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Badwater (The Forensic Geology Series Book 2) Kindle Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 155 customer reviews

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Length: 316 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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"The Short Drop" by Matthew FitzSimmons
Meet the assassin The Washington Post calls "a doozy of a sociopath" in this debut thriller from Matthew FitzSimmons. Available on Kindle and in paperback.

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Editorial Reviews


"Fans of Nevada Barr will love this suspenseful literary mystery."
~ Lisa Brackmann, Amazon Top 10 Mystery and Thriller author

"The best closing act of any book I have read in years."
~'s GeekDad, Golden Bot Award Best Indie Whodunit

"The mystery kept me guessing, the suspense made me sweat, and the pace was as blistering as the heat in Death Valley."
~ Good Book Alert

"A fast paced thriller with the terrifying theme of radiation exposure as a weapon. CSI type fans will appreciate the science...even those of us less well versed in the technical side will feel the fear and horror as events unfold."
~ Bookstack Reviews

“A very fine job of characterizing the disconnect between measures intended to assure safety and the reality of things sometimes being unsafe. Truly well-written and engaging."
~ David Lochbaum, head of the Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists

From the Author

Books in The Forensic Geology Series:
Volcano Watch
Skeleton Sea
Box Set (books 1-3) (Amazon Top 10 Bestseller)

All books in the series are complete stand-alone stories and can be read in any order.

Product Details

  • File Size: 928 KB
  • Print Length: 316 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publication Date: November 10, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005466WQ6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,262 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Toni Dwiggins is a third-generation Californian who migrated from southern Cal to northern Cal. What she likes most about her state is that one can go from the ocean to the mountains in one day, with a lunch stop in the desert. She likes it so much she has chosen those settings for her forensic geology books. These stories feature a young woman and her father-figure mentor, who analyze earth evidence to solve crimes and crises--and in the process get entangled in outdoor adventure and thrills.

Thrills for the author:
> Badwater won's 'Best Whodunit' 2012.
> The audio version of Badwater won Best Audiobook in the 2013 eFestival of Words.
> Quicksilver was a finalist for Best Mystery/Suspense in the 2015 eFestival Words.
> Volcano Watch was a semifinalist in the Kindle Book Review's Best Indie Books of 2012.
> The series Box Set became a #10 Bestseller in the Amazon store, 2015.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed BADWATER by Toni Dwiggins, an independently published thriller that compares well with traditionally published paperbacks available at any bookstore.

Cassie Oldfield and Walter Shaws are forensic geologists--a new term to me, but I know about it now thanks to the book--who are called in to assist in the investigation of missing radioactive waste in Death Valley. The setting is well described, the technology well researched, and the bad guys engineer diabolical plot twists. The action continues right up to the end.

My only gripe worth mentioning has to do with the narrative perspective. The book is written in a mix of first and third person that I personally find to be distracting. I don't know if this is a recent trend in fiction--this is the second book I've recently read that does this--but I find it jarring at each change. It may well be a personal preference, but I can't help but penalize a star for it.

BADWATER gets three stars from me, others who don't mind the narrative perspective would likely rate it higher.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dwiggins' intro into the world of forensic geologists Cassie Oldfield and Walter Shaws offers a chilling view inside the messy business of hazardous waste disposal; in this case, highly-toxic radioactive waste that has fallen into the wrong hands--for a devastating purpose.

Set in the harsh, gorgeous, and dangerously barren landscape of California's Death Valley, Dwiggins pushes her characters to their limits. They are in constant danger, from sheer exposure to the elements of their setting to exposure to the radioactive waste they are hunting.

There are a number of surprising twists and turns involving the villains, and their multi-layered development makes it difficult to determine who they are, and their true motives, until the very end. The most frightening aspect in the story is the radioactive material itself; Dwiggins does an excellent job of creating this "character" without bogging the reader down with too many scientific facts or confusing jargon. It simply comes alive in her prose and takes on a life of its own, which raises the stakes even more for those who are trying to find it, and those who want to control it.

In the end, it is the radioactive waste that emerges as the true villain, showing how humans--bad guys or not--are at the mercy of nature itself.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Badwater receives a rating of 3 stars from this reviewer. However, I could recommend this book to readers who are selectively looking for a mild thriller with a basis in the desert SW (specifically Death Valley).

The story is set in Death Valley and follows a pair of forensic geologists who are using their expertise in helping the FBI track down a terrorist (U.S. grown) who has stolen nuclear waste.

A reader interested in desert geology and nuclear waste storage as part of a thriller could easily give Badwater 4 stars. My rating of 3 stars indicates that it is a "good book", with quality writing and research, and worth the time to read -- for the right reader. I personally found the background information concerning nuclear waste more interesting than the geological part of this story. This might be more of a result of living in a state of 10,000 lakes with very limited knowledge of the desert.

If you like a thriller with a forensic science base, then Badwater might be a perfect match for you.

Anthony Wessel (for the Kindle Book Review) and owner of
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not big on crime investigation stories, but I do have a degree in geology, so I couldn't resist this book. The story brings us a pair of forensic geologists who use soil samples and rock types to solve crimes. In this case, they are on the trail of stolen radioactive waste, through Death Valley, California, one of the most amazing places on the planet.

This is simply one of the best books I've ever read. The characters are strong, realistic, and sympathetic. The lead character is Cassie, and yes, I'm delighted she's a woman. Lots of geologists are women, but geology somehow still has a macho, guy-thing reputation. This story has Cassie tramping through the heat and hills of Death Valley and enduring radiation exposure, while protecting Walter, her older boss and mentor, who is strong, but has a heart problem. Cassie carries the action with a believable blend of ethics, intelligence, and humor.

Geology and radioactivity are explained in seamless narrative or dialogue, never once detracting from the action. This is not a simple thing to pull off, but author Toni Dwiggins makes it look easy. The book is not long, but she layers plot twists and "who-dun-it" mystique throughout, taking the reader on a high-stakes guessing game scattered with scientists, truck drivers, mine owners, and government managers.

Highly recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Forensic Geology wasn't a term I can remember coming across until I saw this book. The meaning seemed obvious: according to Wikipedia it is "the study of evidence relating to minerals, oil, petroleum, and other materials found in the Earth, used to answer questions raised by the legal system." Just what I thought. Maybe if I watched more of the CSI TV series franchise I'd have been familiar with the term. The same Wikipedia article says this science goes back at least as far as the late 1800s when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes use some rudimentary forensic geology techniques (at least compared to what the primary characters, Cassie and Walter, use in Badwater) to catch the bad guys. With the popularity of forensic science in general on TV and in books (both fictionalized and not), this specialty is an interesting variation on the theme.

This story hooked me early and kept me interested throughout. Unlike many forensic types, the nature of their specialty means Cassie and Walter aren't spending most of their time "back in the lab," but are out in the field and at risk. They're well developed characters with a unique relationship and history that adds to the story. Even though the reader knows who the culprit is fairly early and the main characters along with the FBI agents they're supporting figure it out soon afterward, the whodunit isn't the draw as much as "what's he going to do next." Then at the climax we discover that there's more to the story than what we'd thought. A real page turner.

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **
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