In McGinnis’ (The Guide’s Guide Augmented, 2005, etc.) first foray into fiction, a series of near-fatal attractions conspire to turn one man’s quest to gain peace and self-knowledge into a contest for his own survival.
Frustrated by the air of mystery surrounding his parents’ murder when he was a child, Adam Weldon sets out into the Kern River region to learn more about their deaths. As soon as he arrives, however, circumstances shift: Adam finds himself adrift in a complex web of black market crime, local law enforcement and shadowy individuals that remain elusive. When he stumbles upon a cartel-related shootout along the river, he connects with Tripnee, the seductive FBI agent and the target of the unsuccessful hit. Together, they elude the henchmen long enough to catch up with Tripnee’s friend, a rafting guide named Becca, who temporarily takes them into her crew. They begin a helter-skelter journey through the Kern Valley that leads further into the bowels of organized crime. Faced with a series of uncomfortable revelations about the partner he’s grown closer to throughout the entire ordeal, Adam finds himself at the center of several delusions about his own past, as well as his parents’. Yet these delusions are only resolved after the intricacies of the surrounding violent criminal realm are uncovered. McGinnis crafts a novel oriented toward both readers of crime fiction and nature writing. His prose oscillates between quick-moving action sequences and lyrical descriptions of the mountainous Southern California setting. This balance sometimes causes the plot to be difficult to discern; more thorough editorial guidance would benefit the novel. Ultimately, however, the story manages to incorporate humor, pathos and even geography into its arc, resulting in a fun, creative take on the temperamental, erratic and bloody drug trade that exists in the United States.
Most suitable for readers looking to enjoy an energetic tale based in a real-world context, without extensive attention to technical detail.