Fleeing Kettle Falls, Washington, for Astoria, Oregon, Darla Denny lands a job at a bank and a nameless boyfriend. Then someone blows up the bank’s safe the one night when it’s full of cash, a fact Darla had confided to her “big guy.” Since his unexplained absences also coincide with ecoterrorist dam explosions, Darla’s not entirely surprised when he takes her away and trains her in explosives and psychological dependency. Meanwhile, the US Fish and Wildlife Department places Agent Louie Song at Priest Rapids Dam to prevent another explosion. When the dam is blown up anyway, Song disappears, and his good friend, Special Agent Venus Diamond (Habitat, 1999, etc.), gets an anonymous tip from frightened Darla and a rotting fish in the mail. Venus takes a leave, ostensibly to join her erring eco-husband, but instead tracks the fish and Darla to Kettle Falls, where Darla and the big guy are staying with Darla’s obtuse stepfather and her selfish mother, who’s all too frequently on the phone to Fritz Fowler, elusive leader of the self-explanatory Dambusters. In a pointless trailer-trash domestic idyll, Venus goes undercover with Song to infiltrate the big guy’s big dam plot. This fine kettle boils over when the president of the US, his Republican opponent, and diverse Kettle Falls conspirators, plus an angry beaver, all converge on Grand Coulee Dam.
A fish-counter has an easier job than the poor reader, who must sort out an overabundance of fishy characters, politics, and (bad) poetry.