Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Rivers Run Dry, by Sibella Giorello (Thomas Nelson)

(Click cover for more information)

If you're looking for a great, edge-of-the-seat crime novel with a unique perspective, you've found it. In The Rivers Run Dry, Ms. Giorello introduces you to the gritty world of FBI field work, but through the eyes of Special Agent Raleigh Harmon, a forensic geologist by training. Forensic geology. I didn't even know that existed--but then, why wouldn't it?

The story is set in and around the Cascade Mountains in Washington state (what better setting for a geological slant?). A young woman, Courtney VanAlstyne, goes missing while hiking the trails of Cougar Mountain. The only child of a wealthy and well connected family, political pressure is intense and immediate that Courtney be found. The family is convinced it's a kidnapping; the law enforcement establishment, not so convinced.

Enter Special Agent Harmon, recently transferred for disciplinary cause from her home state of Virginia to the Pacific Northwest. Her technical and professional skills are beyond reproach. Her political acumen is not. We meet Raleigh perservering under a cloud of distrust from both the professional black mark in her records and a concrete gender barrier in the male-dominated Violent Crimes unit. Prodded and pushed without mercy or support by her supervisor and her training agent, she navigates the back streets of Seattle and the back trails of the Cascades in search of anything that may shed light on the rich girl's disappearance. She tackles the case the hard way: clue by clue, step by misstep.

Ms. Giorello delves into a wide variety of issues through Raleigh's personal and professional life as she touches and is touched by a colorful supporting cast. She does a marvelous job of weaving them seamlessly into the story line instead of basting them awkwardly over the fabric of... Wait. This is supposed to be a geological slant. What am I doing at the sewing machine? Let me try again.

Crystalline flecks of humor, pathos, frustration and dogged determination sparkle across the lustrous grain of a polished, rock-solid story line...

Okay, okay. Now you know why Sibella got the publishing contract and not me. (sigh!)

Enough fun. This was a great read. Ms. Giorello constructs a squeaky-tight, well paced plot involving multi-dimensional characters who are real enough that you love them one moment and want to slap them silly the next. You learn a lot about both geology and crime-investigation techniques without getting lost in technical jargon. You also learn a lot about human nature as it bends, and sometimes breaks, under the pressure of society, religion and its own weight.

Highly recommended. The Rivers Run Dry rocks! (Sorry, I had to do that.)


Lynnette said...

Sounds interesting, especially since I live in the area.

Bruce Judisch said...

Hey, Lynnette!

Yup, I thought of you when reading the book. Another author I've reviewed, Miralee Ferrell, is also from you neck of the woods.

BTW, this was really quite good. I just ordered her other book from Amazon.

Cheers! Bruce

Anonymous said...

Ooo, very interesting. :) It's interesting that you should post this review because Daniel and I were talking with some friends this past weekend who are from that area. As you were mentioning geographical landmarks I knew exactly where and what you were talking about. :)

Bruce Judisch said...


Yup, this is a good one. You need to pick this one up. I just ordered her first novel from (The Stones Cry Out).

Cheers! Bruce

Anonymous said...

Ok, Mr. Bruce. I read this book very quickly after purchasing it Saturday evening. It was very interesting, and didn't answer all my questions (kinda of reminded me of the tv series LOST - ended up having more questions than answers for quite a while). The books I usually read in a series, they reference into each other from the previous book more deeply than this one did. For once, I actually liked not knowing what Raleigh did that was so bad that resulted in a disciplinary transfer. :) Guess I'm gonna havta read the first book to find out. :)

I liked how Ms. Giorello didn't give you everything all at once...definitely kept me guessing who the bad guy was. I didn't even consider who it was until 3/4ths of the way into the book. Oh yeah, that's when the light went on and I thought "I should of known!" :)

This is a good one! Thanks for the recommendation.

Bruce Judisch said...


Wow, that was a quick read! Glad you enjoyed the book. I took the liberty of referring your comment to Ms. Giorello.

Thanks again for stopping by and commenting so faithfully.

BTW, I know you were one of my Sunday School students in years past, but the "Mr. Bruce" isn't really necessary anymore. Just "Bruce" is fine. :-) :-)

Cheers! Mr., I mean, Bruce

Anonymous said...

Sorry! It's a habit and one that will die very slowly, especially since I'm trying to instill it into my own children. I will try my best to keep the Mr. out of it.

Bruce Judisch said...

There are worse habits. :-)

Cheers! Bruce