“Vancouver, B.C., Constables Hart and Tain team up to investigate a series of arsons and the disappearances of young girls. Constable Nolan is working on a string of rapes. The three young police officers a year earlier had investigated a high-profile case and soon find that their current cases may have a connection. This is the first in a new series of police procedurals by Ruttan (Suspicious Circumstances), the cofounder of Spinetingler Magazine, a popular e-zine. Well worth adding to any mystery collection.”
– Jo Ann Vicarel, Library Journal
“Three Vancouver constables—son-of-a-sergeant Craig Nolan, bombshell in the boys’ club Ashlyn Hart, and stolidly antisocial cop Tain—are drawn together as the rapes, arsons and child abductions they’re working on respectively converge. The three, who have a beef over a prior case gone bad, must get over their personal differences and chase scant leads before another raped woman, burned building or missing girl turns up. Ruttan manages to keep the multiple leads and seconds on the same page admirably: she doesn’t drop too many clues in their laps or allow the tension to flag. The child abduction and sex crime aspects of the story are handled without exploitation or kid gloves; the straight proceduralism from Ruttan (Suspicious Circumstances) serves the story well through the rewarding climax.”(May)
– Publishers Weekly, Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“Great start to a new police procedural mystery series sure to be a success. The law officers in the Vancouver community of Coquitlan are frantically working to solve not only a series of rapes, but also a series of child abductions and arsons. Constables Craig Nolan, Ashlyn Hart, and Tain (who goes by only the one name) are each assigned one of the cases but soon find themselves working together as some disturbing connections begin to emerge from the separate investigations. The three have worked together before and still deal with painful memories of the previous case. This provides some rather uncomfortable moments as they are reunited. Now they must push aside the personal feelings stirred up by seeing one another again and focus on solving these new, horrific crimes. The investigation takes a physical and emotional toll on the entire department as the officers race against time, chasing a criminal or criminals who seem to leave no evidence in their wake.
“This story features a triple mystery and three main characters, who are interesting not only for their tangled group dynamic but also as individuals. Some other complex relationships come into play as well throughout the book. The subject matter obviously is very grim, but the occasional banter between the constables helps to take the edge off.
“I did feel that too many people were introduced too quickly at the beginning of the book, and it was a bit confusing to me as far as who was who, but that certainly did not affect my enjoyment of the story. The details of that previous case are left tantalizingly vague, but I’m sure Ms. Ruttan will fill us in at some point. This is a good start to a new series I think will appeal to a variety of mystery lovers.”
– Lenore Howard, FRESH FICTION
“The novel is a classic police procedural, with detailed descriptions of each step along the way. The interactions of the protagonists and human emotions are finely told. The dialogue and writing are excellently presented and the story gripping. Further efforts in the series are greatly anticipated, and the book is highly recommended.”
– MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
“What burns within WHAT BURNS WITHIN is Sandra Ruttan. There is, among the six or seven sub-plots, a story about arson, and the title could also refer to personal hells, but what really burns, with a cold intensity, is Ruttan’s seriousness, the clarity of her intent, the laser-like precision she brings to the process of saying that the truth is subjective and the universe is pitilessly indifferent, so let’s roll up our sleeves and do something about it.
“The characters who roll up their sleeves here are RCMP officers Craig, Tain and Ashlyn, who begin the story investigating child abductions and potentially related arsons and rape cases in the Vancouver area. The trio’s complex history is explored as the three main stories weave together, although Ruttan is clever enough to use this material to propel the story forwards rather than rely on flashbacks and digressions that might slow the scintillating pace.
“Short and snappy chapters, terse dialogue, staccato delivery of minimalist description, Ruttan’s style harks back to the classic hardboiled era, although she’s more Horace McCoy than James M. Cain or Dashiell Hammet. McCoy, like Jim Thompson, always had bigger fish to fry, and told more than tales rooted in criminality. As with Thompson, and Ruttan, McCoy was fascinated by conflict, its roots and possible resolutions, and particularly the conflicts of the mind (WHAT BURNS WITHIN also engages with notions of justice and forgiveness, religious extremism and secular self-sacrifice, damaged sexuality and the abuse of power). And yet Ruttan is very much a shower rather than a teller: there are very few internal monologues to be heard in WHAT BURNS WITHIN, the subtleties of the characters’ complex psychologies being drawn out through their interactions with their colleagues. That’s a difficult skill to make invisible, but it’s one of Ruttan’s most effective weapons.
“It’s a war out there. Writers wage war on the credibility of the reader with every weapon they have, and most crime writers do so by having their characters go into battle in a quixotic, unwinnable war against criminality. Sandra Ruttan has gone to war under a banner of honesty, bringing an integrity to the genre that results in a bleakly depicted but ultimately compassionate, fascinating and meticulously researched police procedural that dares to say that we, as a community, city, society or culture, are entitled to believe we can become better people.
