The Search by Nora Roberts
The Search is Nora Roberts’ third new release for the year (and there’s more on the way). It’s set on a small island off the coast from Seattle and centres around Fiona Barstow, a woman who trains dogs, both for obedience school and search and rescue. She’s also the sole survivor of the Red Scarf Killer, a serial killer now in jail. She meets a newcomer, Simon, when he brings his dog to her school for some much-needed training and their lives become tied even closer when they develop a romance and the threat of a Red Scarf Killer copycat manifests.
Before getting into what I liked about the book, I have to get something off my chest. I love me some Nora Roberts but I picked up The Search with a bit of trepidation. As a longtime reader of Iris Johansen, I feel the idea of centering this type of book around a woman and her search and rescue dogs has kind of been done. Before any haters jump on the train, let me be clear: I’m in no way suggesting that Nora Roberts has plagiarized or copied Iris Johansen. I don’t think Nora Roberts needs or wants to do something like that, having been the victim of plagiarism herself. I’m saying that I feel like the concept of framing a romantic suspense book around a woman who does search and rescue with her faithful (and sometimes personified) dog(s) stands out enough that anyone other than Iris Johansen’s Sarah and Monty seems like a bit of a retread, particularly when the book has the same title. (Iris Johansen’s The Search was released in June 2000.)
Okay, now that I’ve said my bit, there are some things I liked about The Search. Simon’s a great foil for Fiona. I loved how brusque and reluctant to care he is. I liked that Fiona was so calm and meticulous and brave. I thought the two characters worked really well together. I also liked the setting – a small island off of Washington – and how Nora Roberts described everything about the community. She also created some wonderful supporting characters and did a great job of portraying what search and rescue is like (at least as far as I can tell, not being involved in the field myself).
Despite all this, I didn’t love The Search as much as some of her other books, probably because I couldn’t get past how derivative I found it. But I think folks who are unfamiliar with Iris Johansen’s books will find the topic fresh and interesting.