There's plenty of seismic activity in geologist/sleuth Em Hansen's seventh well-paced outing, following An Eye for Gold (2000). Not only are the fault lines that underlie Salt Lake City proving to be active but the fault lines in her relationship with Mormon cop Ray Raymond are producing their own fractures. When a modest earthquake strikes Salt Lake City, its tremors penetrate through the geologic community, through the developers, builders and inspectors, and through the city's power structure. But the murder of state geologist Sidney Smeeth has even greater repercussions. After her FBI mentor Tom Latimer enlists Em's help, the stage is set for Andrews to explore the deadly confluence of natural faults and human ones—greed, arrogance and hubris. The result is an uneven admixture of geology, romance and murder. Andrews gets honors for her graphic, frightening and entertaining use of earthquake science and lore—readers may never look at rock formations with the same innocence. But Em's tortured relationship with Ray—hand-wringing, gut-wrenching and protracted—is overdone to a fault. There are plenty of culprits from an almost Dickensian ogre to corner-cutting functionaries, but Em follows the trail even when her personal and professional worlds seem to be on a collision course. Em Hansen is rapidly carving out a niche for herself as a forensic geologist (she lacks the credentials to claim that title yet), and may eventually make her field as popular as that of forensic anthropology or medicine. (Jan. 14)
FYI:Andrews is a professional geologist, who teaches at California's Sonoma State University.