When I found out Tami Hoag got her start writing romance novels, I was a bit surprised. My introduction to her work was the gritty "Ashes to Ashes," followed by its hard-edge sequel, "Dust to Dust." Both novels had romantic subplots, but violence, murder and police work seemed the primary emphasis. Not so with "Night Sins," published earlier than either "Ashes" or "Dust." For this one, Hoag wears her romance-writing background on her sleeve.
Not that it's a bad thing. Hoag's a talented storyteller and, sudden shifts in point-of-view notwithstanding, a decent writer. This story about a kidnapping that tears apart a town, a marriage and nearly destroys a career, is as gripping as her later work. I just wasn't prepared to spend so much time exploring the burning passions of Agent Megan O'Malley and Chief Mitch Holt. The budding romance between these investigators isn't the only aspect that nudges "Night Sins" into soap opera territory. Almost all of the characters are broadly drawn types--O'Malley, the hard-nosed investigator out to prove herself in "a man's world"; Mitch, the handsome chief whose past prevents him from loving another woman, until Megan enters the picture; Paul, the selfish husband; Paige Price, the "mercenary slut" TV reporter, Hannah, the saintly wife--who keep this potboiler bubbling. There are several chapters where I found myself mentally cuing dramatic music when a new shocking development is revealed.
But these soapy elements didn't deter my enjoyment of this book (another sudsy clue: "Night Sins" sounds like a title of a Nora Roberts or Rosemary Rogers novel, not a suspense novel). Now I plan to read this novel's follow-up, "Guilty as Sin" (you pretty much have to). Like all good soap operas, "Night Sins" had me clamoring for more.