The Grand Canyon provides a stunningly scenic backdrop for murder.
Even though she’s still terrified of water years after her brother drowned, forensic geologist Em Hansen has agreed to accompany her new husband, Fritz Calder, and his son, Brendan, on a raft trip down the Colorado River. Em is gingerly attempting to establish a relationship with 13-year-old Brendan, who’s thrilled by the chance to spend more time with his father. The trip is a wedding present from Fritz’s pal, Tiny, whose accident leaves Fritz as team leader. It’s immediately clear that the 15th member of the party, casually invited at the last minute by Tiny, is going to be trouble. Wink Oberley is an experienced, but much disliked, river runner with his own boat. He claims to be a former Army Ranger who’s currently working on a Ph.D. in geology at Princeton. Despite having a wife and children, he’s also a womanizer and a bully who picks on Brendan. Oberley is earning some extra cash by conducting an educational program for the group right behind them on the river, a religious group that denies geological evidence of how the canyon was created. He ruffles many feathers, but when he vanishes after a night of heavy drinking, Fritz, assuming that he’s drowned, simply reports him missing, and the trip continues. Once Oberley is found murdered, the park rangers who are investigating take Fritz as their prime suspect, forcing Em to use all her skills to find the real killer.
Geologist Andrews enhances Em’s adventures (Dead Dry, 2005, etc.) with expert detail. A challenging mystery with the added fillip of evocative descriptions of the canyon.