Forensic geologist Emily Hansen has come to Salt Lake City to see her lover and perhaps to marry him. But before she makes the decision, she is manipulated by FBI agent Tom Latimer into investigating a possibly fraudulent gold-mining operation on federal land. Another geologist is missing, and a scientist charged with assessing the environmental impact of proposed new drilling operations is dead in what appears to Em to be murder rather than an accident.
Author Sarah Andrews's strength is her feeling for the arid landscape of Utah and Nevada. She is somewhat shakier in describing her heroine's conflicted emotions about her problematic romantic attachment and the strong sense of autonomy that leads her to take Latimer's bait and get involved in the case. The physical landscape is brilliantly evoked, while the territory of the heart has more subtle boundaries that draw the reader in to a rather convoluted plot. This is the sixth outing for Em, and Andrews's fans will follow her anywhere, even through the detailed and somewhat tedious scientific and geological explanations about mining and a barely more compelling explication of gold's timeless allure. The minor characters are more interesting than many of the central figures: a Paiute shaman, a wealthy woman who pilots her own plane, and the upright Mormon policeman whose proposal provokes Em's exploration into her own inner world. Readers can expect to find out more about him in Em's next outing. --Jane Adams [via]