Ashes to Ashes by Tami Hoag (♦♦♦♦)

In the City of Minneapolis a serial killer who has been dubbed The Cremator is causing mayhem. He is taunting police by killing prostitutes and later incinerating the bodies in public places in the middle of the night. When The Cremator’s third victim appears to be the daughter of a billionaire, John Quinn, the star profiler for the FBI, is brought onboard to aid in the investigation.

Coinciding with the discovery of the third victim is the surfacing of witness Angie DiMarco, a troubled teenager with history of self inflicted wounds brought about by mental distress. What she has seen the killer do is enough to trigger fear of retaliation and anxiety. Kate Conlan, a witness/victim advocate is given the task to carefully prod Angie to surrender her memories of the killer and come up with a composite drawing to help the police catch a break in the investigation. Only Angie gives a general description of a man who can be just about anyone.

When Angie DiMarco disappears leaving behind enough blood to fear the worst, and a fourth body is discovered the same night, Kate Conlan turns to John Quinn, a man she shares a history with, to comfort her. It is easy to surrender her emotions, to let go, but Quinn asks for her perspective about the case. Little does Kate know that The Cremator has his sight on her and is saving her for last in his ultimate act of defiance.

I liked this book, but I had trouble digesting the story. The parts about the killer and his fantasies are so grotesque, so distressing, so brutal that I almost gave up the book on page 100. Then the story focused on the investigation, on cops humor, on the rekindling of the love affair between Kate Conlan and John Quinn, on developing the characters further and those elements where keys to make me want to keep reading. I guessed the identities of the main players just before they were revealed, though there is so much misdirection in the book that it’s difficult to anticipate the curveballs Hoag throws at the reader.

Overall, Ashes to Ashes is grotesque but with enough subplots to overlook the brutality of the main plot.