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Book Review

Deadly Currents
By Beth Groundwater
Midnight Ink/Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7387-2162-0. $14.95, 300pp.

Reviewed by Eduardo Rey Brummel

This is the first in a series of mysteries by Groundwater, telling the adventures of Arkansas Headwaters river ranger, Mandy Tanner. Groundwater’s previous novel, A Real Basket Case, was a finalist for the 2007 Agatha Award for Best First Novel.

This story begins with Mandy along the Arkansas River, only halfway through her lunch break, when a raft flips going through a rapid. Mandy and her supervisor spring into action: he, jumping from a boulder onto the unmanned raft; she, paddling out to rescue two “swimmers,” before they’re left to their own devices in the quickly upcoming next rapid. The rescue is a success, with one exception. The male passenger Mandy rescues dies shortly after being brought to shore.

The subsequent autopsy reveals that the man, Tom King, developer of King Ranch Estates, didn’t die of heart attack, nor due to the roughness of his rescue. Rather, he’d been poisoned. As these things happen, go figure, there are quite a number of local folks who, for various reasons, might have been willing to take Tom, “out of the picture.”

Any reader familiar with Salida, especially its river running aspects, will feel comfortably at home with this story. Mandy’s closest ally tends bar at the Victoria Tavern and her current boyfriend is owner/operator of a local guide service. Groundwater, herself a former raft guide, includes enough details to allow those unfamiliar with river running to be brought into the excitement and danger, without boring those thoroughly familiar with it.

Characters need their flaws. Groundwater has given Mandy a strong-willed, “I’ll-pull-myself-up-by-my-own-bootstraps-thank-you-very-much” demeanor, separating her from anyone willing to help and/or love her. If you looked at my copy of the book, you’d see where I’ve reached into the pages, wanting to throttle Mandy because she’s being too stubbornly stupid in holding onto her supposed self-sufficiency. (Yes, Mandy, you lost your parents at an early age, and perhaps your life’s been rougher than most, but pull your head out, open your eyes and heart, and accept the love that’s enveloping you.) It’s real people who you wanna throttle, not two-dimensional characters lying flat on the pages.

The mystery gets solved, of course, and right in the nick of time. Groundwater had me fearing her book would end before Mandy was able bring the murderer to justice.

For weeks now, kayakers have been arriving to hone their skills in the local playholes. FIBArk is smack-dab around the corner, as well as the full-bore of rafting season. I’ll be hugely surprised if a gazillion copies of Deadly Currents aren’t passed around, retrieved from the river, and discussed among paddlers, guides, and rafters this summer. Again, this is just the first in a series of mysteries involving Mandy Tanner. Wicked Eddies is scheduled for release next year. I suspect I’ll soon be in the sizeable company of those wondering what’ll happen in Mandy’s life next; and anxiously waiting to find out.


Eduardo Rey Brummel will never be a river guide nor ranger because he prefers going downriver without any raft.