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A simple court hearing explodes into a multifaceted case at the start of this stunning meld of thriller and police procedural from bestseller Hoag. Shortly after Minneapolis judge Carey Moore decides that the many "prior bad acts" of accused serial killer Karl Dahl can't be used in his trial, Dahl escapes from jail and someone attacks Moore. Homicide cops Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska, introduced in Ashes to Ashes (1999), are assigned to protect the judge, whom the police hate for her liberal views. Moore's disintegrating marriage and her husband's shady business dealings lead the investigation in new directions, while more murders exacerbate the hunt for Dahl. Hoag, who began her career as a romance writer, has experimented with several mystery subgenres. Here she stands above the competition, creating complex characters who evolve more than those in most thrillers. The breathtaking plot twists are perfectly paced in this compulsive page-turner, which ends on a romantic note.