Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review: Zero-Degree Murder by M. L. Rowland (Search and Rescue Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good story overall with some likeable characters
Cons: Uneven pacing, clichés, and foul content
The Bottom Line:
Many elements
Don’t all quite come together
For book I would love

Better Than Zero-Degrees, But Not Fully Warm Either

In 2014, I found myself reading more culinary cozies than normal.  While it is a sub-genre I enjoy, I was hoping to expand my horizons beyond it this year by trying a few outdoors and exercised themed books.  Sadly, my first attempt turned out to be a disappointment.  Zero-Degree Murder wasn’t truly bad, but it wasn’t all that great either.

Gracie Kinkaid is spending a quiet Thanksgiving at home, so she is one of the few volunteers who responds when four hikers go missing up on the mountain during a Thanksgiving afternoon hike.  Unfortunately, she is paired with Steve Cashman, the one volunteer she can’t stand because he is always out to grab the spotlight.  And he will definitely be out to grab the spotlight in this case since one of the missing persons is famous actor Rob Christian.

Gracie and Cashman haven’t been on the trail too long before they find Rob.  However, there are no signs of the rest of the hikers and Rob is injured.  Worse yet, they are out of radio range and a snow storm is in the forecast.  However, what they don’t know is that there is a killer on the loose hunting them as well.  Will they survive?  Where are the rest of the hikers?

First of all, let’s discuss the content, and by content I mean language, violence, and sex.  Yes, this is a Berkley Prime Crime book, and since they publish many of the cozies I read and love, I was expecting something more along those lines content wise.  That wasn’t the case.  The book has plenty of foul language, and the violence is a tad intense at times.  There’s even a very PG sex scene.  While it is all fairly mild compared to what is out there and arguably realistic for the characters and story that is being told, it is more than I normally like to read.  So, despite the publisher, go in expecting this if you read the book.

I pretty quickly realized this was headed more toward the thriller side of things, although it is a mild thriller, and I tried to adjust my expectations accordingly.  Even so, there are long passages that begin to become a little boring.  The pacing is off overall, and really should have been tighter.  And I still haven’t figured out what exactly the first chapter was supposed to do.  I’m sure it was designed to introduce us to some of the characters, but you really could have cut it out of the book and been just fine.  I also called a couple of the twists of the story early on.

Having said that, there were passages that were page turning fast, and I would race through those.  My heart got pumping a couple of times, and I definitely had to get through the book to find out who would survive and how they’d do it.  The author uses multiple viewpoints to give us the complete picture of what is happening, and she does it very well.

The characters were another mixed bag.  At times, I felt like they were truly being developed and were pretty strong.  Then a few pages later, they felt like a cliché.  I did come to care for some of them, so they were developed well enough, and hopefully as the series goes on they will move on to become stronger overall.

I do enjoy the occasional darker book, so that wasn’t my entire problem with Zero-Degree Murder.  However, it never overcame some serious weaknesses for me to like it despite the darker subject matter and content.

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