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 Published by the American Geological Institute
Newsmagazine of the Earth Sciences

 June 2000


Geotimes now offers each month's book review, list of new books and book ordering information on the Web.  Look for new maps, software and On the Web in the print edition.

Book review
On the shelf
Where to order

Book review

Bone Hunter by Sarah Andrews. St. Martinís Minotaur (1999). 340 p. ISBN 0-312-20381-0. Hardcover, $24.95.

Sara Marcus

Bone Hunter, Sarah Andrewsí fifth book in the Em Hansen mystery series, skillfully weaves a tale that includes vertebrate paleontology, commercial fossil collecting, and discussions of scientific method, faith and religion -- all essential components in a quest to solve a murder. Itís a tall order to cover of these often weighty topics in 340 pages, but Andrews manages quite well. She bases her story on current issues in vertebrate paleontology, and anchors the plot in the realm of believability by incorporating descriptions of real people and events into the story line. In the process, Andrews brings the methodology and current controversies of the geological sciences to a new audience.

The fictional heroine of the book is Em Hansen, last seen in Only Flesh and Bones. Em is an oil geologist by trade, and she has solved several mysteries by drawing on her geologic knowledge. Hansenís use of geology as a forensic tool leads George Dishey, a renowned dinosaur paleontologist, to ask her to speak at the annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting. Once at the meeting in Snowbird, Utah, Em finds out (in the course of a day) that Dishey is dead, she is not on the meetingís program, and she is a suspect in his murder. She is also arrested and shot at and meets a handsome Mormon police officer, Thomas Raymond. The plot races along from there.

The description of the world of professional vertebrate paleontologists is entertaining, and Andrews accurately portrays the professionís archetypal personalities. She produces convincing dialogue and correctly captures the dynamics of an SVP meeting. The George Dishey character is a flashy, loud, media-loving man who does not publish in peer-reviewed journals, but is well-known to the public because he publishes in the popular press and is on television. Was Dishey murdered by someone jealous of his public and media attention?

The value of dinosaur bones to scientists and the value of the bones on the open market is another touching on current events. With the recent sale of Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex for millions of dollars, it is clear that bones have a value beyond science. Who is interested in making a profit on dinosaur bones? Was money a motive for murder?

Officer Raymondís is Mormon, and he and his family interact with Em, forcing her to examine her own beliefs in the face of their strong faith. Em believes more in testing ideas using science and scientific methods, and Ray follows his Mormon belief system. The two discuss faith, beliefs and science in ways that do not come across as preachy, and are made more urgent by Em and Rayís growing attraction to each other.

Along the way, Andrews introduces other intriguing characters, lots of possible motives, and some interesting twists and turns. The ending is gripping, and I after I finished Bone Hunter, I put down the book hoping to meet some of these characters in subsequent Em Hansen mysteries. In her series, Sarah Andrews has skillfully captured a much of what geologists do and feel. Bone Hunter is a good whodunit that delivers accurate and timely science.

Marcus is earning her doctorate at the University of Kansas.

On the shelf

Americaís Ancient Forests by Thomas M. Bonnicksen.  John Wiley & Sons (2000).  608 p.  ISBN 0-471-13622-0.  Illus.  Cloth, $49.95.

Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems by Michael N. DeMers. John Wiley & Sons (2000). 498 p. ISBN 041314234. Illus. Cloth, $88.95.

A Guide to Energy Service Companies by Cary Bullock and George Caraghiaur. Fairmont Press (2000). 185 p. ISBN 0-88173-292-3. Illus. Cloth, $82.

Mineral Deposits: Processes to Processing, edited by C.J. Stanley. A.A.Balkema Publishers (1999).  1506 p.  ISBN 90-5809-068-X.  Illus.  Cloth, $137.

Riddle of the Bones: Politics, Science, Race and the Story of the Kennewick Man by Roger Downey. Copernicus (2000). 202 p. ISBN 0-387-988-77-7. Cloth, $25.

Santorini Volcano, edited by T.H. Druitt et al.  Geological Society, London (1999).  176 p.  ISBN 1-86239-048-7.  Illus.  Cloth, $117.

Stories from a Heated Earth, Our Geothermal Heritage, edited by R. Cataldi, S.F. Hodgson and J.W. Lund.  Geothermal Resources Council Publications (1999).  569 p.  ISBN 0-934412-19-7.  Illus.  Softcover, $70.

Uplift, Erosion and Stability: perspectives on long-term landscape development, edited by B.J. Smith, W.B. Whalley and P.A. Warke.  Geological Society, London (1999).  280 p.  ISBN 1-86239-047-9.  Illus.  Cloth, $108.

Users Guide to Natural Gas Purchasing and Risk Management, edited by F.W. Payne.  Fairmont Press (2000).  242 p.  ISBN 0-88173-298-2.  Softcover, $87.

Where to order books

Also visit AGI's Earth Science Bookstore to search

A.A. Balkema Publishers, Old Post Rd., Brookfield, Vt. 05036. Phone: (802)276-3162. Fax: (802)276-3837.

Copernicus Books, 37 East Seventh Street, New York, NY 10003. Phone: (212)228-2418. Fax: (212)995-9454. WWW:

Fairmont Press, The Fairmont Press, Inc., 700 Indian Trail, Lilburn, GA 30047. Phone: (770)925-9388. Fax: (770)381-9865. E-mail: WWW:

The Geological Society, (London), Unit 7, Brassmill Enterprise Centre, Brassmill Lane, Bath BA1 3JN, U.K. Phone: 44 01225 445046. Fax: 44 01225 442836. Publications may be ordered from AAPG.

Geothermal Resources Council Publications, P.O. Box 1350, Davis, CA 95617-1350. Phone: (530)758-2360. Fax: (530)758-2839. E-mail:

John Wiley and Sons, 1 Wiley Dr., Somerset, N.J. 08875-1272. Phone: (800)225-5945. Fax: (732)302-2300. E-mail: <>.

St. Martin's Minotaur, WWW:

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