cover image A Thin Dark Line

A Thin Dark Line

Tami Hoag. Bantam Books, $22.95 (512pp) ISBN 978-0-553-09960-7

Having begun her career as a romance author for Bantam's Loveswept line, Hoag has evolved into a fine thriller writer. Night Sins, set in rural Minnesota, was her entry into romantic suspense, and her palette became a lot darker when the protagonists reappeared in Guilty as Sin. This latest thriller wastes no time; it's creepy from the prologue, a tortured poem written by the murderer, which both establishes the tone and cleverly sets up the ending. A morass of obsessive love, brutality and planted evidence swirl around Annie Broussard, a pint-sized, by-the-book female deputy working in the sheriff's department of Louisiana's Partout Parish. Everyone in the parishDcitizens, cops and rogue detective Nick FourcadeDbelieves architect Marcus Renard, the man acquitted of torturing and killing 37-year-old realtor Pam Bichon, is guilty. When Annie arrests Nick while he's in the process of beating Marcus to death, she finds herself ostracized by her fellow cops and the townsfolk. Afterwards, both she and Nick are put on suspension and must join forces to uncover the truth about Pam's death. Hoag displays a firm grasp on localeDhere, it's the eccentricities and colorful slang of the Louisiana Bayou country. This isn't exactly a mysteryDthe reader doesn't have to work too hard to figure out who really did it, although the police don't until the final confrontationDbut there's plenty of suspense in waiting to see how it will all be resolved. Psychopathic villains are common enough, but Hoag has managed to endow hers with a scarred entourage that provides a tragic note. (Mar.)