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Authors: Erin Brockovich

Hot Water

BOOK: Hot Water
13.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Table of Contents



Title Page


He who has a mind to meddle must have a heart to help.







































Teaser chapter

Copyright Page

Praise for
Rock Bottom

“Everything a great thriller should be—action-packed, authentic, and intense.”

New York Times
bestselling author Lee Child


“A compelling new voice in thriller writing.
Rock Bottom
will keep you in its spell from beginning to end. And I love how the characters come alive on every page.”

New York Times
bestselling author Jeffery Deaver


“Erin Brockovich continues to fight the good fight, now as a writer of fiction.
Rock Bottom
is a story Erin Brockovich lived. The heroine is brilliant and feisty. Tension and turmoil mount in a high stakes adventure with dire consequences. Nobody could tell this story better.”

New York Times
bestselling author Steve Berry


“With strong character development and a fast-paced plot, this excellent first novel leaves readers anticipating further exciting adventures with AJ Palladino.”

Library Journal


“Readers will love AJ Palladino and her son, a bright, precocious nine-year-old with a crippling disability he uses to his advantage. With highly engaging characters, heart-stopping scenes and a sensitive topic,
Rock Bottom
is one great rollercoaster ride that will not be stopping anytime soon.”

—Book Reporter


“Activist Brockovich teams up with bestseller Lyons on a fascinating and intense thriller about relationships, environmentalism and the lengths people will go to protect a secret. The story is fast-paced, dark and dangerous.”

Romantic Times Book Reviews
, Top Pick Designation, 4½ stars


“This is a character-driven, environmental-family drama that grips the audience from the opening gunshot until the final confrontation. With several tense subplots that tie together into a powerful taut thriller, fans will demand more similar tales from Erin Brockovich.”

—Harriet Klausner,
The Mystery Gazette


Rock Bottom
is an intense, emotional thriller of a debut. From the moment the first page is read, the story catapults the reader into a world of greed, subterfuge and passion. Brockovich has created a compassionate, endearing fire-cracker of a heroine in
Rock Bottom
. To elevate this massively engaging novel, the story climbs the edge of intensity with unwavering precision. Concise language, mastery of dialogue and a surprisingly authentic love story emerge as the reader becomes entranced in the pages of this killer debut.”

National Examiner

We dedicate this book to the victims of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami as well as the hard-working and self-sacrificing rescue workers who came to their aid during their time of need.

He who has a mind to meddle must have a heart to help.



Dear Reader,

Thanks for joining AJ on another adventure!

Turns out that nuclear energy is a touchy subject to research. When we interviewed several experts in the field we stressed that we did not want to use any scenarios that could potentially happen in real life—after all, our job is to entertain and explore new ideas through our stories, not to empower potential terrorists.

Unfortunately, writers sometimes have too-good imaginations. We discovered that our scenarios actually
happen—and in two cases they were things that the experts had never considered before (nuclear engineers not being prone to thinking like devious, cunning thriller writers).

So instead of setting
Hot Water
in a conventional nuclear facility we created an unconventional, fictional design that is a hybrid of several experimental reactors in Sweden, France, and Russia as well as emerging technology in “micro-reactors” from Oregon State University. However, for our contamination breaches we did use real-life contamination events that occurred in the past and have already been well documented in the public media.

The medical isotope shortage is also real. Currently the needs of patients in the United States are being met from the Chalk River facility in Canada, but it is scheduled for closure in a few years. Chalk River has been closed several times in the past, forcing the United States to rely on the Maria reactor in Poland for its isotopes. New methods of isotope production are being tested in the hopes of resolving this crisis.

We’d like to thank our nuclear experts (who declined to be named) for their patience—and we apologize for any gray hairs we caused with our wild imaginations. The men and women who work in the nuclear field have our respect and admiration for their profound attention to the public’s safety.

Thanks also to our technical advisors, Bob Bedard and Melody Von Smith, to Toni McGee Causey for sharing her alligator wrestling expertise, and to Rebecca Forster for her help in researching the child welfare statutes as well as the amount of power and variability in interpreting those statutes that a judge could potentially wield. We also drew upon the knowledge and experience of several law enforcement officers from the Crimescene Writers loop, including Wally Lind, Kathy Bennett, Steven Brown, Robin Burcell, and MA Taylor.

As always, we very much appreciate the efforts of our publishing team at Vanguard Press/The Perseus Books Group, including Roger Cooper and Georgina Levitt; our editor, Kevin Smith; as well as our agents, Mel Berger (Erin) and Barbara Poelle (CJ), and our first readers, Kendel Flaum and Carolyn Males.

We’d love to hear from you! You can contact us through


Thanks for reading!

Erin and CJ


Summer in the mountains of West Virginia has a magic of its own, like a fairy tale come true. For me, it was a fairy tale paid for with blood.

It was August. After five months back home in Scotia (population 864) I’d just about gotten used to folks looking away from me and mumbling about how I’d gotten the man I loved killed and almost got my dad and son killed and just about drowned the entire valley in toxic sludge.

“That’s AJ Palladino,” they’d say, crossing to the other side of the street as I passed, in case I rubbed off on them. “Yeah,
AJ Palladino.”

I ignored them. Didn’t much care what people said about me as long as they didn’t take it out on my nine-year-old, David. And, I have to admit, Scotia did treat David like the hero his dad had once been. They embraced him despite his two disabilities (or abilities, depending on your point of view): having cerebral palsy, which left him mostly wheelchair-bound, and being a genius.

Despite the town’s acceptance of him, David still wasn’t so sure about Scotia. He was hit hard by the death of his dad. I tried everything, even enrolled him in some online courses. Stuff I didn’t understand but he was interested in, like the
Phonology of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics
Einstein, Oppenheimer, Feynman: Physics in the 20th Century
. He’d bury himself in them, working like a fever, finishing a semester’s worth of material in a few weeks, and then would promptly slide back into boredom and despair.

Given my family’s tendency for obsessions—addictions, really, holding on too hard, too long—I was more than a bit worried.

My friend Ty Stillwater, a sheriff’s deputy K-9 officer, and his partner, Nikki, a beautiful Belgium Malinois, finally broke David free from his mourning.

Ty somehow found a way to make wheelchair accessible every mountain adventure that a boy could love. He and David would leave at first light and show up again for dinner at my gram’s kitchen covered in battle scars. Once, Ty took David rafting down the New River, and they came back half-drowned, sunburned, and sporting matching black eyes that they refused to tell us how they got. They would burst into laughter every time they caught sight of each other.

I loved hearing David laugh but couldn’t help but worry each time he left. For too many years I’d raised David alone, and it was difficult getting used to sharing him with others who loved him as much as I did. Not to mention the fact that I was and am a total control freak, especially about David. But I suffered in silence—David hates it when I try to rein in his independence.

Besides, I was busy enough with work to take my mind mostly off David’s scrapes and bruises and poison ivy. My new business partner, Elizabeth Hardy, the legal half of our consumer advocacy firm, turned out to have a gift for negotiation, so our first few cases ended quickly and happily for our clients and were profitable for us. All in all, summer felt enchanted, magical.

BOOK: Hot Water
13.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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