Ashes to Ashes (Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska Series #1)

Ashes to Ashes (Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska Series #1)

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Overview

She writes the kind of thrillers that keep readers and critics awake all night.

She grabs you with a story as frightening as your worst fears, as chilling as your unspoken secrets.

She is New York Times bestselling writer Tami Hoag, today's most exciting master of suspense. Ashes to Ashes is her most terrifying novel yet...read on...

Some killers are born.

Some are made.

For him, the question is irrelevant. The taste for murder has always been present, prowling the edge of his consciousness like a hungry wolf. In a wooded Minneapolis park, he performs his profane ceremony. He arranges the body to his satisfaction. He pours the accelerant, anointing the dead. Then he lights the match.

"Ashes to ashes."

The newspapers have dubbed him the Cremator. He has already claimed three lives. And he won't stop there. He has a plan for greatness. Only this time there is a witness. A teenage runaway with a dubious identity and a murky past, Angie DiMarco has seen the face of the killer in the flickering light of the funeral pyre. Now the police have Angie, but Angie isn't talking.

Enter Kate Conlan. She knows all too well the dark side of the human heart. Once an up-and-coming FBI agent, she left the Bureau under a cloud of scandal. Now, instead of catching criminals, she helps their victims and protects witnesses. The job of advocate suits her just fine—until she's assigned to Angie.

Not even Kate can tell if the troubled youth is a reluctant witness, a potential victim, or something more troubling still. Her superiors are interested only in badgering Angie for a lead, because the Cremator'slatest victim may be the daughter of Peter Bondurant—an enigmatic billionaire businessman with power to influence the way the case is handled.

Bondurant pulls strings and gets Special Agent John Quinn brought to the case. The FBI's ace profiler of serial killers, Quinn shares a painful past with Kate and hides a secret that is driving him toward madness. He is a man on a ragged edge, and yet his insatiable need to do justice drives him to catch the Cremator—no matter what the cost to himself.

Amid a frenzy of public hysteria, politics, and media attention, Kate is confronted with the most difficult role of her career—and her life. For she is the one woman who has what it takes to stop the Cremator...and the one woman he wants next.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780792723653
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date: 05/28/2000
Series: Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska Series , #1
Edition description: Unabridged
Pages: 12
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.70(h) x 2.30(d)

About the Author

Tami Hoag’s novels have appeared regularly on national bestseller lists since the publication of her first book in 1988. She lives in Florida.

Read an Excerpt

Some killers are born. Some killers are made. And sometimes the origin of desire for homicide is lost in the tangle of roots that make an ugly childhood and a dangerous youth, so that no one may ever know if the urge was inbred or induced.

He lifts the body from the back of the Blazer like a roll of old carpet to be discarded. The soles of his boots scuff against the blacktop of the parking area, then fall nearly silent on the dead grass and hard ground. The night is balmy for November in Minneapolis. A swirling wind tosses fallen leaves. The bare branches of the trees rattle together like bags of bones.

He knows he falls into the last category of killers. He has spent many hours, days, months, years studying his compulsion and its point of origin. He knows what he is, and he embraces that truth. He has never known guilt or remorse. He believes conscience, rules, laws, serve the individual no practical purpose, and only limit human possibilities.

"Man enters into the ethical world through fear and not through love."
--Paul Ricoeur, Symbolism of Evil.

His True Self adheres only to his own code: domination, manipulation, control.

A broken shard of moon glares down on the scene, its light faint beneath the web of limbs. He arranges the body to his satisfaction and traces two intersecting X's over the left upper chest. With a sense of ceremony, he pours the accelerant. Anointing the dead. Symbolism of evil. His True Self embraces the concept of evil as power. Fuel for the internal fire.

"Ashes to ashes."

The sounds are ordered and specific, magnified by his excitement. The scrape of the match against the friction strip,the pop as it bursts with flame, the whoosh of the fire as it comes alive and consumes. As the fire burns, his memory replays the earlier sounds of pain and fear. He recalls the tremor in her voice as she pleaded for her life, the unique pitch and quality of each cry as he tortured her. The exquisite music of life and death.

