I don’t read many mysteries, and I’d never read anything by Tami Hoag until I picked up “Deeper Than the Dead” a couple of weeks ago. I should explain that more clearly. A few months ago, I won copies of two books by Ms. Hoag, and I gave them to my mom, and she read them and gave them back, and then I started reading the paperback a couple of weeks ago.
“Deeper Than the Dead” is set in the dark ages of 1985, when I was in college. The author explains in her forward that this is before the internet, when computers were still uncommon in law enforcement offices, DNA evidence was so new it had never been used to get a conviction, and criminal profiling was in its infancy. Pop culture references and descriptions of ’80s fashion and hairstyles served as regular reminders that the story was taking place 26 years ago. Only once did I forget and wonder for a moment why the detectives didn’t look something up online.
The story takes place in the small California community of Oak Knoll. Three children literally stumble across a woman’s mutilated body, partially buried in the woods near their shortcut home. Her eyes and mouth are glued shut, her eardrums punctured. The search begins for the “See No Evil Killer.”
Hoag weaves a finely-tuned tale of dark secrets in the tight-knit community. The children who find the body are tied to the most likely suspects. The sheriff is close friends with the head of a women-empowerment program linked to all the victims. The owner of the junk yard where the victims’ cars turn up is not the most likely suspect in their murders, but a grisly discovery opens a new case.
Just went I thought I knew for sure who the killer was, some new twist or something one of the other suspects said, would make me change my mind. As I read the final chapters yesterday, my husband was sitting nearby, grinning at the faces I was making at each new reveal, and he laughed out loud at one audible, “Eeeew.”
As I said, I don’t read a lot of mysteries, but “Deeper Than the Dead” is definitely one of the best, and it puts Tami Hoag on my list of recommended authors.