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Fatal Descent

Fatal Descent

5.0 3
by Beth Groundwater

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Between a rock and a hard paddle

Mandy Tanner and her fiancé Rob are leading an offseason rafting-climbing trip in Utah’s remote Canyonlands. Experienced guides, Mandy and Rob know they have to keep their cool after one of their group, Alex Anderson, appears to have become bear bait. Walled off from the outside world with eleven


Between a rock and a hard paddle

Mandy Tanner and her fiancé Rob are leading an offseason rafting-climbing trip in Utah’s remote Canyonlands. Experienced guides, Mandy and Rob know they have to keep their cool after one of their group, Alex Anderson, appears to have become bear bait. Walled off from the outside world with eleven shell-shocked clients and miles of Colorado River whitewater ahead, Mandy’s nerves threaten to unravel when she learns that Alex’s death was not the work of a homicidal grizzly. Whether it was a crime of passion or the random act of a psychopath, Mandy fears that if they don’t root out the river rat among them, another camper will be running the rapids in a body bag.

“A remarkable book by an author who clearly knows and loves her territory. Don’t miss it!”—William Kent Krueger,New York Timesbestselling author of the Cork O’Connor series

“Once again, Groundwater, mixing mystery with outdoor adventure, comes up with an excursion that will please most comers.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A thrilling journey . . . filled with river lore, vivid descriptions . . . and loving depictions of the varied characters.”—Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The tension runs high in Groundwater’s absorbing third RM Outdoor Adventures mystery (after 2012’s Wicked Eddies), in which river guide Mandy Tanner and her fiancé, Rob Juarez, take their outfitter company to Utah for an off-season combined rafting-and-climbing trip. The 17 clients and guides who set out down the Colorado River also include, among others, climbing guide Tom “Cool” O’Day, who’s more than a bit sleazy, and three ladies on an annual girls’ outing, who are likable and enthusiastic. The trip starts out well, but when one of the travelers is found dead, Mandy begins to think that the whitewater downstream is not the only danger they face. The stakes get much higher when a climbing harness snaps with nearly fatal results. Mandy and Rob have to ferret out a killer before he—or she—tries again. Scenic descriptions and folklore add atmosphere to a suspenseful tale. (June)
Library Journal
Mandy Tanner and her fiancé, Rob Juarez, think one late-season whitewater river outing can help put their Colorado-based expedition company on the tourist map. But the compatibility necessary for a tour group is missing because they have not one but two feuding families. One has siblings sniping at each other and the other a daughter trying to reunite her estranged parents. Then, devastatingly, a member of one of the families is killed, seemingly by a bear attack. Then a climbing accident endangers a woman from the other family, and the paranoia factor quickly ratchets up. Just as the river becomes more dangerous owing to rapids, the intensity of the violence escalates as well. Mandy and Rob must maneuver smartly if they want to paddle their group safely out of this death trap. VERDICT Groundwater's third entry (after the Left Coast Crime Rocky Award finalist Wicked Eddies) is marked by an outdoorsy intensity and authentic sports chatter sure to resonate with Nevada Barr readers. Her methodical, gentle buildup mirrors the river's course so that when the characters hit the rapids, life jackets are a must.
Kirkus Reviews
A late-season rafting trip spells trouble for a river ranger doubling as an adventure tour guide. Mandy Tanner (Wicked Eddies, 2012, etc.) still spends her summers patrolling the Arkansas River in her home state of Colorado. But she and fiance Rob Juarez want so much to build up the client base of their fledgling RM Outdoor Adventures that they take a group on an October rafting/mountaineering trip down the Colorado River, which happens to be in Utah. To accommodate the climbers, they add Tom "Cool" O'Day to RM regulars Gonzo and Kendra. This late in the season, the placid waters of Lake Powell and the whitewater of Cataract Canyon will be so deserted that Mandy hopes the dozen hardy souls signed up for the tour get along. They don't. West Coast multicultural gal pals Betsy, Mo and Viv are fine. They spend most of their time in their tent drinking box wine. Tina Norton, however, had the bright idea of inviting both of her divorced parents on the trip, and geology professor Elsa can't help sniping mercilessly at her wimpy ex, Paul. The Andersons may be even worse. Out-of-shape parents Hal and Diana expect an outdoor Ritz Carlton, complete with valet service. Adult children Alice, Amy and Alex squabble. Amy's husband, Les Williams, is a braggart and a bully. When Alex is mauled to death by a marauding bear, the trip swiftly spirals out of control. With their radio busted and no one on the trails to call for help, the RM crew has no choice other than to continue until they reach their designated take-out point at the end of Cataract. But naturalist Mo's observation that the claw marks found on Alex aren't the ones you'd expect from the canyon's native black bears set Mandy on edge with fears of still more destruction ahead. Figuring out which river is in which state is just the beginning of readers' frustration, as Groundwater squanders her opportunities for complex interactions among interesting characters, focusing instead on how her heroine's virtue shines imperishably through.

Product Details

Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.
Publication date:
An RM Outdoor Adventures Mystery , #3
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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Meet the Author

Beth Groundwater (Colorado Springs, CO) was an avid "river rat" in the 1980s. Her book, A Real Basket Case (Five Star Publishing), was a 2007 Agatha Award finalist for Best First Novel. She is the author of several award-winning stories and holds key positions in local chapters of Mystery Writers of America and other writing associations.

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Fatal Descent 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
Mandy and Rob have booked an off-season rafting and climbing trip in Utah’s remote Canyonlands. Gonzo and Kendra come along and their hire “Cool” as their climbing expert. When they wake up one morning and find one of their clients has been killed in a bear attack, no one else heard, they know there is more to the story. With no way to contact anyone for help they realize they must continue the trip even though they may be traveling with a killer. Wow, I continue to be amazed with every one of these RM Outdoor Adventure Mysteries! Beth Groundwater just takes us on one wild ride after another! In Fatal Descent we leave Colorado behind and travel to Utah to the Cataract Canyon and the Big Drops. Mandy and the gang have a group that contains basically novices when it comes to whitewater rafting and having the patience of saints take them on this fantastic trip. Of course, there is a murder and at least one killer in the group. So if they survive what Mother Nature throws at them they still have to survive the people they are traveling with for the next 4 days. The clients include a family off on what may be there last adventure together, 3 ladies that plan a special adventure trip together once a year without the hubbies, and a divorced couple with their daughter who just cannot accept her parent’s marriage is over.  All their different stories create compelling subplots to the mystery. Beth writes what she knows and she describes everything from the rapids to the beautiful sandstone cliffs in such a way you almost feel like you are right there in the raft careening down the Colorado/Green river hanging on tight and loving every minute of it. This is definitely a thrilling read that had the pages flying fast. One heckuva of an adventure and I loved it!!!
lert More than 1 year ago
A thoroughly enjoyable fast moving mystery! It's obvious that Beth Groundwater writes about a sport with which she is very familiar. She lets the reader feel a part of the excitement of white water rafting!.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Short and sweet. But it, read it, love it, and order every thing she has ever written!!!! Highly recommend!!