An Eye for Gold by Sarah Andrews
(St. Martin's, $24.95, NV) ISBN 0-312-25349-4
Forensic geologist Em Hanson is once again recruited by FBI agent Tom Latimer to aid in an investigation. This time the wrongdoing concerns gold mining operations in Nevada. The gold mining operation, at first blush, appears to be in jeopardy, pending the report of Patricia Gilmore, a biologist assigned to study the environmental impact of the mining on a certain species of mouse. Before Tom and Em can interview Ms. Gilmore and ascertain the results of her work, Gilmore is found dead in her burned out truck. The obvious implication is that someone does not want her findings to become public, but whether this someone has mining interests at heart or some other agenda is yet to be discovered.

Latimer is an enigma for Em. He desperately wants her to help out in a covert operation, but he steadfastly refuses to tell her the true mission or scope of the investigation. This refusal makes Em feel so vulnerable that she is unsure whether or not to continue to work on the project. She is flattered that her expertise is so highly sought after but she becomes increasingly nervous when a key mining geologist associated with the project is reported missing.

On a personal level, Em is still trying to resolve her problems with her significant other, Ray, a Salt Lake City policeman. While physically and emotionally attracted to Ray, Em struggles with the problem of whether, she, a non-Mormon can adopt the lifestyle of a Mormon wife. Adding to her dilemma is pressure from Ray's mother, Ada, who would like nothing better than to have her son married and at work providing her with grandchildren.

An Eye for Gold is the sixth in the series of Em Hansen novels. They are definitely novels and not just a good mystery yarn. Ms. Andrews continues to demonstrate her high standards in quality mystery writing. Would that my review do her prose justice! She is rapidly able to communicate the world of a forensic geologist. She describes why such a profession is attractive.

An interest in fragmental evidence of events that occurred several billion years ago can be as exciting as evidence of a recent crime is to a detective with the proper background knowledge. Andrews’ talent for description is awesome. Not only can she aptly describe the physical beauty of the terrain, but the innermost feeling of a blind old woman who uses her other senses to the extreme to help her cope with her environment.

Ms. Andrews, as a geologist herself, has extensively detailed knowledge about the field which she is able to simplify enough to engage the interest of a layman. Despite the obviously technical nature of the information, a non-scientist can follow her train of thought with ease. She gives the reader additional food for thought in her discussion of the controversy of mining interests versus environmental conservation. She fairly presents both sides of the issues and allows the reader to decide his own position on the matter. All this information is presented in a lively form which should sustain the interest of those of a more liberal arts bent.

The plot of An Eye for Gold is most definitely a complicated and intricate one. This is not a book to be read while keeping an eye on the game on TV. It requires, demands, and deserves one's full attention. Save a large period of time to get into this one. You will be richly rewarded for your effort.

--Andy Plonka

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