cover image Night Sins

Night Sins

Tami Hoag. Bantam Books, $19.95 (483pp) ISBN 978-0-553-09961-4

Touted as the author's hardcover breakout novel (Hoag was the erstwhile bestselling star of Bantam's Loveswept romance series), this thriller, despite a compelling premise and several intriguing characters, ultimately disappoints. The Norman Rockwell-esque community of Deer Lake, Minn., takes a turn toward Stephen King territory when the local lady doctor's son is snatched by a fiend who leaves enigmatic notes. Attempting to crack the case, feisty feminist Megan O'Malley-who hopes to become the first female field agent for the male-dominated Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension-finds herself paired with Mitch Holt, the town's love-scarred sheriff (and recovering alcoholic) who is facing assorted personal demons. Though Hoag provides occasional passages of genuine suspense, the intrigue here is never fully realized. Her overwritten narrative becomes burdened with repetition (the distraught parents' angst, the one-dimensional protagonists' self-destructive coupling), and she substitutes cliched internal monologues and emotional outbursts for real human feelings and motivations. The unfortunate coup de grace comes in the form of a poorly resolved conclusion. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternate selection; major ad/promo; TV rights sold to CBS; BDD audio. (Mar.)