Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words
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A native Californian, Dwiggins has three other novels to her credit including Volcano Watch, the second in The Forensic Geology Series which was kicked off with this book.
“Forensic geologists Cassie Oldfield and Walter Shaws embark on a perilous hunt--tracking a terrorist who has stolen radioactive material that is hotter than the desert in August. He threatens to release it in America's most fragile national park, Death Valley.
But first he must stop the geologists who are closing in.
As the hunt turns dangerous, Cassie and Walter will need grit along with their field skills to survive this case. For they are up against more than pure human malice. The unstable atom--in the hands of an unstable man--is governed by Murphy's Law. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.
And it does.”
Forensic Geology wasn’t a term I can remember coming across until I saw this book. The meaning seemed obvious: according to Wikipedia it is “the study of evidence relating to minerals, oil, petroleum, and other materials found in the Earth, used to answer questions raised by the legal system.” Just what I thought. Maybe if I watched more of the CSI TV series franchise I’d have been familiar with the term. The same Wikipedia article says this science goes back at least as far as the late 1800s when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes use some rudimentary forensic geology techniques (at least compared to what the primary characters, Cassie and Walter, use in Badwater) to catch the bad guys. With the popularity of forensic science in general on TV and in books (both fictionalized and not), this specialty is an interesting variation on the theme.
This story hooked me early and kept me interested throughout. Unlike many forensic types, the nature of their specialty means Cassie and Walter aren’t spending most of their time “back in the lab,” but are out in the field and at risk. They’re well developed characters with a unique relationship and history that adds to the story. Even though the reader knows who the culprit is fairly early and the main characters along with the FBI agents they’re supporting figure it out soon afterward, the whodunit isn’t the draw as much as “what’s he going to do next.” Then at the climax we discover that there’s more to the story than what we’d thought. A real page turner.
No significant issues.
Rating: **** Four stars