Sunday, March 20, 2011

Deadly Currents

Having come to distrust the people who write book jacket summaries and create blurbs designed to catch a buyer's eye, I must say that "Through hell and high water" is perfectly apt for Beth Groundwater's new mystery, Deadly Currents.

While the rest of us have days when we wished we'd never gotten out of bed, and every now and then a wave of bad luck or karma swamps us but few can compete with Mandy Tanner's first few days on her new job as a river ranger. Groundwater launches this first entry in her new mystery series the way a starter's gun begins a kayak race and the action carries the reader along until, all too quickly, the final page is reached.

As a river ranger for the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA), Mandy's landed her dream job; living in beautiful Salida, Colorado she is in the middle a year-round, outdoor activity paradise. But she's got to cope with a pair of deaths that threaten her job while her need to bring a killer to justice threaten her life.

Whitewater tour guides and local townspeople come to life, plenty of conflict is created and the sparks definitely fly. Mandy's feisty personality and need to do things herself requires she hold her own, first with her beloved Uncle Bill, who raised her after the accident that took her parents' lives and wants Mandy to continue working for his outfitting business. Then there's David, her older brother who's an accountant in Colorado Springs and feels guilty about letting Uncle Bill take responsibility for Mandy. Among the authority figures around whom Mandy needs to thread her way are her boss, Head River Ranger Steve Hadley, and Sheriff's Detective Victor Quintana who cooperates with the rangers but understandably has a few reservations about this young woman. Not least is the wanting-to-be-helpful, endlessly patient, and occasionally misunderstood guy in her life, Rob Juarez.

Placing Mandy in a real location which the author knows well and vividly describes, Groundwater deftly works Salida's signature event, FIBArk (per its website, anyway into the novel's climax. Any questions about Salida as a picture perfect location for adventure and mystery will be erased by this round-up of "Time Warp Towns" from CNBC (

Deadly Currents should appeal to fans of Nevada Barr's inimitable National Park Service mysteries with its awesome protagonist Park Ranger, Anna Pigeon. All in all, Beth Groundwater has created a winning combination of location and character that bodes well for the forthcoming titles in her Rocky Mountain Adventures mystery series from Midnight Ink. Look for the next one, Wicked Eddies, in Spring 2012.

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