Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hot Water

by Erin Brockovich with CJ Lyons
New York, Vanguard Press, 2011
275 pages     Fiction

The activist AJ Palladino and the rest of the cast of characters in her life were introduced in the thriller Rock Bottom. Erin Brokovich and CJ Lyons continue her adventures in their new thriller Hot Water.

Single mother AJ Palladino has returned home to Scotio, West Virginia from Washington DC to raise her special-needs son David in the small town where she was raised, among her kinsfolk. But neither AJ nor her son are ordinary people. AJ is a well-known environmental activist and corporate watchdog (channeling the author, Brokovich), and David is a brilliant child, as knowledgeable about environmental causes as his mother.

Palladino and her business partner, Elizabeth, receive a $1 million dollar contract from a South Carolina energy company owner to promote the safety of his new nuclear plant, which utilizes the facility to create power but also to create medical isotopes. There have been several “incidents” at the plant, and protestors are camped at the door. AJ and Elizabeth accept this offer they can’t refuse, and AJ heads to South Carolina while Elizabeth takes care of David and business in West Virginia.

The complications of the set-up makes the opening chapters a bit cumbersome, but once the action begins, super-woman Palladino focuses on the unfolding drama at the nuclear plant while Elizabeth and David deal with their own messy and life-threatening dramas at home in Scotia. 

Like life itself, the challenges confronted by AJ Palladino, David, Elizabeth and Palladino’s best friend, Ty are complicated. Palladino’s mother is a hoarder; Elizabeth has a vengeful ex-husband; and David’s grandfather thinks AJ is an unfit mother and wants custody of his grandson. He is willing to go to enormous extremes to get what he wants, including murder. In addition to all these ordinary challenges, Palladino is faced with religious zealots, a hurricane, and even a radioactive alligator. We also have a true villain in the grandfather and pending romance with Ty to keep us on our toes. 

 Like all thrillers, Hot Water is a bit formulaic, but it is lively and intense and a true page-turner. It was a good ride while it lasted. As one reviewer commented: “Brockovich and Lyons have definitely created a character that readers can enjoy for years to come.” A reviewer of Rock Bottom (the first book in the series) indicated what he believed to be the value of the AJ Palladino series: “…you will want to read this if you are interested in Erin Brockovich as an activist; if you like the activist fight …; if you like good tension between a strong, female lead and her fight against corporate doggery (sound familiar?); if you enjoy a good character backstory of small-town Appalachia; and/or if you like the general milieu of the suspense novel.” I guess that includes just about all readers of the genre.

Erin Brockovich and her team have been in West Michigan several times in the last couple of years to discuss ground water contamination. Her website outlines her current investigations as: gulf oil spill, environmental, pharmaceutical, product liability, mold issues, workman’s compensation, and whistleblower. What a career! With issues like these for fodder, Brockovich and Lyons can have AJ Palladino books plotted for years to come. I am sure that her fan base will grow!

A review of Hot Water on the Author Exposure blog:
The website for Erin Brockovich’s business:

I received this book from the publicist. I will pass Hot Water on to my thriller-reading brother-in-law.

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