Book 132: THE 9TH GIRL Review

The 9th Girl by Tami Hoag
ISBN:  9780525952978 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9781101606599 (ebook)
ASIN:  B0096SOUF8 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 18, 2013 
Publisher: Dutton Adult

“Kovac had seen more dead bodies than he could count: Men, women, children; victims of shootings, stabbings, strangulations, beatings; fresh corpses and bodies that had been left for days in the trunks of cars in the dead of summer. But he had never seen anything quite like this . . . “


On a frigid New Year’s Eve in Minneapolis a young woman’s brutalized body falls from the trunk of a car into the path of oncoming traffic. Questions as to whether she was alive or dead when she hit the icy pavement result in her macabre nickname, Zombie Doe. Unidentified and unidentifiable, she is the ninth nameless female victim of the year, and homicide detectives Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska are charged with the task of not only finding out who Zombie Doe is, but who in her life hated her enough to destroy her. Was it personal, or could it just have been a crime of opportunity? Their greatest fear is that not only is she their ninth Jane Doe of the year, but that she may be the ninth victim of a vicious transient serial killer they have come to call Doc Holiday.


Crisscrossing America’s heartland, Doc Holiday chooses his victims at random, snatching them in one city and leaving them in another, always on a holiday. If Zombie Doe is one of his, he has brought his gruesome game to a new and more terrifying level. But as Kovac and Liska begin to uncover the truth, they will find that the monsters in their ninth girl’s life may have lived closer to home. And even as another young woman disappears, they have to ask the question: which is the greater evil–the devil you know or the devil you don’t?

The 9th Girl by Tami Hoag is the fourth book in the Kovac and Liska series and it starts off with a bang. It’s New Year’s Eve and a limo driver is escorting a group of young men and women around town. The party in the back of the limo is getting a little wild and frisky and the driver is more interested in the happenings in the back of the limo until a car hits a pothole and a body pops up out of the trunk falling into the street in front of the limo. Detectives Sam “Kojak” Kovac and Nikki “Tinks” Liska are called to the gruesome scene. Is this young lady a victim of the serial killer they’ve been tracking for the past year or something far worse?

Over the course of a week, detectives Kovac, Liska and their team must try to identify someone without a face and very few remaining teeth. Their only hope is a small tattoo on the girl’s back. Since this body was so publicly revealed and has been sensationalized, it makes their case just a little harder rather than easier. The only recourse is to track missing persons that fit the profile and this leads a little too close to home for Nikki, as the girl may be a friend of her eldest son. If that wasn’t bad enough, her son has been getting into fights, something completely unlike him, and he refuses to confide in her. Nikki’s at her wits ends trying to unravel the mystery of her extremely quiet and introverted son and his problems and this case. To make matters worse it appears that the missing girl isn’t liked by too many people at her school or by her parents, and the only person truly missing her is Nikki’s son.

I found The 9th Girl to be a fascinating read into family dynamics, bullying, abuse and serial killers. Each book in this series provides slightly more insight into the personal lives of detectives Kovac and Liska. This book incorporated the use of social media and online journalism in an effort to discover the identity of the deceased. The incorporation of a pseudo anti-bullying campaign through the use of a tattoo promoting acceptance and the international anti-bullying campaign spearheaded by mixed martial artist Georges St. Pierre gave the story a nice little twist. The 9th Girl features truly bad guys (a serial killer), negligent and absentee parents, bullies, school cliques (featuring mean girls and male bullies), ignorant and ineffective school administrators, and more. If you enjoy a good multilayered mystery-suspense read, then you should definitely add The 9th Girl to your reading list.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Lauren Lawton is a woman on the edge. Her eldest daughter has been missing for four years, presumed abducted and dead. Her husband died in an automobile accident two years ago. She clings to life for the sake of her younger daughter Leah and strives to obtain justice for her missing daughter Leslie in Down the Darkest Road by Tami Hoag.

Life isn’t always fair and the justice system isn’t always just. Lauren knows this better than others because the man she knows is responsible for her daughter’s disappearance has never been arrested or tried for his crime, Roland Ballencoa. To make matters worse he had actually been able to get a restraining order placed against her. All Lauren wants is to know what happened to her daughter and receive justice. If the system won’t give it to her then she may need to get it for herself.

Leah’s life has been hell for the past four years since her older sister Leslie disappeared. Leah isn’t allowed to be home alone or even go anywhere alone. The only thing good to come out of their recent move to a new town is she is allowed to work at a horse farm a few days a week. This work brings a new friend into her life, Wendy. Finally she has someone that understands the trauma her family has experienced and doesn’t consider her a freak because of it. But Leah knows that she isn’t dealing with the situation in a good way, and maybe she is a freak after all.

Detective Mendez feels sympathy for Ms. Lawton. He knows that there may be little the system can actually do against the suspect in her daughter’s case simply because there is no evidence. His sympathy is the impetus needed for him to delve a little deeper into Leslie’s disappearance. The more he digs, the more he understands Lauren’s feelings. Will he be able to find evidence to provide the abduction before things get out of hand?

Down the Darkest Road is a glimpse into the minds of a family torn apart by tragedy. Lauren is so focused on getting vengeance, if not justice, for her missing daughter Leslie that she neglects the needs of her remaining child, Leah. Leah has a lot of hostility against her missing sister and against her deceased father. Unfortunately she doesn’t really have an outlet for these feelings and can’t disclose them to her mother. Ms. Hoag even provides glimpses into the motivation and mind of the prime suspect, Roland Ballencoa. Much of the action centers on a cat-and-mouse like game between Lauren and Ballencoa, and even Ballencoa and law enforcement. This back and forth builds the tension and kept me on edge during most of the book.  Down the Darkest Road was a quick read but it is by no means an easy read due to the psychological tension and underlying darkness associated with child abduction and sexual predators. This may not be a book for everyone but if you want to read a good suspense/psychological thriller, this may well be the book for you.

Down the Darkest Road by Tami Hoag will be available on 12/27/2011.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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