Guilty As Sin

Although the publisher is curiously silent about this important detail, Tami Hoag’s thriller picks up the action where her previous novel, NIGHT SINS (1995), concluded. In the earlier story, rural Deer Lake, Minnesota, was shattered by the abduction of eight-year-old Josh Kirkwood. The first suspect, a known child-molester, committed suicide before he could be questioned about where the boy was hidden. During the continuing investigation, state investigator Megan O’Malley was captured, blind-folded, and nearly beaten to death by a ski-masked assailant. She was saved by the timely intervention of Deer Lake Sheriff Mitch Holt, who gave chase and shortly arrested a suspect—college professor Garrett Wright, a neighbor of the Kirkwood family. As NIGHT SINS concluded, Wright was protesting his innocence and Josh Kirkwood had suddenly returned home unharmed, but unable to say where he had been or what happened to him.

In GUILTY AS SIN, the focus shifts to Assistant County Attorney Ellen North, who is prosecuting the case against Garrett Wright. Beyond the sheriff’s statement that Wright is the man he pursued from the building where Megan O’Malley was being beaten, there is no physical evidence to connect Wright to either O’Malley’s assault or Josh Kirkwood’s kidnapping.

Two additional developments make Ellen North’s job more difficult: Her boss has granted best-selling true-crime writer Jay Butler Brooks full access to the investigation, and Garrett Wright’s high-powered defense attorney is Ellen’s ex-lover—the man who betrayed her trust and cost her an earlier case. To make matters worse, while Ellen is developing her case against the incarcerated Wright, another eight-year-old boy is kidnapped and then murdered in a neighboring town. Ellen starts to receive anonymous telephone calls taunting her that she is part of a game she does not understand and suggesting that her own life is in danger.

While GUILTY AS SIN contains enough chills and puzzles to satisfy the average fan of this genre, the real impact of the story is seriously diminished for anyone who has not read NIGHT SINS.