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By Beth Groundwater

Midnight Ink, 2011 ($14.95)
ISBN-10: 073872162X
ISBN-13: 978-0738721620

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Mandy Tanner is a whitewater river ranger, spending most of her time on the Arkansas River, both for pleasure and to earn a living. Many of the businesses of the small town of Salida, Colorado, depend heavily on the river rafting trade, and when a rafter dies during one of the tours outfitted by the company Mandy's Uncle Bill owns, it's a major blow. Mandy is helping on the tour, and does her best to save the man. She is devastated when he dies.

When the police discover that the man was poisoned, she is relieved to know there's nothing she could have done, but things get worse when Uncle Bill and his staff become suspects. Mandy doesn't believe that for a minute. The victim, Tom King, had plenty of enemies. He was a rich land developer who had plans that could make a major and unwanted change to the local environment. Other suspects include business rivals, a wronged wife, an angry son, jealous husbands...the list goes on.

She wants to let the police deal with the crime, but when tragedy strikes close to home, she insists, against the advice of her brother and her boyfriend, Rob Juarez, on jumping in with both feet. She is stubborn and headstrong, and she pokes around in places she shouldn't be poking, with almost fatal results.

This is the first in Groundwater's new Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures mystery series. The author was a river rat herself for several years, and her experiences make the depiction of the excitement and danger of white river rafting ring true. Her first book, A REAL BASKET CASE, was nominated for the Agatha Award in 2007, and its successor, TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET (2009), was equally entertaining. This new series promises to be a winner as well.

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