If you’re looking for romance and thriller, packaged into one, easy to enjoy kind of novel, then Tami Hoag is your writer!
Between the much-loved Kovac & Liska series, to her many other short, slow-burn novel series, Hoag has been writing top-quality content since the late 80s.
So, as you can imagine, she has quite the back catalog of work out there!
However, this prolific authorship presents a problem, if you’re just trying to enjoy her work for the first time: Where do you start?
Well, with this guide for her book works in order, now you can freely pick your starting point!
Who Is Tami Hoag?
Before we get stuck into this guide, there might be a few people who aren’t sure who Tami Hoag even is.
Well, firstly, thank you for clicking on this guide, that means a lot!
Secondly, don’t worry! I’ve got a short introduction for you to sink your teeth into! Tam Hoag was born in 1959 in Cresco, Iowa.
Born Tami Mikkelson, Tami graduated from high school and worked several different jobs for a time, from photographer’s assistant, selling bathroom designer accessories, to training race horses (a hobby that she keeps up to this day), all of which have contributed to the wide knowledge base that she uses throughout her works.
When she’s not writing a killer thriller novel, Tami Hoag also tends to her horses, and even rides them competitively from time to time!
Kovac & Liska Series, In Publication Order
We’re starting this list with what is probably Hoag’s most famous series, the Kovac & Liska detective series.
While Hoag has written many excellent novels aside from these, this is certainly her longest-running series to date.
Ashes To Ashes 1999
Ashes To Ashes is the inaugural book in this gripping detective series.
Starting this much-loved work of Hoag’s, we find our main characters Kovac and Liska team up with FBI agent Kate Conlan, as she investigates the haunting case of a murderer who not only performs ritualistic ceremonies with his victims but sets them on fire at the same time!
- Hoag weaves a story of mysterious, even unnerving murder cases, while also nailing the characterization of her two leading figures on the first outing!
- The romance subplot might be hit-or-miss if you’re not a fan of those in your thriller works.
Dust To Dust 2000
An internal investigation into the suspected murder of an officer by another officer leads to a bloody tragedy, as the internal affairs investigator turns up dead shortly after.
With this now-second death being a political nightmare for the entire department, it is up to Kovac and Liska to try and unravel this mystery, before it hits the public, and faith is shattered.
- A fascinating thriller, with a political lens, and a whodunit setup that will leave you guessing as to who the culprit is.
- The story does drag its feet from time to time.
Prior Bad Acts 2006
The brutal murder of the Haas family, and the subsequent trial, leave the judge of the case in mortal danger, especially after an attack in a parking garage.
To get to the bottom of these attempts, Judge Moore will have to rely on two detectives to track down these mysterious assailants.
And wouldn’t you know it? It’s Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska on the job!
- An attack-turned-kidnapping keeps the plot going on all cylinders!
- Characters feel a little one-dimensional in this story, which can lead to some tired stereotypes.
The 1st Victim 2013
It’s New Year’s Day, but there’s very little reason to celebrate at the Minneapolis police department, especially for Kovac and Liska, who are already dealing with their first murder case of the year, a young woman found dead on the side of the freeway.
- The pace of this book feels quick and interesting, two key details for any detective thriller story!
- This is just a prequel to Hoag’s next full novel, so don’t expect any clear or satisfying answers in this story.
The 9th Girl 2013
Building off of the last entry, Kovacs and Liska are determined to bring a serial killer to justice, the infamous Doc Holiday, who is known for butchering women on holidays.
With only one lead to go on, Liska and Kovac start unraveling a conspiracy of lies that have been infesting a community for years.
- There is some great payoff from the previous short story in this gripping, gruesome thriller tale.
- The main plot often grinds to a halt in service of subplots regarding the main character Liska’s family life, which not everyone will be interested in.
The Bitter Season 2016
The butchering of a middle-aged couple via some kind of samurai sword that Kovac and Liska are investigating has some hallmarks of a murder that took place some 20 years ago.
Has an old killer returned to the scene of the crime? Or just a pale imitator?
You’ll have to read and find out for yourself!
