Series: Search and Rescue

In Safe Hands by Katie Ruggle

In Safe Hands by Katie RuggleIn Safe Hands by Katie Ruggle
Series: Search and Rescue, #4
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on October 4th 2016
Pages: 416
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In the remote Rocky Mountains, lives depend on the Search & Rescue brotherhood. But in a place this far off the map, trust is hard to come by and secrets can be murder...
It's all come down to this...
Daisy Little has lived in agoraphobic terror for over eight years. Trapped within a prison of her own making, she watches time pass through her bedroom window. Daisy knows she'll never be a part of the world...until the day she becomes the sole witness of a terrible crime that may finally tear the Search and Rescue brotherhood apart for good.

‘In Safe Hands’ brings us back to the remote town where the bad guys hide among the good, where the women are the crazy, neurotic ones and the men somewhat more normal and hot. It brings as well, a murder-mystery plot that began in the first book to a startling conclusion that few would have seen coming.

Like Lou, Ellie and Rory, Daisy Little is odd in some way that I can’t entirely get into, even if Katie Ruggle does write a convincing case of agoraphobia. Her fear stems from a tragedy many years ago and as the pattern is with Ruggle’s SAR series, it’s something that she’ll need to fight and face in the climatic part of the book—and only out of this trial by fire (literally) can her stalled life finally move on. There’s a slow, slow burn with Deputy Chris Jennings, but the story’s inclined towards suspense more than romance, skewed so much in Daisy’s POV (as well as the villains, strangely) that I wondered about the almost peripheral role that Chris played in it apart from being Daisy’s ever-steady pillar of support.

Even then, I’m mixed about the direction of the story-arc, the characters and the pacing, which in several instances, felt inconsistent. With the painstaking set-up of the villain as the good guy whom I liked, it was difficult to swallow the fact that he apparently had a personality transplant from the first three books to this one, where the all-out scheming evil he seems to represent here made him more like a caricature than a character torn apart by his conflicting morals. In addition, Ruggle injects a liberal amount of levity that balances out the dour mood of the crimes, and if I enjoyed the camaraderie between the new friends, I did think these interludes took something away from the building suspense.

That said, ‘In Safe Hands’ could work as a standalone, although not very well. The SAR is an unusual series enough that I’d followed it all the way—Ruggle’s writing style is worth it—, but I’m still here crossing my fingers that the next series wouldn’t disappoint too much.


Gone Too Deep by Katie Ruggle

Gone Too Deep by Katie RuggleGone Too Deep by Katie Ruggle
Series: Search and Rescue, #3
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on August 2nd 2016
Pages: 448
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In the remote Rocky Mountains, lives depend on the Search & Rescue brotherhood. But in a place this far off the map, trust is hard to come by and secrets can be murder...
George Holloway has spent his life alone, exploring the treacherous beauty of the Colorado Rockies. He's the best survival expert Search and Rescue has, which makes him the obvious choice to lead Ellie Price through deadly terrain to find her missing father. There's just one problem-Ellie's everything George isn't. She's a city girl, charming, gregarious, delicate, small. And when she looks up at him with those big, dark eyes, he swears he would tear the world apart to keep her safe.
With a killer on the loose, he may have no choice.
Ellie's determined to find her father no matter the cost. But as she and her gorgeous mountain of a guide fight their way through an unforgiving wilderness, they find themselves in the crosshairs of a dangerous man in search of revenge. And they are now his prey...

‘Gone Too Deep’ brings us back into the back country of the Colorado mountains where a mysterious mountain-man hermit’s life is about to be disrupted big time by a pint-sized city-girl looking for her father who has gotten himself in trouble. ‘Gone too Deep’ is by no means a perfect book, but enjoyable and fascinating enough for me as I shadowed George’s and Ellie’s perilous trek through the woods with that same hushed awe Ellie had for George’s skills. But for the reasons above, I’m still left scratching my head trying to decide how I should rate this book, torn as I am between the characters and the lack of plot development and closure.

Apart from the intricate SAR work that shows Katie Ruggle’s own experience and knowledge, what the book clearly has going for it is its cast and crew: they’re special, quirky and loveable in their own ways and the sheer diversity of their personalities is breathtaking across Ruggle’s three books. George Holloway is taciturn, reserved to the point of requiring sign-language, so much so that Ellie Price’s bubbling personality was sharply painful in contrast at times.

But it’s easy to like George and Ellie – the awkwardness, the slow burn, the sweet romance – simply because this pairing is so improbable that it actually does work out, and rather convincingly so. Yet I couldn’t help but feel cock-blocked at the deliberate pushing back of the suspense – the story arc of which will only be complete in the next book – and as a result, the threat here from two meth dealers in the snowy woods seemed to drag unnecessarily on as a distraction from the ongoing drama of the headless guy murder and the loose ends that’d been dangled in the first book and were never tied up.

The lack of forward-moving action did frustrate me somewhat, save for the shocking (and sad) revelation at the last page. (I did have an inkling how it was going to play out that way, but I didn’t want it like that!) That said, very little plot-wise, happens in this book: Ellie gets a phone call from her estranged, mentally unstable dad, takes off to find him, discovers a bigger mystery that isn’t solved, meets and falls in love with her mountain-man guide and gets tangled in with dangerous stragglers and dealers on the way.

