BOOK REVIEW: 'Hot Water': A Well-Executed Good Idea With A Little Too Much Going On

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'Hot Water': A Well-Executed Good Idea With A Little Too Much Going On
There's a lot going on in "Hot Water" (Vanguard Press, 304 pages, $25.99), a thriller by Erin Brockovich with CJ Lyons, but it might have been an even better book if there wasn't so much in it. The novel is especially timely in the wake of the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima Japan and the ongoing probe of the Huntington Pilot Plant (latest link:

"Hot Water" is a sequel to "Rock Bottom" by the two authors and continues the story as Angela Joy "AJ" Palladino  meets Owen Grandel in AJ's Scotia, West Virginia office to hire her to investigate a series of accidents at his Colleton River medical isotope nuclear factory near Beaufort, South Carolina.  

AJ decides to travel to South Carolina to investigate the accidents. Grandel is impressed by AJ's reputation as a public advocate and obviously feels that it would enhance his investigation to have her on board. The Colleton River plant is the only one in the U.S. making the isotopes and with the closing of the Chalk River facility in Canada (link: is vital, Grandel tells AJ.
AJ's  balancing a career and family obligations raising her nine-year-old son David, who's extremely bright but who's fighting cerebral palsy. Despite a custody dispute with her wealthy father-in-law ---"Old Man Masterson" is how AJ refers to him  -- who blames AJ for the death of his son -- attempting to gain custody of David.  
Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich

 The back story, revealed in "Rock Bottom" -- published last March -- is that AJ as a 17-year-old unwed mother -- the father is Cole Masterson, Kyle's son, left Scotia following a horrible accident that almost killed her. Ten years later, after success and fame in a battle against Capital Power (mirroring Brockovich's battle with PG&E in California) that earned her the reputation of "the People's Champion," she returns to Scotia to assist lawyer Zachariah Hardy in a fight against "Old Man Masterson's new mountaintop removal project6. When Hardy unexpectedly dies before AJ can get from Washington DC to Scotia, she continues the effort with Hardy's lawyer daughter Elizabeth.  

Another complication arises when Hunter, the violent ex-husband of  Elizabeth turns up unexpectedly. He's a shady character with more than a hint of menace in him. Given his history of violence, Elizabeth has ample reason to be concerned.

Adding to the already full list of complications is a decent guy -- about the only one in the book aside from Grandel's brother Morris -- Sheriff's deputy Ty Stillwater, who serves as a surrogate father to David, who's in love with Ty's K-9 partner Nikki. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Ty has a crush on AJ -- one that sly David encourages.

 What AJ doesn't foresee is her simple business trip turning into disaster, with her family coming apart at the seams in her absence — and David disappearing. While AJ tries to find her missing child, she also discovers what caused the "accidents." Add in an approaching hurricane, a charismatic religious leader in charge of the protests at the plant, a mysterious alligator and the plant begins hurtling towards nuclear catastrophe, with AJ stranded at ground zero. AJ has to save her son, herself, and the community — and prevent a nuclear meltdown.  

It's obvious that Brockovich has devoted a great deal of research to making this novel as authentic to scientific details as possible. Despite my above-stated reservations, I recommend it.  

About Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich is the real life inspiration behind the Oscar-winning movie that bears her name. Today she continues to perform legal work as a director of environmental research and is involved in consulting on numerous toxic waste investigations. Brockovich is active on the motivational speaking circuit, with a thriving lecture series and a television talk show in development. She lives in Los Angeles, California. Website:
About CJ Lyons
CJLyons is an award-winning medical suspense author of such books as "Lifelines", "Warning Signs", and "Urgent Care". Trained in pediatric emergency medicine, she has assisted police and prosecutors with cases involving child abuse, homicide, and more. She has also worked as a crisis counselor and victim advocate. Website:
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