Review: The Bitter Season by Tami Hoag

bitter seasonTitle: The Bitter Season by Tami Hoag
Kovac and Liska Series Book Five
Publisher: Dutton
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 412 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program


Kovac and Liska take on multiple twisted cases as #1 New York Times bestselling author Tami Hoag explores a murder from the past, a murder from the present, and a life that was never meant to be.

As the dreary, bitter weather of late fall descends on Minneapolis, Detective Nikki Liska is restless, already bored with her new assignment to the cold case squad. She misses the rush of pulling an all-nighter and the sense of urgency of hunting a desperate killer on the loose. Most of all she misses her old partner, Sam Kovac.

Kovac is having an even harder time adjusting to Liska’s absence, saddled with a green new partner younger than most of Sam’s wardrobe. But Kovac is distracted from his troubles by an especially brutal double homicide: a prominent university professor and his wife, bludgeoned and hacked to death in their home with a ceremonial Japanese samurai sword. Liska’s case-the unsolved murder of a decorated sex crimes detective-is less of a distraction: Twenty five years later, there is little hope for finding the killer who got away.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis resident Evi Burke has a life she only dreamed of as a kid in and out of foster homes: a beautiful home, a family, people who love her, a fulfilling job. But a danger from her past is stalking her idyllic present. A danger bent on destroying the perfect life she was never meant to have.

As the trails of two crimes a quarter of century apart twist and cross, Kovac and Liska race to find answers before a killer strikes again.


Tami Hoag’s latest release, The Bitter Season is a mesmerizing, fast-paced murder mystery. Although the fifth installment in the Kovac and Liska series, it can be read as a standalone.

Nikki Liska’s new assignment in the recently formed cold case squad is off to a rather inauspicious beginning when she locks horns with an antagonistic co-worker over the unsolved homicide of a fellow detective. Ted Duffy, a sex crimes detective, was gunned down in his backyard twenty-five years earlier and despite numerous attempts to find his killer, the investigations never yielded any leads.   Hoping a fresh set of eyes will revitalize the stalled investigation, Homicide Lieutenant Joan Mascherino assigns Nikki to the case (much to Liska’s dismay). Despite her reservations, Nikki immediately jumps into her investigation and begins re-interviewing the victim’s family and neighbors who, much to her surprise, are not exactly thrilled the case is being re-opened yet again.

Meanwhile, Liska’s old partner, Sam Kovac, is training yet another newbie and he is pleasantly surprised to discover that Michael Taylor shows promise as a homicide detective. Their first case together is the high profile, gruesome murder of unpopular college professor Lucien Chamberlain and his wealthy wife, Sondra. The couple were brutally murdered in their home with weapons from Lucien’s antique samurai collection. As Kovac and Taylor begin their investigation, they discover Lucien was one of four vying for a coveted position at the university. During interviews with the couple’s children, Charles and Diana, they learn the family was anything but close and their relationship was strained by Lucien’s narcissism and Sondra’s alcoholism. Diana is bipolar and has been in and out of trouble over the years while also battling addiction at various times. Charles is the family peacemaker and he appears to be unaffected by the family’s long standing dysfunction.

While Nikki has no regrets about transferring to the cold case squad, she does miss working with Kovac. A fleeting longing to be in the middle of the Chamberlain investigation quickly vanishes as she begins to feel like she is making progress in the Duffy case. Realizing a few people were overlooked in the initial investigation, she tracks down Duffy’s daughter, Jennifer, and his former foster daughter, Evi Burke. While the women are reluctant to revisit the long ago murder, Nikki feels she onto something but she is frustrated by their reticence to fully open up to her. She is also stunned to learn that a person of interest in her case might also be linked to Sam’s double homicide.

With two perplexing murders to solve, a stellar cast of characters and stunning plot twists, The Bitter Season is an incredibly complex and riveting police procedural. This cleverly written mystery has plenty of unexpected twists and turns that keep the story moving at a brisk pace. Tami Hoag brilliantly keeps the killer’s identity carefully concealed until the novel’s action-packed and jaw dropping conclusion. An outstanding addition to the Kovac and Liska series that old and new fans are going to love.

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1 Comment

Filed under Contemporary, Dutton, Kovac and Liska Series, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Tami Hoag, The Bitter Season

One Response to Review: The Bitter Season by Tami Hoag

  1. Timitra

    Thanks for the review Kathy