For one fine moment he allows himself to admire the drama of the tableau. He allows himself to feel the heat of the flames caress his face like tongues of desire. He closes his eyes and listens to the sizzle and hiss, breathes deep the smell of roasting flesh.

Elated, excited, aroused, he takes his erection out of his pants and strokes himself hard. He brings himself nearly to climax, but is careful not to ejaculate. Save it for later, when he can celebrate fully.

His goal is in sight. He has a plan, meticulously thought out, to be executed with perfection. His name will live in infamy with all the great ones--Bundy, Kemper, the Boston Strangler, the Green River Killer. The press here has already given him a name: the Cremator.

It makes him smile. It makes him proud. He lights another match and holds it just in front of him, studying the flame, loving the sinuous, sensuous undulation of it. He brings it closer to his face, opens his mouth, and eats it.

Then he turns and walks away. Already thinking of next time.


MURDER.

The sight burned its impression into the depths of her memory, into the backs of her eyeballs so that she could see it when she blinked against the tears. The body twisting in slow agony against its horrible fate. Orange flame a backdrop for the nightmare image.

Burning.

She ran, her lungs burning, her legs burning, her eyes burning, her throat burning. In one abstract corner of her mind, she was the corpse. Maybe this was what death was like. Maybe it was her body roasting, and this consciousness was her soul trying to escape the fires of hell. She had been told repeatedly that was where she would end up.

In the near distance she could hear a siren and see the weird flash of blue and red lights against the night. She ran for the street, sobbing, stumbling. Her right knee hit the frozen ground, but she forced her feet to keep moving.

Run run run run run run--

"Freeze! Police!"

The cruiser still rocked at the curb. The door was open. The cop was on the boulevard, gun drawn and pointed straight at her.

"Help me!" The words rasped in her throat.

"Help me!" she gasped, tears blurring her vision.

Her legs buckled beneath the weight of her body and the weight of her fear and the weight of her heart that was pounding like some huge swollen thing in her chest.

The cop was beside her in an instant, holstering his weapon and dropping to his knees to help. Must be a rookie, she thought dimly. She knew fourteen-year-old kids with better street instincts. She could have gotten his weapon. If she'd had a knife, she could have raised herself up and stabbed him.

He pulled her up into a sitting position with a hand on either shoulder. Sirens wailed in the distance.

"What happened? Are you all right?" he demanded. He had a face like an angel.

"I saw him," she said, breathless, shaking, bile pushing up the back of her throat. "I was there. Oh--Jesus. Oh--shit. I saw him!"

"Saw who?"

"The Cremator."

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Without a doubt...Tami Hoag is one of the most intense suspense writers around."—Chicago Tribune

"[Tami Hoag] demonstrates just why she has become one of the hottest names in the suspense game....Bottom line: Leaves competition in the dust."—People

"[A] detail-packed thriller...The Silence of the Lambs comes to mind more than once."—Entertainment Weekly