- There is some great chemistry on display with our two main characters, reminding us why this series is called ‘Kovacs & Liska’!
- The main plot does take a while to get started, which might frustrate some readers.
Oak Knoll Series, In Publication Order
This next thriller series does not just follow a main character throughout this short series but is as much about the town where these crimes take place, Oak Knoll.
Deeper Than The Dead 2008
In this first book of the Oak Knoll trilogy, we follow up-and-coming FBI profiler Vince Leone in 1985, as he investigates the brutal and mysterious murders of a string of young women and their children.
As the bodies pile up, the kill count gets higher, and the killings get more brutal, it’s a race against the clock to uncover who did this.
- The detail of small-town California is vivid and amazing. You get a sense of what it must feel like to live here and makes the murderer feel all that much more grounded.
- Some characters feel one-note and over the top, in a way that might be grating.
Secrets To The Grave 2010
A woman lies dead on her kitchen floor, and the only clue to the culprit is the ominous words of her 4-year-old child: My daddy hurt my mommy…
What should be a short, but tragic, investigation quickly starts to unravel into something much bigger.
Like why, despite the fact she was well-known, did the mother never ‘officially exist?
- A central, tragic hook sits at the center of this story and keeps unfolding further and further from there.
- Our main detective, Vince Leone, feels comparatively bumbling and bad at his job here, almost a total role reversal from Hoag’s previous book with this character.
Down The Darkest Road 2011
Lauren Lawton lost her 16-year-old daughter 4 years ago, and her killer disappeared without a trace.
The town has moved on, her husband died in a car crash in the aftermath, and her youngest daughter is desperate to try and enjoy what little remains of her childhood.
With nothing left for them in Santa Barbara, the two move to sleepy Oak Knoll.
But unfortunately, the past cannot be so easily outrun…
- The dedication of Lauren to finding the truth about what happened to her oldest daughter is compelling. Especially when weighed against how she treats her still-living daughter, which elevates how mature Leah, her living daughter, is.
- Outside these main two, few other characters stand out as memorable, even a long-time recurring character, Vince Leone.
Elena Estes Series, In Publication Order
Jumping from the world-weary, grizzled detective of Oak Knoll, we have a very different kind of main character in this compelling duology, the titular Elena Estes.
Dark Horse 2002
Elena’s stubborn streak has caught up with her, almost losing her entire life, her job, her career, her confidence, and even the lives of others.
While she is decompressing from this mess of her own making, she runs into a young 12-year-old who is worried that her elder step sister has gone missing.
And suddenly, the call of duty is too strong for Elena to resist, even on vacation.
- Elena is a fresh new protagonist to get behind. Her love of horses (inherited from Hoag, no doubt) also helps ground her in a distinct, realistic way.
- The story is a little slow when compared to some of her other works.
The Alibi Man 2006
After largely turning her back on her old life, Elena is eager to keep away from the politics and issues rampant in Palm Beach’s Police department, especially the crème de la crème of the elite cops.
But the body of a dead friend turns up in a canal, she uncovers a web of lies that pervade not just the Russian mob and criminal underworld of Palm Beach, but the corruption within the police department itself!
- Elena Estes is back, and she’s on the trail of police corruption and the Russian mafia. Exciting stuff, for sure!
- This is firmly a sequel to the previous book with Elena in it, Dark Horse. You may find some important plot points and other details in a different book.
Deer Lake Series, In Publication Order
If the sleepy-town aesthetic of Oak Knoll was more your style, you’ll be happy to know that Hoag returns to that type of setting.
In fact, it’s arguable that the Deer Lake series was the precursor to that story!
Night Sins 1995
Deer Lake in Minnesota is one of those classic small Midwest towns that many people will know about. A sleepy little palace, where everyone knows everyone else by name, as well as their business.
So what happens when that business becomes the disappearance of an 8-year-old boy?
For regional officer Megan O’Malley, it means an incredibly fraught and tense hunt for the child, and a devastating reminder of urban crime that tore her life up before.
- The strange, small-town humor, mixed with the thriller aspects, as well as a touch of romance, make this a very interesting book to read.
