In Night Sins (1994), Hoag's first thriller after a successful run of paperback romances, Minnesota state cop Megan O'Malley tried to solve the kidnapping of eight-year-old Josh Kirkwood in the Minneapolis exurb of Deer Lake. With Megan now in the hospital, the heroine's cap in this sequel sits on the head of new Deer Lake resident-and Assistant County Attorney-Ellen North. Ellen fears the worst for the still-missing boy but thinks she can convict Garrett Wright, respected college professor, of his abduction. When Josh reappears, unharmed physically but nearly autistic, Ellen is sure that Wright has an accomplice. Complications arise quickly: the trial judge dies of a heart attack; another boy vanishes; Wright gains a new defense attorney who happens to be Ellen's ex-lover; and Ellen gains a quasi-partner and potential flame, bestselling true-crime author Jay Brooks. Those unfamiliar with Night Sins will need some time to sort out the characters' Peyton Place-like involvements. Readers new and old, however, will enjoy the political infighting, the legal jockeying and the several jolts of Grand Guignol violence. Hoag, who knows how to push the right buttons, is a suspense writer to watch. (Mar.) ~ FYI: A 16-page excerpt from Guilty as Sin appears in the paperback edition of Night Sins, published last month.