And that, in a nutshell, is ‘Gone Too Deep’.

The climax, as a result of the escalating action throughout the book, wasn’t unexpected, and the epilogue that followed was predictable and without closure. I think I would have loved the story move if I’d gotten to see a bigger change in George however; as seamlessly as he slots into the sweet mountain-man category complete with grunts and shrugs, it would have been great had he broken out of that mould a little more and become less of an expert in unspoken communication.

I do know I want to see how the entire arc gets resolved, even if I’m dreading how it’s going to end quite unhappily with a good guy turned bad – so is this really called anticipation then?


Fan the Flames by Katie Ruggle

Fan the Flames by Katie RuggleFan the Flames by Katie Ruggle
Series: Search and Rescue #2
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on June 7th 2016
Pages: 422
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As a Motorcycle Club member and firefighter, Ian Walsh is used to riding the line between the good guys and the bad. He may owe the Club his life, but his heart rests with his fire station brothers...and with the girl he's loved since they were kids, Rory Sorenson. Ian would do anything for Rory. He'd die for her. Kill for her. Defend her to his last breath-and he may just have to.
Every con in the Rockies knows Rory is the go-to girl for less-than-legal firearms, and for the past few years, she's managed to keep the peace between dangerous factions by remaining strictly neutral. But when she defends herself against a brutal attack, Rory finds herself catapulted into the center of a Motorcycle Club war-with only Ian standing between her and a threat greater than either of them could have imagined.

Putting off ‘Fan the Flames’ up until now has been a mistake because I didn’t think I’d be enjoying it this much, given that there’s more of the criminal underworld here than the actual search and rescue process which I loved in the last book. There is however, an ongoing story/suspense arc that begins in the first shows no sign of closing, which would, as I suspect, keep going until the entire series is done. As part of a series however, this second installment feels a little like a rabbit trail off the main story arc itself as Katie Ruggle delves into Motorcycle clubs and guns and firehouses.

There’s loads of talk about guns and MCs – a part of society I’ve never been a part of and can’t quite muster enough interest in – which was the downer, but the action and suspense kept me going on when it became clear who the bad guys were and what they’d been doing. Ian Walsh and Rory Sorenson proved me wrong as well, as the relatively angst-free pairing went through obstacle after obstacle that finally shredded Ian’s loyalty to his motorcycle club for good.

I’ve come to realise that in Ruggle’s Search and Rescue series thus far, the men are swoon-worthy, steadfast and steady and the women problematic. It isn’t quite a complain, but it’d be nice to see the female leads with a little less neurosis and odd inclinations. If Ian was an automatic dreamboat, I had a way harder time connecting with Rory, whose rather naive, socially-awkward behaviour threw me for several loops each time she had to play catch up when it came to feeling ‘adult’ emotions.

It isn’t to say that ‘Fan the Flames’ isn’t a decent read; it was hard-going the moment the suspense kicked in and I particularly salivated Ruggle’s dramatic and bad-ass introduction to George Holloway – whose book I’m already looking forward to


Hold Your Breath by Katie Ruggle

Hold Your Breath by Katie RuggleHold Your Breath by Katie Ruggle
Series: Search and Rescue #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on April 5th 2016
Pages: 352
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In the remote Rocky Mountains, lives depend on the Search & Rescue brotherhood. But in a place this far off the map, trust is hard to come by and secrets can be murder...
As the captain of Field County's ice rescue dive team, Callum Cook is driven to perfection. But when he meets new diver Louise "Lou" Sparks, all that hard-won order is obliterated in an instant. Lou is a hurricane. A walking disaster. And with her, he's never felt more alive...even if keeping her safe may just kill him.
Lou's new to the Rockies, intent on escaping her controlling ex, and she's determined to make it on her own matter how tempting Callum may be. But when a routine training exercise unearths a body, Lou and Callum find themselves thrust into a deadly game of cat and mouse with a killer who will stop at nothing to silence Lou-and prove that not even her new Search and Rescue family can keep her safe forever.

The Search and Rescue crew series is shaping out to be a potentially good read and I was more than happy to see Louise and Callum sweep in on a breath of fresh air in this book after a lack-lustre beginning with Derek and Artie.

Somewhat scatter-brained, prone to babbling and determined to forge a new life despite her many embarrassing moments, I’d never though Lou would be the woman to break through Callum’s stoic, OCD but solid personality. Instead, every opposites-attract moment they had together was strangely enjoyable, made more believable because of the slow burn and the months of tentative friendship/rescue-crew relationship that had already been established. I only wished that Katie Ruggle has spent as much time developing the depths of Callum’s personality as she did Lou’s; the depths of this guy somehow felt only briefly unplumbed as each facet of Lou’s personality was revealed throughout the book.

The suspense was a little predictable, but the entirely different context – of ice-diving, of the rescue process and the togetherness of the EFRs – was gripping enough for me to keep going, right up until an end that left me more gobsmacked than shocked.

Ultimately a strangely good read for me, judging by the difficulty I had in saying farewell (for now) to this odd but well-suited pair.