Hocus: An Irene Kelly Mystery Mass Market Paperback – Feb 7 1998
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Jan Burke's stories about a vulnerable and resourceful reporter at a Southern California newspaper called Las Piernas News Express all feature tense and thoughtful plots, writing that manages to be sharp and sardonic without calling attention to itself, and a dead honest picture of the world of small-market newspaper journalism. Her latest is no exception. When Kelly's homicide detective husband, Frank Harriman, gets a heroic write-up in her paper after arresting the apparent leader of a gang of murderous troublemakers that call themselves Hocus (in the sense of hoax, rather than magic), everybody at the paper and almost everybody at the cop shop thinks she's behind it. So when Frank disappears, and his blood is discovered in the trunk of his car, Irene doesn't get much help from the paper or the police. She has to track down the real secret of Hocus largely on her own--which she does in the completely credible and exciting manner we've come to expect. Burke's last book about about Kelly, Remember Me, Irene, is out in paperback, joining Dear Irene, Goodnight, Irene, and Sweet Dreams, Irene. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
In Sweet Dreams, Irene (1994), Southern California newspaper reporter Irene Kelly was abducted while pursuing a story. Burke again examines the pain suffered by kidnapping victims as Irene's police detective husband, Frank Harriman, is taken by Hocus, a terrorist group. The "takers," as hostage negotiator Thomas Cassidy calls them, are Bret Neukirk and Samuel Ryan. Twelve years earlier, when they were 10, they were kidnapped with?and witnessed the murders of?their fathers. Frank was the policeman who rescued and befriended them in the aftermath, when the boys suffered elective mutism?refusal to talk except to each other. They never revealed that a tall, white-haired cop assisted their kidnapper, Chris Powell, who was murdered shortly afterwards. Now Bret and Sam seek well-planned revenge by keeping Frank sedated on morphine until Irene goes to Bakersfield, where their fathers were killed, and discovers Powell's accomplice. Her investigation leads to three close friends of Frank's late father, who was also a policeman. Switching between past and present, Burke writes a well-paced mystery with a heartrending climax, but her strength is the sympathy and depth with which she describes how the trauma of abduction haunts the victims. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Hocus involves the kidnapping of Irene Kelly's husband, Frank. This kidnapping isn't about ransome or making some political statement...it has a VERY personal reason. As the kidnappers lead Irene in putting together the puzzle of her husband's capture, we learn more about the kidnappers themselves and how their history and Frank's are connected. This sets up not only the obvious emotional connection of a wife trying to find her husband before the kidnappers carry out their threats but also the connection of the kidnappers to Frank. As the sad layers of this mystery unfold, police negotiator Cassidy helps Irene understand the mind of the kidnappers. Her sharp reporter's mind and his understanding of the kidnappers' psychology pull them closer to unearthing Frank's location...but will it be in time?
While, like most any mystery novel, there is a little eye-rolling and suspension of disbelief involved, I found this a taut and engaging story with some great characters (loved the Cassidy character). Brought it home from work (where I was reading it on my lunch hour) when I got down to 50 pages since I couldn't wait until after the weekend to get to the end! :)
While the story is a stand-alone plot, it continues with characters from previous novels, primarily news reporter Irene Kelly. Various information emerges about people's pasts. Some people have hidden problems that cause bad dreams.
The setting for the novel is somewhat before the present so, while there is electronic technology, technology is not quite up to 2004 standards (cell phones but no caller ID). One can wonder about a police officer and news reporter being able to afford a beachfront home in California, but perhaps it was purchased at some time in the distant past (or maybe they got incredibly lucky with investments).
Overall, a good cops and robbers type story involving police, news reporters, and deranged killers. There is a short epilogue to wrap up a few loose ends.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Burke's protagonist is different in that not only does she work in a newspaper, but she is also married. I rarely come across American writers who have married protagonists...makes you wonder if they think married women cannot possibly have interesting lives. Burke shows that this is not true, and makes her characters believeable. A totally enjoyable read. Karen Sadler,
Science Education, University of Pittsburgh
..... The two men holding Frank captive were victims of a childhood trauma, eye witnesses to the slaughters of their fathers. As adults they finally expect to exact their own brand of justice on the man responsible for the carnage. They don't know who he is except that he was a policeman in the town where Frank grew up and went to work as a detective. It is Irene's task to find out his identity and bring him to them in exchange for her spouse's freedom. Irene subdues her own controlling nature, out of her deep abiding love for her husband, and allows herself to be at the beck and call of the kidnappers knowing that if she fails to obey their orders, she will lose the only man she ever loved.
..... Readers of romance, mystery, suspense and thrillers will want to get their hands on HOCUS as quickly as possible. It is a deeply satisfying emotional read yet intellectually stimulating, prodding, and provoking the audience into trying to guess what will happen next. Jan Burke is a brilliant writer, a gifted storyteller who can hold her own with any writer in the genre, including Cornwell, Crichton and Rosenberg. If ever a book deserves an award, this one does, not only because of its popular appeal but because of a masterful plot execution.
Irene is a reporter for the Las Piernas News Express and is married to detective Frank Harriman. Since they met they have had a great relationship and they have only been married for a little while, but at the start of this novel things are rocky. Frank has just finished blowing a case wide open against two men that are supposed to be the ringleaders of a group named Hocus; a story has appeared in Irene's newspaper with information that should only be known by an insider. Even though Irene did not write the article, the department is putting pressure on Frank and blaming him for the leak. This in turn has created some strain in the couple, and to make matters worse there was the issue of an old girlfriend asking Frank to visit her.
When the action starts Irene has not heard from Frank all day and thinks he is blowing off some steam, but when not even Frank's partner, Pete, knows of Irene's husband whereabouts, things start to turn south. Is Frank in trouble? Is he alive? Besides these questions, Irene has to deal with the recent discovery of a troublesome secret on Frank's family. When she learns soon enough that Frank has been kidnapped by Hocus and that their demands are very peculiar, she has to embark in a dangerous and complex investigation to save her husband.
As has happened before, Burke delivers a high intensity thriller that does not lack an outstanding use of narration and three-dimensional characters. One of the important aspects for me in a mystery series is how well the author develops the characters from one book to the next, and I am happy to say that Jan Burke excels in this area. In "Hocus" we advance considerably in our knowledge of Frank's family and the relationship they have with Irene, and we also get a glimpse of several events from their past. The different aspects mentioned in this review make this book and the series overall a great choice if you are looking for a good mystery to plunge into.