"Tami Hoag is the queen of the crime story."—New York Post

"You'll want to lock the doors while you're reading."—Star Tribune, Minneapolis

"An up-all-night read."—Detroit News

Customer Reviews

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Ashes to Ashes 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 130 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am new to her writings. This was the first book of hers I read. I couldn't put it down. After reading Ashes to Ashes, I looked for more of her books to read, and will continue to do so.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book several years ago and read it from cover to cover. It wasn't until the last ten pages that I fully understood who the killer was. Most books I at least have an inkling as to who the killer is. Not this book. It had me guessing till the very end. The plot was intense and gripping with great character development without any of the cliches.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book rivals the best of Stephen King & Dean Koontz. It was an excellent book that was very suspenseful and sometimes chilling. It will make you look over your shoulder once or twice. It's also nice to have a good female mystery writer for a change.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author grabbed me on the first page and never let go. Gruesome crimes abound, so if you can't stomach violence, skip this one. The characters are compelling, the plot lines are interwoven expertly, and the suspense just keeps coming. There are multiple red herrings to keep you guessing right til the end. Hoag created enough likely suspects that I never could decide on one(or two?). So try to guess if you must, but mostly just hang on for a turbulent ride.
JA_Olem More than 1 year ago
It was great, well written, very good at drawing you in and making you a hermit and reading all day. It keeps you in complete suspense and questioning. The only problem, in my opinion, was who the killer turned out to be. I thought that was kind of....weird. Didn't see it coming until the end. But aside from that it was great.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the first mystery/crime book I have ever read, and it was a good one. I would recommend it to those who do not read much mystery/crime books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm an avid reader. I've read a few books by Tami Hoag and have loved them. But this one...I quit on page 400 and screamed UNCLE! Found myself saying out loud 'I don't care who killed these women!' The general plot of this book is good but the main characters were driving me insane. They took too much away from the storyline and I found their 'reminiscing' about what they had and what they could have as far as their relationship, very repetative and nauseating. Tami Hoag is an excelent author but this one just didn't fulfill my expectations of her writing. There are still other books of hers I've not read, and along with any of her future books, I'll give them a try.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is really good book and i recomend it to anyone. you get into the killers head and find out what makes him the way he is. the silence of the lambs came to mind once or twice. tami hoag is becoming one of my favorite authors now that im reading 'dust to dust' which is the sequel. she definately has a way with words and just sucks you right in to 'ashes to ashes'. you wont regret reading this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It has you on your toes from the moment you start. Chills run up your body on the graphic killings, and the end is more startling then ever.
Anonymous 16 days ago
Very good. Keeps you turning pages even though you dread what's next
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved+this+book.+I+discovered+Kovac+and+Liska+when+I+ordered%2C+%22Prior+Bad+Acts%22+by+mistake.+I+had+never+read+any+of+Hoag%27s+books+before%2C+but+these+two+characters+pulled+me+in.+I+love+the+chemistry+between+Kovac+and+Liska.+He%27s+the+hard+nosed+cop+with+an+axe+to+grind+and+she+reigns+him+in+when+he+gets+to+be+intense.+I%27m+still+trying+to+read+all+of+the+books+with+these+characters%2C+but+I+like+Hoag%27s+other+books+as+well.+Her+books+always+keep+you+on+the+edge+of+your+seat+and+you+never+want+to+put+them+down.+I+was+sad+for+this+book+to+end%2C+because+in+true+Tami+Hoag+fashion...It+kept+me+guessing.+I+highly+recommend+this+book+to+new+fans+and+old.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a good read, suspenseful. One of those “you know who you want to be the bad guy”. and you have to see how it plays out. Was it just me, or did you wonder about the fate of the cat?
Rhyla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the third book I have read by the author (along with A Thin Dark Line and Still Waters.) I had some trouble believing some of the characters in this one. It is my least favorite of the three but still enjoyable. It kept me guessing until the very end.
the_hag on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Premise: A murderer strikes again...leaving his signature mark - a charred corpse in the middle of a very public park. With this third victim, cops know they're dealing with a serial killer. Typically, his first two victims didn't garner too much attention - after all, they were only prostitutes....but this third victim is "different." Thought to be the daughter of a billionaire....unfortunately the killer decapitated her before setting her ablaze, leaving the cops little to no means of identification. Enter former agent Kate Conlan (main character). She left the FBI several years and we find Kate five years into a new life and career as a victim and criminal witness advocate in Minneapolis. Kate's life, albeit rather lonely, is fairly simple revolves around her work. When she is told that she's been chosen to work with a troubled teenage murder witness, she knows her life is about to become much, much more complicated. The Rub: The third victims billionaire father goes far above the local authorities...making things even more complicated as the best FBI profiler, John Quinn, is brought