill me and be done with it. I’m not spending my last waking moments running” (p. 141).

“Nothing was worse to a control freak than losing his grip in front of people” (p. 223).

“The world was a terrible place full of terrible people doing terrible things” (p. 300).

Author: Allie

I was a Children's Librarian for 8 years and worked in Administration for several more. I love blogging about books, information, and other library related topics. Most of my blogs are book reviews.