SARAH ANDREWS – Dead Dry

St. Martinís, paperback reprint; 1st printing, September 2006. Hardcover: St. Martinís Press, November 2005.

   Em Hansen, the detective of record in Dead Dry, is the new forensic geologist for the state of Utah, and while sheís had nine previous adventures on record, this is the first case of murder thatís come her way since taking the new position. Iíd tell you more about some of her earlier cases, but as it happens, as I so often have to admit, this is the first one of the ten that Iíve happened to read.

    For the record, expanded from her entry in Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin, here are the previous nine (plus this one, her tenth, along with the one thatís in the works) in chronological order, beginning with her earliest:

   Tensleep. Otto Penzler Books, hc, June 1994 [Wyoming]
      Signet, pb, December 1995
   A Fall in Denver. Scribner, hc, December 1995. [Colorado]
      Signet, pb, December 1996
   Mother Nature. St. Martinís, hc, June 1997 [California]
      St. Martinís; pb, July 1998
   Only Flesh and Bones. St. Martinís, hc, May 1998 [Wyoming]
      St. Martinís; ; pb, August 1999
   Bone Hunter. St. Martinís, hc, September 1999 [Utah]
      St. Martinís; pb, September 2000
   An Eye for Gold. St. Martinís, hc, September 2000 [Nevada]
      St. Martinís; pb, Decmber 2001
   Fault Line. St. Martinís, hc, January 2002 [Utah]
      St. Martinís; pb, January 2003
   Killer Dust. St. Martinís, hc, February 2003 [Florida]
      St. Martinís; pb, March 2004
   Earth Colors. St. Martinís, hc, March 2004 [Pennsylvania]
      St. Martinís; pb, December 2004
   Dead Dry. St. Martinís, hc, November 2005 [Utah]
      St. Martinís; pb, September 2006
   In Cold Pursuit. St. Martinís, hc, Spring 2007 [Antarctica]

   For a photo of the author is the controls of her plane while researching her latest book, go to her website. Youíll also find a biography of the author there. Short version: ďA geologist who writes mystery novels about a geologist.Ē For the long version, Iíll suggest you simply check out her website. Itís definitely worth a visit.

   While researching the publication dates of the books above, mostly on Amazon, I happened to glimpse some of the reviews, and unfortunately, some of them matched my opinion almost completely. Long discourses on matters geological, many of them, too little plot.

Dead Dry

    In Dead Dry, for example, we (the reader) are given mini-lectures (some not so mini-) on the lack of water in Colorado, along with water resources (and ecology) in general. Not that Iím complaining, mind you, because itís important, but when it becomes noticeable, as it does here, then maybe (just maybe) itís overdone, at least in a (mere?) mystery novel.

   Which, in the case at hand, involves the death of an old colleague of Emís, an eccentric geological consultant named Afton McWain, buried in a suspicious quarry wall collapse. Was he the victim of a horrific accident, or is this a case of murder? It is the latter, and the connection with the above-mentioned water resources in Colorado (or lack thereof) has a great deal to do with it.

   Besides working all over the western part of the US (see the settings as listed above), Em also seems to have a romantic interest in every book. Whether new ones or not, I do not know, but Fritz (in this one) seems to be rather new, while Ray seems to have been part of her past for some time longer, and it appears that he will stay there.

   Now you may have noticed that I have left the detective work involved until after discussing the romantic aspects of the book, mostly because, well, I found the detective work of a rather, um, perfunctory nature. Something invariably seemed lacking. On more than one occasion, I found myself commenting to myself Ė I almost always write notes to myself while Iím reading Ė that Em simply wasnít asking the right questions, if she was asking questions at all.

    But sheís a character whose lively, animated outlook on life is definitely worth following Ė a series wouldnít last as long as this has if that werenít true Ė and it all turns out well in the end. In fact, there is no doubt in my mind that the book is considerably better than the one that I see (looking back) that I have described so far. But (still looking back) I donít see anything I’ve said that I would change, so I wonít.

— September 2006