Badwater follows a team of forensic geologists (think CSI with rocks) as they race against time to stop a catastrophic release of nuclear waste in unspoiled Death Valley. The premise of the book fascinated me from the start, although, to my shame, I could not see how rocks could be that interesting. I was however pleasantly surprised.
The book has a trilling start, a road crash site in the middle of the desert with a murdered driver and a missing barrel of nuclear waste. The thrills continue throughout the book, which has a good pace, and whist the reader is aware of the culprit from the start due to his narrative in one of the first chapters, the reader is kept guessing as to who else can be trusted, which keeps things interesting. The forensic geology is well integrated into the plot, and is not just brushed to the side as can happen in these types of ‘CSI’ books; and I found both the geology and the nuclear science very accurate and interesting. I had a good chuckle at some of the more sciencey jokes in the book too – such as the analogy of the three types of radiation as the Three Little Pigs. There are numerous references to different places in Death Valley in the book – and the inclusion of a map at the start is a nice touch and makes it easier to picture the places when they are mentioned.
The only slight source of irritation for me was the, at times, heavy use of colloquial spelling such as “Shore Thang” which tended to jar me out my flow of reading. I can understand the author trying to get across the local accent, but I felt in this case it wasn't needed and was inconsistently used. There were also a few grammatical issues (such as mixed used of the first and third person) but these did not affect my enjoyment of the book.
Overall a quick, but very enjoyable read which should appeal to any fan of science based thrillers. I will be looking forward to reading the second book in the series – Volcano Watch. Badwater was awarded the 2012 Best Indie Whodunnit award from Wired.com.Badwater is available as an e-book for £2.36 from Amazon, and is also available in dead-tree and audio-book formats
[Review copy provided by the author]