Murder, romance, racial unrest, environmental concerns, tourism and oil interests swirl along the Guadalupe River in this suspenseful novel set in the Texas Hill Country. When Clay Aker returned home after Central American drug lords murdered his family, he didn’t expect to find himself immersed in the random killing of tourists on the peaceful Guadalupe River. After landing a job as a journalist, his editor sends Clay to cover the increasing tension between conservationists and developers over environmental issues in the Hill Country. Clay unexpectedly encounters Mary Frances Wiley, a young widow who operates a canoe livery on the river. Drought conditions have lowered tourism visits and her revenue stream to the point she cannot pay the bank note. She is battling to keep her land from being sold to oil interests bent on using pipeline right-of-way to pump oil across the fragile Hill Country. The physical attraction between these two causes sexual tension throughout the novel. Clay meets Sharkbait Guy, an experienced outdoors writer, who helps Clay with his assignment. The body of a brutally slashed teenager is discovered on the river. The Hispanic girl who was with him is missing. Her uncle, Deputy Sheriff Julio Ramirez, is on a personal quest to find his niece. He has eyewitness testimony that the leader of a local gang threatened to kill the boy seen with his niece and is searching the area for evidence of the Banditos. Deputy Ramirez is also engaged with battling prejudices within the department while racked with worry about his wife who lingers in a hospital, brain-shot from an ambush meant for him. Sharkbait, Deputy Ramirez, Mary Frances and Clay team up to thwart the oil interest takeover of her land and to uncover the killer.
This is Texas—a state of private landholders who jealously guard access to their property. On sweltering summer weekends residents of the big cities spill into the countryside seeking water recreation on rivers, lakes, pools, and along the coast. It isn’t uncommon to find 50,000 tubers on a busy weekend floating the 15-mile stretch of Guadalupe River from Canyon Dam to Gruene. Tourists fill local and state coffers with sales taxes, hotel/motel room taxes, and gasoline taxes. Businesses flourish. Developers circle unsuspecting prey to pitch a piece of Hill Country ownership, neglecting to mention water rights, depleted aquifers, and fragile ecosystems while landowners along the rivers deal with litter, trespassing, and disrespect for private property. The Old Man, tired of asking the sheriff’s office for help in stopping trespassers, takes matters into his own hands and begins to kill tourists. Clay Aker, visiting the Guadalupe Adventures Canoe Livery and Campgrounds for Media Day, is among the first to discover a murdered victim. The emerging story is excuse enough for Clay to stay as he and Mary Frances grow closer together. She shares that the note on her last loan is due and she doesn’t have the money to pay it. The bank threatens to sell the note to Bert Taylor, local investor who has discovered there is abandoned pipeline right-of-way that crosses her property. If he can secure the property he can use the right-of-way to move oil across the Hill Country and save time and transportation costs to get product to Houston refineries. One large spill in the limestone covered hills would ruin aquifers for decades but he didn’t care; the profits were too big to ignore. Another tourist dies and tourism comes to a standstill. As the officers close in on the killer, Mary Frances’ office is vandalized and her equipment destroyed. On the brink of bankruptcy she turns to Clay for help. Together the four new friends become a formidable team for justice.