- There is a lot of unnecessary padding in this book. Sometimes, it helps with delivering a punchline, but others, it just drags out a reveal over 2 pages when 1 would do.
Guilty As Sin 1996
Assistant County Attorney Ellen North has been assigned to the Josh Kirkwood case from the previous book.
It’s a position that she’d hoped to leave in the past, along with her big city days.
Having to contend with not just an unlikely partner in the form of Jay Butler Brooks, a story, sensationalist-driven press, and a second kidnapping is the last thing Ellen needs on her plate!
Unfortunately, that’s just what she’s been served!
- The new, secondary perspective on the previous book’s case opens up a whole new angle to the story, as well as new lenses to view it.
- If you’re more into the detective side of murder thrillers, this court case-based take might not be to your tastes.
Broussard And Fourcade Series, In Publication Order
Hoag just loves her detective duos, doesn’t she?
Considering that this is the 2nd dedicated series, one of many romantic detective couples, the Broussard & Fourcade duology is an interesting example of Hoag’s writing styles at different points in her career, with one in the 90s, and one in the 2010s.
A Thin Dark Line 1997
A brutal murder case and a botched investigation have Deputy Annie Broussard haunted by just how bad things got with her last case.
Her pursuit of the man who she assumed was the murderer, however, finds a paper trail that goes in a very different direction.
Right into the hands of a fellow officer of the law…
- A trail of corruption and a murder suspect going free is enough to get you behind Broussard’s chase for justice!
- The emphasis on Annie’s turbulent personal life might not leave fans of the mystery element pleased, especially when her relationships are also turbulent and kind of unlikable.
The Boy 2017
With a 7-year-old dead following a break-in, detectives Fourcade and Broussard are left stumped.
After all, if there was a break-in, why were there no signs? Who killed her son? And what does the recent kidnapping of a 16-year-old girl have to do with it?
- The trail of questions the reader follows with our main characters is sure to leave you wanting more!
- The bickering between our two main detective characters (a couple) might grate on some people.
Standalone Novels, In Publication Order
Alongside her many series, Tami Hoag has also written a truly impressive body of standalone works, where we get to see more of her classic romance works, many of which are her greatest works!
McKnight In Shining Armor (1988) (Reprint)
This right here is Tami Hoag’s debut novel. So if you’re wondering where she got her start, look no further than this book!
Animal wrangler and divorcee Kelsie Connors has been out of luck when it comes to finding new love recently.
However, that looks set to change, when the gallant Alexander McKnight (Our McKnight in shining armor) comes into her life.
- A classic falling-in-love romance tale, with a classic setup: A work-bound career lady, and romantic professional man, off on a whirlwind adventure of complicated emotions.
- While still a great and enjoyable read, it’s pretty clear that this is Tami Hoag early in her career, when she is still finding her footing and writing style.
Mismatch (1989) (Reprint)
Wade Grayson was an ambitious congressman from heartland America, his sights set on the high office.
Bronwynn Prescott Pierson was a one-time fashion icon, socialite, and now runaway bride. The two couldn’t be more different from each other, it seems.
But when their paths cross in the woods of Vermont, both desperate to get away from the spotlight for a time, that’s exactly where love starts to blossom!
- Watching the romance unfold between these two very different characters is nothing short of heartwarming!
- It is a classic romance plot, so some might find the romance plot a little predictable.
Sarah’s Sin (1991)
Matt Thorne is just to recover away from the big city at his sister’s rural inn. He didn’t expect to fall in love while he was there!
For Sarah, her entire way of life seems in danger. How can her love for this city man and his wily charm and her Amish way of life coexist?
You’ll have to read on to find out!
- A classic story: City boy meets country girl, and the rest is an adorable tale of love at (not quite) first sight!
- It’s just a classic love story, plain and simple. Don’t expect murder mystery or intrigue to crop up in this book.
Heart Of Dixie (1991)
If you love your romance stories with just a dash of intrigue, then this one will be right up your alley!
