When Jay Jay Jaynes, manager of an electronics plant in rural North Carolina, drowns while canoeing down the local river, the consensus verdict is ""accidental death."" After all, the body was found near ""Whitewater VI,"" the spot where the river's rapids are most dangerous. But sheriff Peter McPhee and deputy Billy Birdsong aren't so sure: there's a suspicious head-wound and a mysteriously missing canoeing helmet. Furthermore, the non-grieving widow, it turns out, had been carrying on at least two extramarital affairs: Jaynes had a couple of nervous rivals down at the plant. And foul play is definitely in the air once McPhee gets a secret visit from gorgeous FBI agent Maria Orsini--who suspects that someone at the electronics company (which has US defense contracts) has been selling secrets to the Russians. Romance heats up between McPhee (estranged from his wife) and Maria, of course. Then, after the villain puts McPhee out of commission (near-fatally), Billy--a blissfully married Cherokee Indian--takes over the investigation. . .with mostly predictable results. A slight, unremarkable, but blandly competent debut--weakest in the ho-hum plotting, strongest in the folksy dabs of local color and the occasional hints of company-town tension.