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Hocus [Mass Market Paperback]

Jan Burke
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 2003
For reporter Irene Kelly it's a terrifying investigation -- because it's so personal. Her husband, Detective Frank Harriman, has been kidnapped by terrorists who call themselves Hocus -- deadly manipulators who give Irene three days to meet their demands before killing their hostage. But Irene's biggest shock is yet to come -- as she uncovers her husband's history, and learns of a horrific crime committed a decade earlier. As seconds slip away, Irene willingly steps into a trap set by two madmen with a score to settle. And when she does, someone is going to pay for the sins of the past.

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Product Description

From Amazon

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent effort by Ms. Burke! May 31 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Thus far, I've read three books by Jan Burke--Flight, Bones and Hocus. As a frequent mystery reader of authors like Deaver, Sandford and Cornwell, the thing that has impressed me most about these three books (and Ms. Burke) is that they are not only all good, engaging stories, but they are NOT all alike! It is SO common for mystery writers' books to start feeling like carbon copies of one another (to the point that you have trouble remembering if you've read a particular book), but I have not found this the case with Ms. Burke so far.
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! :)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to put down March 26 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is a fast paced novel. While the main action takes place in less than a week, there are flashbacks to earlier events related to a double murder in the past. Young men who have mental problems related to the past events form a group of urban terrorists. There actions at first seem like unconnected pranks until people start getting killed. When a police officer is kidnapped, and demands are made, their real purpose becomes evident.
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Winner from Jan Burke June 26 2000
By Ms. Nancy F. Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Almost every professional reviewer puts Jan Burke in a box with other female mystery writers. We see her compared with Grafton, Cornwell, and Paretsky, etc. Well, enough of that! This "female mystery writer" can go toe to toe with the boys anytime. She proves it again with "Hocus". As with most of her other novels, Burke again uses the theme of tragedies in the past impacting on lives in the present. In this book Irene Kelly's husband, Frank, is taken hostage by two young men he had rescued ten years ago. Their fathers had been killed and they had been left to die in an abandoned warehouse. They believe that a corrupt policeman was involved and are using Frank as a bargaining tool to obtain his name. Burke creates sympathy for the two villians. We feel real pity for them because she has shown us how they became the damaged creatures they are now. Frank and Irene are very likeable characters simply because they seem like normal people. They have a loving marriage, two great dogs and a 20lb cat, wonderful friends and neighbors, and jobs they go to every day. This series just keeps getting better and better. Burke deserves to be compared with Robert Parker, Dennis Lehane, and Robert Crais. She definitely can play with the big boys.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely different plot for a mystery! March 10 2001
By K. L Sadler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I had not realized that I have read Burke before. This book made a much larger impact on me then the last book of hers that I read. I will definitely remember her name and look for her books when I go to read an intelligent mystery. This particular plot is so intricately woven and has little gems of insight into the writings of Bret Harte, California, and the psychological impact of trauma on children and speech as to make it a wonderful read. I always enjoy it when authors take the time to do research into the basis of their story and Burke did a great job in incorporating all the facets into a sensible whole.
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
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nobody writes a mystery romance as well as Jan Burke March 19 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Never let it be said that a good mystery book can not have a fulfilling and captivating romance at its core because HOCUS will prove them wrong. Irene Kelly has an argument with her husband, policeman Frank Harriman, thinking they will make up when they return from work. Only problem with that scenario is Frank never comes home. It soon becomes evident that he has been taken hostage by unknown people for inexplicable reasons. While Irene worries, something totally out of character for her, she receives a phone call from the kidnappers who have the injured officer in their custody.
..... 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.

......Harriet Klausner
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite lifetime books Feb. 7 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Never let it be said that a good mystery book can not have a fulfilling and captivating romance at its core because HOCUS will prove them wrong. Irene Kelly has an argument with her husband, policeman Frank Harriman, thinking they will make up when they return from work. Only problem with that scenario is Frank never comes home. It soon becomes evident that he has been taken hostage by unknown people for inexplicable reasons. While Irene worries, something totally out of character for her, she receives a phone call from the kidnappers who have the injured officer in their custody.
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.
Harriet Klausner
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you don't like this book, you don't know how to read. July 11 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Hocus is the best of the excellent Irene Kelly series. Each book in the series provides continuous humor and suspense, along with clever and interesting character and environment descriptions, and leaves the reader with the fulfillment that comes from having definitely done the right thing by setting aside the time to read. This book transcends previous works by Burke in its keen use of quick, yet smoothly coordinated sequences of place and time movement of the reader. Do yourself a favor and give this book a read. You will find the urgency of other things you had planned for the day to fade as you fall deeper into the pages of Hocus.
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