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by Sarah Andrews
St Martin's Minotaur, November 2005
320 pages
ISBN: 0312342527

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Em Hansen finally has a steady job. She now works for the Utah Geological Survey, and is also the state forensic geologist. When a body is uncovered under a pile of gravel in a quarry near Salt Lake City, her ex-boyfriend, Detective Thomas B (Ray) Raymond, comes to get her to take her to the site.

Afton McWain has been crushed by the tons of rock that have fallen on him. His fingerprints have been removed and so have his teeth. But when they finally uncover the remains, which resemble human road kill, Em recognizes a tattoo on his butt that is visible through his ripped trousers. It is a map of North America during the Cretaceous Period, when giant reptiles were still masters of air, sea and land, but the continents were beginning to form and flowering plants beginning to evolve.

McWain had made his money in big oil in Colorado, which is where Em had met him, but his philosophy has changed and now he has become an environmental activist. What was he doing in Utah? He has espoused a 'green' life, and would have had to hitch a ride to Salt Lake. Em and Afton's wife had been friends in college, and she wants to tell her of Fritz's death personally, so Em and Fritz Calder, a charter pilot, go to Colorado.

Michele Aldrich is the detective assigned to the case. She is younger than Em and a relative newcomer but she has no partner. It is as though she too is being tested by her department and she must succeed in this case. At first, Michele and Em are at odds but later they become allies, if not friends.

Fritz has a nervous charter on board, so Em diverts him with tales of basic geology and the birth of the Rocky Mountains, much as I used to divert my children with tales of dinosaurs and other monsters. Along the way, we get a good grounding in basic geology, so we can begin to understand what McWain was about.

Em finds that Afton had left his wife of many years to go and live on a 'green' ranch, not taking unrenewable resources, such as ground water, from the environment. He also found Gilda, a live-in who is a bit miffed at the way of life this once wealthy geologist has chosen to live.

If you enjoy a bit of science mixed with your mystery, then Andrews is the author for you. We learn about water as a non-renewable resource in the west and why we should limit settlement. This book will not go down well with friends of the current administration, but I found it her best one since my favorite of the series, FAULT LINE.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, October 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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