– Declan Burke, CRIME ALWAYS PAYS
“WHAT BURNS WITHIN is the first in a series featuring Vancouver based police officers by Canadian Author (and co-founder of Spinetingler Magazine) Sandra Ruttan. Starting out at breakneck pace, WHAT BURNS WITHIN barely stops for breath, starting with a child abduction, following up with a number of rape investigations, the discovery of a child’s body at the site of an arson attack, a rape connected to a firefighter at that scene, and then, with terrifying rapidity more little girls go missing. As the speed of the events hastens, the connections between the crimes start to appear.
“One of the things that struck this reader, at least, from the very start was how populated with people and events this book was. WHAT BURNS WITHIN incorporates a complex set of cases that each bring with them a victim (firmly centre stage in many); a series of investigation teams working with and around our central characters; witnesses; family members and other involved parties. This cast, along with Ruttan’s style of writing, gives the book an interesting feel – almost crowded, enclosed, tense but controlled, pressured but not necessarily frantic. It’s that sense of a large cast swirling around the investigators, that seems to give WHAT BURNS WITHIN part of its depth – it shows the size or range of the impact of the crimes investigated here.
“Mind you, the focus on each of the elements is held up throughout the book, the connections maintained, there is nothing left behind. The police procedural aspects of the case are solid, believable and they support the cast of characters as they deal with what is, after all, a very horrific series of crimes. The three central characters are also well rounded both in their own right and as a group that have been through some difficult experiences and are working out what that means to them.
“WHAT BURNS WITHIN is certainly no walk in the park, it’s edgy, sharp, brutal in places. Complex but not complicated, WHAT BURNS WITHIN is one hell of a ride.”
– Karen Chisholm, AUSTRALIAN CRIME FICTION ALWAYS PAYS
“Promising talent Ruttan sets her gritty new detective series in Vancouver. It has a hard-edged feel and intriguing characters. …this is a good start to an intriguing series.”
– ROMANTIC TIMES
“What Burns Within by Sandra Ruttan marks the debut of a police procedural series, one that is a must-read for anyone who appreciates the genre. The reader follows RCMP Constables Tain, Hart and Nolan through the investigation of three difficult cases, until the officers discover their cases converge.
Tain, Hart and Nolan are three officers who “share a common tendency toward insubordination and independence.” They were split up due to fall-out from a difficult case. Now, the Vancouver officers have tough new cases. Tain is dealing with child abduction cases in which young girls have been snatched off the street. Ashlyn Hart works arson fires, until the body of one of the abducted girls is discovered in a fire. And, Craig Nolan is handling the investigation into a serial rapist. Despite their supervisor’s attempt to keep them apart, the three investigators discover common links in the cases. Suddenly, they’re in the middle of a case that could blow up for the Vancouver RCMP.
“Ruttan has created three strong-willed characters, strong officers with a dedication to their job, and an unwillingness to deal with fools. They may share that trait, but Ruttan has given them distinct personalities and backgrounds. She skillfully handles the minor characters as well, from Sergeant Daly to key witnesses, and the abducted girls. The cases are fascinating in this excellent police procedural. What Burns Within is an outstanding debut for a new series. Fans will be waiting for the November release of the follow-up, The Frailty of Flesh.”
– Lesa Holstine, Lesa’s Book Critiques
“WHAT BURNS WITHIN by Sandra Ruttan: This should be labeled as a Friday evening start since you will likely read all night. Three RCMP “that’s Mounties” once worked a case that left bitter memories with each one. Although they are still in British Columbia they are now working in separate areas. Constable Tain is focused on a series of child abductions, Constable Ashlyn Hart is working arson, and Constable Craig Nolan is handling sex crimes. But when the body of one of the missing girls is found in a building that had been set fire by an arsonist and the wife of a police officer becomes a rape victim it seems that all three are working a common thread. Ruttan captures the intensity of the streets and daily police work while vividly pointing out that it’s not just the victims that get damaged by criminal acts. Those who uphold the law also pay a price. Very well done and when’s the next one? 06/08 Jack Quick
– Jack Quick, BookBitch (link http://www.bookbitch.com/fiction_s-z.htm)
“One of crime fiction’s hot new voices.”
-Rick Mofina, Bestselling Author of A PERFECT GRAVE
“Ruttan is talented in the way that a natural musician is talented, making all the notes seem effortless.”
“A nonstop chiller of a mystery that keeps you turning the pages.”
-Gregg Olsen, NY Times Bestselling Author of A WICKED SNOW
“Ruttan combines devilishly clever plots with genuinely empathic characters.”
-Russel D. McLean, Crime Scene Scotland
“WHAT BURNS WITHIN reads like a favorite television series. A large cast, lots of dialogue to advance the plot, a great setting, and well-drawn characters make for a compelling police procedural.”
-Anne Frasier, USA Today Bestselling Author of HUSH, SLEEP TIGHT & PLAY DEAD
“A totally mesmerizing narrative and a plot that burns off the page.”
-Ken Bruen, Author of AMMUNITION