Amid ancient redwoods and sun-dappled reeds, the Perdido River runs clear and cold from the mountains of Soledad County to the blue Pacific. A wildlife refuge and a pristine recreational area, the river brings tourists to the old lumber town of Cape Perdido...and flows through the memories and hearts of the rugged people who have settled there since the Gold Rush days.
Now that is about to change. An out-of-state corporation wants to pump the river nearly dry and float the water to southern California's thirsty cities in huge rubber rafts. With lobbyists, lawyers, and dirty tricks, the company intends to get what it wants-any way it can.
Against this corporate Goliath, a community protest group and four unusual individuals are drawing a line in the sand. Flying in from New York City, ecologist Jessie Domingo hopes to grab headlines for her cause. Environmentalist Joseph Openshaw has come back to the home, and the secrets, he left behind decades ago. His former lover, local restaurateur Steph Pace, fears both the emotions and the ghosts arriving to haunt her. And old man Timothy McNear, owner of the defunct mill that once employed most of the town, silently broods about the sins he has hidden for too long.
But no one envisions what will happen when the crack of a sniper's bullet sets off a chain of desperate acts. As the peace of this small town is shattered, murder stains Cape Perdido, and one by one, those who stand tall for a cause may be swept away by the current of a town's ugly truths-and a killer's revenge.
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Grand Central Publishing
June 30, 2006
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Excerpt from Cape Perdido by Marcia Muller
From its source deep in the wilderness on Soledad Ridge, the clear, cold water of the Perdido River begins its journey to the sea. Twenty-seven miles of mostly navigable water held in the California Public Trust because it is deemed too valuable for individual ownership. A protected place-for now.
Imagine yourself standing near the spring where the river rushes from the earth. It flows rapidly, leaping and bounding over boulders that churn it to whitewater. Ancient redwoods crowd in upon its rocky banks, shafts of sunlight penetrating their dense foliage. The cry of a hawk splits the silence, and you look up in time to see it soar against the blue sky.
You follow the river miles downstream, to where it widens and moves under eucalyptus, tanbark oak, and pine. Its banks are reed choked, a nesting place for waterfowl. A great blue heron cranes its long neck, and an osprey rises up, its wings beating the air. Sun dapples the flanks of the coho salmon and steelhead trout that have swum upstream to spawn, and you spot the sleek brown flash of a river otter as it plays in the current. You sniff air laden with pine resin and the peculiar, mentholated odor of eucalyptus.
This is a place out of time-for now.
West, where the Perdido eases off to sea level, it moves lazily around sandbars and between white sand beaches, carrying with it kayakers, swimmers, and dogs splashing after Frisbees their owners have tossed. Many of these people are locals, but most are tourists, drawn here by the river's recreational activities. Tourists, who are the lifeblood of Cape Perdido, the seaside town to the north. You watch them and think it is wonderful that all this has been preserved in its natural state for everyone's enjoyment.