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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Review - Murder Off the Beaten Path

I reviewed the first book in this new series, Zero Degree Murder (click here) but surprisingly I have not  interviewed the author yet.  Even though autumn has descended in my neck of the woods, this book takes us to summer camp!

Author: M.L. Rowland

Copyright: October 2014 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 2nd in Search and Rescue Mystery series

Sensuality: some swearing, sexual assault, R rated in parts

Mystery Sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Gracie Kinkaid -- volunteer search and rescue working at a residential summer camp 

Setting: modern day, mountains of southern California

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

The book opens as Search and Rescue are searching for a teen girl.  The search is sadly called off after a week.  We are then introduced to Gracie's new job working as a ropes and climbing instructor at a residential church summer camp.  It becomes clear that something isn't right at the camp, but when Jett McKenna's car goes over the side of a mountain after leaving a frantic call on Gracie's answering machine, it becomes critical to uncover just what is happening and who is involved.  Gracie begins to realize that she can't trust anybody at camp, not even the pastor director -- and especially not his wild brother.  The more Gracie digs into the dark activities at the camp, she discovers illegal activities, and is in the path of vicious criminals who target her.

Gracie seems to have more baggage this time around, or perhaps she is just terrible at relationships all around.  She makes some progress by acquiring a dog, Minnie, in this outing.  This time some of her actions seem erratic, though. She manages to hurt her dear friend Ralph Hunter. Ralph is a fellow Search and Rescue member and was introduced in the previous book.  Ralph would like to take care of Gracie, but seems to still cling to his deceased wife.  Rob Christian, the mega-star British actor that figured prominently in the last book, is back for a brief appearance in this book.  Jett is the Ponderosa Camp friend who dies when her car goes over the side of a mountain.  She is dark and troubled, trying to find her way.  Brothers Jay, who runs the camp, and Eddie are obviously up to no good, but is it just petty stuff or more serious?

Timber Creek County and Camp Ponderosa's rugged beauty are vibrantly described.  Rowland weaves the wilderness into the story as a character.  The plot is uncomplicated but rather dark, so be warned.  The pacing is inconsistent with a too slow parts then speedy sections.  The climatic showdown has some hair-raising moments that got my blood racing.  Kudos there.  The wrap-up is without cheer and adds more complications to her life.

If you like your suspense characters with a bit more edge and somewhat harder and a few more dark notes in the story telling, this is your book. 

Rating: Good - An intense read, but not suited for everybody. Maybe read an excerpt before buying. 

It is autumn, one of my favorite times of the year.  If you love pumpkin spice flavored coffee, here is a recipe to make your own syrup to flavor your coffee all season.  

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

1½ cups water
1½ cups sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cloves
3 tbsp. pumpkin puree
**If you don't want to measure out all of the spices individually you can use 1 1/2 teaspoons of Pumpkin pie spice instead.

In a medium saucepan combine sugar and spices, whisking together to incorporate, add water and turn heat on to medium, stir occasionally until sugar is completely dissolved. Add cinnamon sticks and the pumpkin puree. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring often, but do not let the mixture boil. Turn down the heat if necessary. Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes, then strain the syrup through a fine sieve or mesh strainer. If you do not have either, a funnel lined with a coffee filter works well.

Store in Fridge up to 30 days.

To make a delicious Pumpkin Spice Latte, mix a shot of hot espresso with 2 TBS of Pumpkin Spice Syrup and 4-6 oz of hot steamed milk. Top with whipped cream, a dash of pumpkin spice seasoning and a drizzle of caramel.

Recipe from Budget 101 (click here).

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