First Line: Gina Ramirez was missing, and Gracie's little toe hurt.
Gracie Kinkaid now has a job working at Camp Ponderosa, a church-owned center where she's the program director, but she still puts her life on the line as a volunteer for the Timber Creek Search and Rescue team.
After spending days searching for a missing teenage girl, Gracie is exhausted, but she's just going to have to wait to rest up. A car has gone over the side of a treacherous mountain road, and she and her partner must climb down to see if the passengers need to be brought up and rushed to the hospital. There are no survivors, but Gracie has the feeling that this was no accident. As she checks into the situation further, she begins finding clues that lead her straight back to Camp Ponderosa. She thought her volunteer work was dangerous, but it's her day job that may very well wind up killing her.
I was so impressed with the first book in this Search and Rescue series, Zero-Degree Murder, that I knew I'd be reading the next one as soon as I possibly could. With Murder Off the Beaten Path, M.L. Rowland's mysteries are now quickly moving towards the top of my favorite series list.
Rowland's search and rescue scenes not only give readers a better understanding of what these brave men and women do for us every single day, they add tension to the story, place us right in the middle of the action, and help define Gracie as a character. They are definitely one of the things that make this series (and this book) so special.
Speaking of Gracie, she's evolving in this second book. Her job situation-- which at first appears to be much more stable-- has landed her right in the center of a snake pit, and we get to see how she deals with it. To be honest, she does much better with that than she does her love life. There's romantic tension aplenty in Murder Off the Beaten Path. Gracie has attracted the affections of two outstanding men, and even I don't know which one she should choose.
Gracie's waffling never detracts from the main focus of the story however. With all the various nefarious characters coming in and out of focus here, I'm beginning to think I'm better off not knowing what really goes on in the more remote sections of this country. (Yes, I do realize that what I don't know can hurt me!)
With enough action, danger, and romance for any reader, as well as a main character who's smart and incredibly brave, who's growing and changing with each book, I'm really looking forward to the next book in this series. Write faster, please!
Murder Off the Beaten Path by M.L. Rowland
Berkley Prime Crime © 2014
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Amateur Sleuth, #2 Search and Rescue mystery
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.