This is a page-turner by an experienced thriller writer (who has co-written books with James Patterson). His skill at keeping you on the edge of your seat is evident in this fast-moving and topical story about fracking operations in Colorado.
It begins with the discovery of a body by Dani Whalen, 25, who knows the dead man, Trey Watkins, and knows he is too skilled to have been in a kayak “accident” – especially one in which he was not wearing his helmet. But when she tries to get her ex-stepfather, Sheriff Wade Dunn, to investigate, he throws her in jail and calls her father to get her not to interfere. Dani’s father is in Chile on a teaching sabbatical and cannot come, so the dad asks his college roommate, Ty Hauck, who is also Dani’s godfather, to go see what kind of trouble Dani is in and help her out.
Ty Hauck, apparently a recurring character of Gross’s who is sort of a superhero type, finds out that Dani may be right about Trey having been murdered, but it also looks like the murder is part of something much bigger, and much more dangerous to everyone involved.
Discussion: If you are unfamiliar with the Karen Silkwood story (which many people know about only because of the outstanding movie made in 1983 on her life starring Meryl Streep and Cher, you might find what happens in this book too improbable. [And in fact, the New York Times called the story of Karen Silkwood “a vivid case of life imitating bad art…”) To learn more about what happened to her, I highly recommend the 1981 book The Killing of Karen Silkwood: The Story Behind the Kerr-McGee Plutonium Case by Richard Rashke.]
In spite of the thrilling pace and tension, you will learn a great deal about the “fracking” process for extracting gas and oil from shale rock by injecting water, sand and chemicals into the rock at high pressure to allow the gas to flow out to the head of the well. You will get a good idea about why there is a lot of uproar, not just because of potential toxic effects, but also because of the appropriation of sand and particularly water for this process.
This important information is not delivered in a didactic or info-dump-ish way; rather, it’s well-integrated into the unfolding of edge-of-your-seat action.
Evaluation: I love the adrenalin of thrillers, but they are even better when they include useful knowledge, rather than just a dead body, a killer, and a chase. This is a good read!
Published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015