An enjoyable thriller that wades into Western water rights and deals with the devil.
While whitewater rafting in Colorado, Dani Whalen finds a body in the river. Soon, five people perish in a fiery hot air balloon disaster. Can the incidents be related? Can they be crimes? Dani thinks so, but her stepfather, Wade Dunn, thinks she’s a troublemaker. "Dani better keep her trap shut," he thinks. "Or he didn't know what he'd be forced to do." It’s clear he’s not going to be the guy wearing the white hat. That’s the role of Dani's godfather, Ty Hauck, a security specialist who flies in from Florida to help her. A “huge energy conglomerate” named RMM has been spreading money around town on fancy stadium scoreboards and senior citizen centers to buy goodwill while they frack 1 mile under for oil and natural gas. For that they use lots of water at the expense of drought-stricken farmers. A lawsuit against RMM pits townspeople against each other and corrodes their character. “That slow creep of your principles washed away in the soil was now like a mudslide dragging everything down with it,” the police chief thinks. The novel’s extended action scenes are its best feature, in particular one involving a woman doing her breath-holding best not to drown in the well she’s been thrown into. There's at least one clichéd scene involving The Bad Guy Who Talks Too Much instead of just killing the hero already, but thank goodness for logorrhea if it buys time for the good guy. And as Dani in distress tells a villain “You won’t get away with it,” the line feels—well, hardly new. But the pace is fast, the characters are engaging, and the issues are timely.
A good tale that will have thriller readers looking for the next Ty Hauck adventure.