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River Runs Red by Jeffrey J. Mariotte
Review by Drew Bittner
Jove Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780515144772
Date: 30 September 2008 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Wade Scheiner and his best friends, Byrd and Molly McCall, grew up along the banks of the Rio Grande in El Paso. Wade became a correspondent for CNN; following a harrowing captivity and bizarre escape in Iraq, all he wants now is a little normalcy back in his old hometown. That, and the chance to visit with Byrd, who's dying of cancer, and to reconnect with Molly, who's now a reporter for a local paper.

Meanwhile, a handful of mystics and psychics loosely affiliated with the CIA report that something terrible is manifesting. One of the group dies while seeking answers--answers that CIA officer James Livingston Truly could desperately use, in order to save his sinking career... and maybe save the world as well.

But what does this have to do with rivers, much less some random murders in and around El Paso? What about a mysterious old man who sketches disaster, and the dangerous fellow who investigates these drawings? Something terrible is happening, something that harks back to a dark secret from Wade, Byrd and Molly's pasts in the depths of Smuggler's Canyon--and the world's about to plunge into its last whitewater ride.

This is the story of River Runs Red by Jeffrey J. Mariotte. Set mostly in dusty southwest Texas on the Mexico border, Mariotte portrays a supernatural mystery whose global scope and danger only gradually emerge. Like all great mysteries, the true nature of the problem comes clear just in time for the heroes to realize how desperately outclassed they are.

The action shifts from El Paso to Washington DC, the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, Colorado and then back to El Paso for the climax. In each, Mariotte builds the scene with small but precise details, establishing a sense of place with economy and craft. The characters who populate these places--from Brewer, a military man who knows way too much, to Millicent Wong, a Hong Kong mystic who loves ballroom dancing--are created in just the same way; by setting out a few details, Mariotte etches a portrait in miniature of each person, giving them solidity that makes their fates all the more powerful.

What is the threat? It ties in with cave drawings studied by a long-lost professor, whose daughter Ginny is seeking answers of her own. Wade, Byrd and Molly know the caves well, having used them as a hangout in their teen years, until a fateful encounter changed all that forever. But something was unleashed and, twenty years later, its time for a reckoning. Truly, ensnared in this through his professional link to the CIA's mystics, finds a personal reason to get involved, while Brewer discovers the culmination of a lifetime's work in the climax that unfolds.

Mariotte has created an entertaining, fast-paced tale of supernatural danger that takes as many twists and turns as a river ride... and, like most great rides, it picks up breathtaking speed toward the end. Fans of the unconventional in supernatural thrillers will enjoy this book.

Recommended.

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