in on the case. Unfortunately for Kate, his appearance is less than desirable and far from welcome. The distraught billionaire father is given FAR too much special treatment and consideration...the pool of political hopefuls and *ss kissing sycophants trying to make it up the career ladder seems unusually large even for a city as large as Minneapolis. Quinn, Kovak (tough cop, played up to the hilt...a truly enjoyable character) and his "team," Kate, Rob (her boss) and a bevy or "supporting characters"...take us on a very exciting and very unnerving journey to find the identity of "The Cremator." I have to tell you this is my first Tami Hoag novel, and I have to admit, her talent is quite extraordinary!! Mrs. Hoag is able to craft an intensely suspenseful story that kept me turning pages all day long and I had a VERY hard time calling it a night...I practically fell asleep sitting up reading it. I felt an almost uncontrollable NEED to know what would happen next...every twist and every turn of this wonderful thriller brought me to the edge of my seat (practically biting my nails)...and EVERY TIME I thought I had it figured out, she'd thrown in another twist...making me rethink everything all over again!! I cannot really fault this book for what it is -- an excellent police procedural...however, where this killer is concerned...bleck...his background and motivation are never sufficiently developed or explained. The romance was strictly Harlequin stuff....very shallow and very predictable...I think we could have done without the Kate/John love scenes here...!! I enjoyed this book the same way I enjoy the TV series CSI...one of the things I DID NOT like is that a part of me almost felt compelled to know more about what motivates the killer...and in the end I was NOT satisfied with what the author had to offer up in this area...what she gives is simply too graphic and overly "typical" of this type of book (i.e. sexually promiscuous mother...abuse...blah, blah, blah...)...there was nothing that made me really understand HOW he wound up this way or why...this was disappointing! Also annoying is the length to which the author allows the father of the third victim to evade police and FBI questioning...I don't know that I believe this would be the case "in real life"...or at least I'd like to think it wouldn't be...the sheer number of politically motivated, upwardly mobile police bureaucrats is a bit much, methinks she beat that dead horse a bit too long...it was mildly annoying at best. I also would like to mention that some scenes are extremely graphic, and quite disturbing. Most notable in this area are the autopsy scenes and those written from the killer's point of view are especially chilling. For me, I was able to read it no problem...I'm usually pretty good at not being creeped out by even some of the most disturbing events behind described in
superphoenix on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the first books i read of Tami Hoag and it got me hooked. The best part about this book is that it builds a pace right from the first page and it only gets better and better as you read on. Nice and crisp writing. You don't want to put the book down till you have read all of it.
ct.bergeron on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Cremator, a Minneapolis serial killer, has been torturing prostitutes before incinerating them in local parks, but no one pays much attention until it appears that the third victim may be Jillian Bondurant, a billionaire's daughter. Former FBI agent Kate Conlan, now a victim/witness advocate, is enlisted to handle a reluctant teenage witness who claims to have seen the latest torching. Kate's life becomes further complicated when ace FBI profiler John Quinn is called in by Jillian's father. Kate and John share a personal history, he being one of the reasons she left the Bureau five years ago, and they must each contend with their painful past as they work together to catch the diabolical killer who appears to be taunting them at every turn. Hoag uses crisp dialogue effectively to distinguish the many diverse characters, while Kate and John's mirror-image Machiavellian work ethics justify both their mutual attraction and aversion. Devoting equal attention to the mystery of the serial killer's identity and the romantic tension between her engaging protagonists, Hoag does service to both, scripting love scenes worthy of George Clooney and Renee Russo, the Hollywood stars she mentions as look-alikes for her principals. Granting a humanizing dignity to the victims' corpses, she neatly sidesteps the graphic crudeness of some of her competitors, while still providing enough surprise twists and stomach-turning carnage to satisfy any heebie-jeebie enthusiast.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tami Hoag is one of the queen's of the suspense-thriller...and she doesn't disappoint with this nail biter about a serial killer.
cindyloumn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Figured out partly ahead of time who had done it. The description of all the murders/autopsy, etc, got a bit old-sickening after awhile. Liked the romance though, and sort of a surprise twist at the end.8/10/99
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Never would have guessed. That is the best part!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the pace of the story and once I got started hated to put it down at night
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really intense, thrilling, and suspenseful. Rest of review is a "spoiler alert". What happened to Thor, Kate's cat during the fire?? For us cat lovers out there that's a big deal. How could author forget him. If I missed it, please let me know.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A+++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of her books! This one is one of my favorites, and i highly recommend you to read it!! If you like Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardener, and Karen Rose then you will love Tami Hoag! It is a creepy, all out scary, gory, and detailed book. If you cant stand some torture, and being afraid then its not for you.