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Three moon gifSt. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover), ISBN 0-312-25349-4
Sarah Andrews -- professional geologist, pilot, and college professor -- fits this story together like a 3-D jigsaw puzzle. One dimension of the puzzle involves the various story lines. Separate chapters following the adventures of seemingly unrelated people converge in a tightly woven plot and an eminently satisfactory conclusion.

Book: Sarah Andrews, An Eye for GoldOn another plane, the geology of gold mining serves as a catalyst for the plot and sucks the reader into its exotic and mysterious vortex. Calling upon her background in geology, Andrews presents a richly detailed look at gold, its mining, history and allure. Andrews presents the economic development dilemma, ecological impact of the mining industry, the Native Americans who people the mining area in Nevada and the disruption to the ecosystem. She doesn't give pat answers but lays out the problems, offering possible solutions and compromises. Andrews shows the positives and negatives of each faction in this fight between nature and technology.

Then there is the story of Em Hansen -- a storyline that not only runs through this novel, but through the previous mysteries of this series. Em, a geologist, fights to stick with her career as companies cut back and lay off. Em also carefully weighs the potential entanglements and ramifications of working with FBI agent Tom Latimer. But Tom plays on her curiosity and love of puzzles to pull her into the investigation of the death of a biologist on a deserted road in Nevada.

Book: Sarah Andrews, Bone HunterWhether the puzzles incorporate reading body language or reading rocks, or fitting clues together to unmask a murderer, Em loves the process. Will Em succumb to the lure of the game or give her love to a man so conservative he won't have sex with her until they're married? Or will she find a compromise?

While Andrews maintains an admirable balance between fact and mystery, her secondary characters do not achieve quite the level of development needed to make them real and important to the reader. But Andrews tells a tense story that boasts tight writing, good pacing and an eye for detail. Readers who enjoy unusual locations, the hidden facts of an exotic lifestyle or career, and a mystery based on cause and effect, greed, historic conflicts and human weakness need look no further.

Dawn Goldsmith

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