Andrews, Sarah 1949(?)-

views updated

Andrews, Sarah 1949(?)-

PERSONAL:

Born c. 1949; daughter of an art teacher and an English teacher; married Damon Brown (a geologist), c. 1986; children: Duncan. Education: Colorado College, B.A., Colorado State University, M.S., 1981.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Sebastopol, CA. Office—Department of Geology, 1801 Sonoma State University, E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park, CA 94928. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer. U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO, field geologist, c. 1974-80; Department of Earth Resources, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, research assistant, 1979-80; Amoco Oil Company, Denver, CO, geologist, 1980-83; Angus Petroleum, Golden, CO, geologist, 1983-86; Trans Tech Consultants, Santa Rosa, CA, 1989-92; consultant geologist, c. 1990—; Jacobs Engineering Group, Martinez, CA, task manager, base-wide cleanup, Castle Air Force Base Superfund site, 1993; Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA, instructor in geology, 1997—.

MEMBER:

American Association of Petroleum Geologists, American Institute of Professional Geologists, Geological Society of America, American Society of Forensic Geologists.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Journalists Award, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, 1999.

WRITINGS:

"EM HANSEN" SERIES

Tensleep, Penzler Books (New York, NY), 1994.

A Fall in Denver, Scribner (New York, NY), 1995.

Mother Nature, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Only Flesh and Bones, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.

Bone Hunter, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 1999.

An Eye for Gold, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Fault Line, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Killer Dust, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Earth Colors, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2004.

Dead Dry, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2005.

"VALENA WALKER" SERIES

In Cold Pursuit, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor of short stories and articles to Armchair Detective, Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, and Colorado College Bulletin.

SIDELIGHTS:

Sarah Andrews, a former field geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, has put her scientific knowledge to an unusual use—writing mystery novels featuring Emily "Em" Hansen, a forensic geologist who utilizes the earth sciences to help solve crimes. "Science and detective work," noted a writer for Publishers Weekly, "should go together naturally…. But aside from medical thrillers, not many writers nowadays embark upon the scientific mystery. Of those who do, Andrews … has become a leading light." David Pitt of Booklist admitted, "It's arguable if there really is such a thing as a ‘forensic geologist,’ but the resourceful and intelligent Hansen makes a terrific series heroine either way." David Templeton, writing in the Sonoma County Independent, called the "Em Hansen" books "a unique and increasingly popular mystery series."

In 1994's Tensleep, Em is working as a mudlogger, or roustabout, on an oil rig in Meeteese, Wyoming, when two suspicious deaths take place. After visiting the scene of the crime, Em is convinced that the deaths were not accidental, leading her to use her skill as a geologist and sleuth to find the answer behind the tragedy. Commentators responded to Andrews's first novel with qualified praise. Booklist reviewer Elise Kinney lauded the novel's realistic portrayal of an oil rig's "rough work and its rougher workers," and a Library Journal critic praised Andrews for her "steady, thoughtful prose." Allen J. Hubin of Armchair Detective declared that "Tensleep offers a fresh setting, boldly captured, and a good mystery."

Hansen's next adventure, A Fall in Denver, takes place in Colorado, where she has taken a new job as a geologist for the well-known Blackfeet Oil Company. Her job there is evaluating the likelihood of finding oil in Lost Coyote Field, but after two "suicides" jump from the company's high-rise office building, she takes on the additional task of finding out the truth behind the deaths. "The author's scientific explanations make geology come to life," declared a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. The critic continued: "Em's first-person narrative gives the prose added punch." New York Times Book Review contributor Marilyn Stasio, who declared that Hansen's "unabashed naivete is endearing," also lauded Andrews's second novel for "a direct style that takes the humbug out of her scientific explanations for what's been going on at Lost Coyote." Emily Melton, in a review of A Fall in Denver for Booklist, found the novel "a gripping, original mystery" and applauded its "intelligent, appealing heroine."

The third novel in the "Em Hansen" series, 1997's Mother Nature, takes the amateur detective to California. Grieving the recent death of her father, the unemployed geologist reluctantly accepts an assignment from a U.S. senator from California. The senator's daughter Janet, a geologist working to remove leaking underground gasoline tanks that had been polluting local aquifers, has been found dead in a ditch, and Em sets out to solve the crime. A Publishers Weekly critic described Mother Nature as "a complex and engaging" mystery that features "snappy dialogue and fully realized characters."

In Only Flesh and Bones Hansen is called upon by a millionaire oilman to look into the murder of his wife and soon finds herself in the middle of a family's tangled problems. GraceAnne A. DeCandido, writing in Booklist, called the novel a "fine mystery with an edgy and vulnerable heroine." A critic for Publishers Weekly believed that, "thoughtful and uncertain, Em is especially appealing as she makes the quiet point that murder involves more than flesh and bones."

Bone Hunter finds Hansen invited to give a lecture at a paleontology conference, only to find that the scientist who invited her has been murdered. To the investigating police, Hansen seems to be the most likely suspect. "The novel is," wrote David Pitt in Booklist, "in addition to a fine mystery, a lively exploration of the high-stakes world of dinosaur research and a perceptive rumination on the debate between science and creationism." Templeton believed that the novel "makes you think, while remaining a grade A mystery [and] a kick-in-the-pants page-turner."

