Monday, August 25, 2008

A Thin Dark Line by Tami Hoag *****

Wow! I read a non-romance!

Ok, wait. Let's define romance - a book with a hero and a heroine who develop a relationship and in the end get together for their own HEA?

Ooops. It's a romance - well, a thriller/romance. Or suspense/romance. But the focus isn't on the relationship, so...

The focal point of the book is the unsolved murder. Two law enforcement types are involved here - our heroine, Annie Broussard, is a sheriff's deputy who wants to be a detective. She grew up in Bayou Breaux, a fictional small town in fictional Partout Parish in south Louisiana. (I know it's fictional, because I grew up in south Louisiana myself. There ain't to Partout Parish or Bayou Breaux town.) She has an on-again/off-again relationship with a distant relative - or maybe he isn't related by blood - the ADA A.J. She's currently the only female law enforcement officer in the area.

The so-called hero - or maybe we should just say main male protagonist - is Nick Fourcade. His family is from around here (both have Cajun genealogy) but he's been gone, as he was a New Orleans police department detective. He had a little trouble there and was run off the force, and that's saying something since the NOPD is known for not exactly being by-the-book or above-board. He's now a detective for the sheriff's department in Partout Parish.

There was a brutal murder - a realtor, separated and almost divorced, mother of a young daughter, left to bleed to death. The alleged killer, a man she had tried to get a restraining order against as a stalker, has just been let go on a technicality. Seems Det. Fourcade is now accused of planting the only good piece of evidence that ties the murderer to the crime.

The victim's father tries to kill the alleged murderer, and is stopped by Nick and Annie simultaneously - their first actual encounter, although they've worked for the same department for several months. Not long after, a drunken Nick beats the murderer almost to death - and is stopped by Annie, who coincidentally comes across the scene while Nick is reducing the guy to a bloody lump.

Now Annie's a pariah on the force for stopping Nick from killing the guy, for turning in a Brother and breaking The Code - and Nick's temporarily off the force while being investigated. It doesn't seem likely - but Annie goes to Nick because she's driven to solve the crime, both by her desire to help the victim and her family as well as her ambition to be a detective - an ambition it doesn't seem likely she'll ever realize given how she is now being treated by the force.

I found it to be a true page-turner, with new evidence and new crimes coming in each chapter, making the eventual solution almost impossible to see. A rapist is now on the loose, and there are pieces that tie the rapes to the murder, and pieces that don't fit. The alleged murderer turns his attentions to Annie, and begins to stalk her as well. The murdered woman's husband was considered a possible suspect, and then dropped from the list. Nick and Annie - working strictly off the record and without the backup of the police and sheriff's offices - discover he may not be innocent after all. Ties to Nick's shady past in New Orleans come back to haunt him.

The relationship between Nick and Annie - the romantic relationship that is - is a background for the events that happen. Nick finds that she may be the light in the darkness that is his soul - I liked that about him. I liked the story and her writing style and I enjoyed stretching my reading a little to include this book. Ok, ok, it did have a HEA, so I wasn't stretched very far.

5 stars

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