Biographer Jake Gannon is looking out for the story of megastar Devon Stafford, a year after she vanished from the public eye.
But when his car crashes in Mare’s Nest on the coast of Carolina, he happens to meet a tow truck driver with not just a way to get on the move, but quite the secrets to telling of her own.
Especially one about Devon Stafford.
If that is, she doesn’t kill him first!
- A plot that unfolds from a classic mystery, into a tense, but passionate romance story.
- I mean, you read this description, right? The twist isn’t hard to spot. Still, it’s about the journey, not the destination, am I right?
Taken By Storm
Trauma nurse Julia McCarver has spent the last few years of her life putting it back together after S. T. ‘Storm’ Dalton for the third time in a row.
But how will she react when he turns up on her doorstep once again?
Will she try and stop him from ruining her life, and new relationship, once again? Or will she agree to his challenge to convince her that he has changed in just two weeks?
- A bittersweet romance and a classic lover’s dilemma await you in this book!
- There are certain points where you will be left wondering what exactly McCarver sees in Storm. Then again, that’s why you’re here to find out, right?
Still Waters 1992
Elizabeth Stuart and her troubled teenage son are new to Still Creek, Minnesota.
So the last thing that they want to do is get on any local’s bad sides or suspicions.
However, the corpse that turns up at their doorstep ensures that that’s not going to happen anytime soon!
Can the Stuarts get to the bottom of this? Will the killer come to cover their tracks, in the bloodiest way possible?
There’s only one way to find out!
- This is around the time that Tami Hoag really starts to hone their eye on their knack for writing murders and thrillers, and it is on full display here!
- The consistency of the story, from the other characters to the leaps in logic, isn’t always consistent.
Cry Wolf 1993
Former attorney Laurel Chandler is done with murder and justice. The destruction of her life and career has taken those from her.
But in her refuge, the sleepy town of Bayou Breaux, the missing woman turning up on the Bayou’s bay, dead and strangled, a killer seems to have other ideas for Laurel…
- A monstrous thriller story, with a healthy dolloping of slasher horror for good measure!
- Despite the intriguing setup, the story is light on actual investigation/mystery and high on drama. Not for everyone.
Dark Paradise 1994
When a dead girl turns up dead in New Eden, Montana, Marilee Jennings, a former courtroom reporter, must figure out how who or what turned a rural slice of paradise turned into one young woman’s hell.
- Hoag knows how to write a good murder mystery! The twists will have you second-guessing yourself.
- A lot of repetitive phrases keep turning up in this story, and it might be noticeable from time to time.
Kill The Messenger 2004
Jace Damon is just a message and package bike delivery man working in downtown L. A.
So, you can imagine how twisted his life gets when one delivery to the city’s dirtiest district attorney, and a car chases him down an alleyway, and he barely escapes with the package and his life in hand!
- The city setting makes for an interesting change of locations from Hoag’s traditional rural vistas.
- The characters are all kind of hard to root for, quite different from many of Hoag’s other works.
Cold Cold Heart 2015
Dana’s life as a young TV reporter was turned upside down when she was kidnapped.
A year on from the incident, she is still plagued with the memories (or lack of them) and scars of that time.
But when a trip back to her hometown to recuperate leaves her struggling to remember her friends and family there, a conspiracy seems to unfold.
- A real thriller plotline and mystery unfold, as our main character starts to question not just her memories, but everything in her life.
- The plot does drag a little.
As you can see, when it comes to thrillers and detective mysteries, Tami Hoag has a style unlike any other, and is probably one of the most prolific authors alive today.
It’s quality and quantity with this thriller author!
So, where will you start your Tami Hoag journey?
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Books Has Tami Hoag Written?
While there might be a few books or stories that weren’t published, or that she wrote before becoming an official writer, Tami Hoag’s name is attributed to at least 25 books.
What Was Tami Hoag’s First Written Book?
The earliest known written book that Hoag published seems to be Mcknight in Shining Armor, published in 1988.
Now, the book hasn’t been in circulation that whole time, but there was a reissue of this novel in 2009, which might cause some confusion for fans who weren’t aware!
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