In An Eye for Gold, Hansen investigates the murders of witnesses in a case involving environmental issues and mining rights in Nevada. She also tries to keep her relationship with her Mormon boyfriend, Ray, on track. DeCandido believed that "the mystery is complicated and absorbing, and the reader does learn a great deal about geology." Dawn Goldsmith in Crescent Blues online praised the novel, concluding that "Andrews tells a tense story that boasts tight writing, good pacing and an eye for detail."

The plot of Fault Line revolves around an earthquake in Salt Lake City, the murder of a state geologist, and behind-the-scenes machinations between developers and building inspectors. A Kirkus Reviews contributor maintained that Andrews "offers excellent tutelage on debris flow, fault scarps, seismic retrofits, crust slippage, and geologic hazards." "Andrews gets honors for her graphic, frightening and entertaining use of earthquake science and lore," a critic for Publishers Weekly added.

Andrews draws on current headlines for the plot of Killer Dust, in which a terrorist threat involving anthrax takes Hansen from the rural West to the Bahamas. She also has a new boyfriend, an FBI agent who suddenly leaves without an explanation. A Publishers Weekly critic noted: "Ably combining science and suspense, Andrews once again entertains and educates."

In the next of Em Hansen's adventures, Earth Colors, Andrews gives her forensic geologist heroine a new challenge: To authenticate a painting supposedly done by renowned artist Frederick Remington. In order to do so, Em must use pigment analysis techniques, but the true challenge comes in the fact that she is working for a client whom she dislikes. Intent on doing her best, she sets out to accumulate a history of pigment, her research taking her to such varied locations as Cody, Wyoming, and to the areas of Pennsylvania known for their Amish or Mennonite communities. The process also leads to other discoveries, however, as Em becomes privy to the less sophisticated, more criminally minded side of the art world. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly praised the book for its detailed and thoughtful look at the art world, but noted that some readers might find the "surfeit of technical terminology" distracting. Booklist reviewer Sue O'Brien found the book "a fascinating blend of art and science."

Dead Dry kicks off with the discovery of a corpse that has been crushed under an avalanche of gravel. The body's fingertips have been removed, eliminating fingerprints, which safely eliminates any chance that the man had been killed during an accident. Thanks to a unique tattoo on the body, Em is able to identify him as Afton McWain, a well-known environmental activist from Colorado who has a reputation for being somewhat eccentric. Em heads off to Colorado in order to investigate the death, interviewing McWain's former wife and current girlfriend and taking note of the swarm of developers anxious to claim McWain's ranch. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that the plot sometimes wanders into tangential territory, but concluded that "fans of information-packed suspense should be satisfied."

With In Cold Pursuit, Andrews marks the beginning of a proposed new series, following heroine Valena Walker, a geology student who hopes to set off to Antarctica to work at the McMurdo Station. But Emmett Vanderzee, the scientist under whom Valena is to work, has been arrested in connection with the death of a journalist the previous year. Valena is torn as to what tack to take; she has come all this way and still wants to work on her research into glaciers. Yet her grant is contingent on having Vanderzee's supervision. Determined to keep her grant, she begins to look into the journalist's death herself, hoping to uncover information that will clear Vanderzee's name and enable him to return to McMurdo. Andrews spent two months doing research in Antarctica prior to writing the book. Some reviewers found the mystery itself not in keeping with the quality of her earlier works. "The whodunit plot isn't up to the atmospherics," commented a writer for Publishers Weekly. Other critics, however, praised the new effort. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews remarked that "Andrews … sets a satisfying combination of mystery, politics, science and history in a land of stark beauty and ever-present danger."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Armchair Detective, summer, 1995, Emily Melton, review of A Fall in Denver, p. 245.

Booklist, April 15, 1998, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Only Flesh and Bones, p. 1374; August, 1999, review of Bone Hunter, p. 2031; May 1, 2000, review of A Fall in Denver, p. 1593; August, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of An Eye for Gold, p. 2118; December 15, 2001, David Pitt, review of Fault Line, p. 706; April 15, 2004, Sue O'Brien, review of Earth Colors, p. 1428.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2001, review of Fault Line, p. 1516; December 15, 2002, review of Killer Dust, p. 1804; June 15, 2007, review of In Cold Pursuit.

Library Journal, September 1, 1999, review of Bone Hunter, p. 237; September 1, 2000, review of An Eye for Gold, p. 255; January, 2002, Rex Klett, review of Fault Line, p. 158.

New York Times Book Review, January 7, 1996, Marilyn Stasio, review of A Fall in Denver, p. 24.

Publishers Weekly, May 9, 1994, p. 66; October 2, 1995, review of A Fall in Denver, p. 58; April 14, 1997, review of Mother Nature, p. 59; May 4, 1998, review of Only Flesh and Bones, p. 206; August 2, 1999, review of Bone Hunter, p. 77; August 28, 2000, review of An Eye for Gold, p. 60; December 10, 2001, review of Fault Line, p. 54; January 13, 2003, review of Killer Dust, p. 45; April 12, 2004, review of Earth Colors, p. 42; October 10, 2005, review of Dead Dry, p. 40; June 11, 2007, review of In Cold Pursuit, p. 42.

Sonoma County Independent, September 16-23, 1999, David Templeton, "Sarah Andrews Turns up Old Bones, New Controversies."

ONLINE

Crescent Blues,http://www.crescentblues.com/ (February 10, 2003), Dawn Goldsmith, "Sarah Andrews: An Eye for Gold."

Sonoma State University Web site,http://www.sonoma.edu/ (November 10, 2003), "Sarah Andrews."

About this article

Andrews, Sarah 1949(?)-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article