Saturday, December 1, 2012

Killer Dust: by Sarah Andrews - A Review

Book Review of "Killer Dust" by Sarah Andrews: A Mystery Featuring Forensic Geologist Em Hansen.

"Killer Dust" is the seventh book I have read by Author/Professional Geologist/Pilot, Sarah Andrews.

The  protagonist of these series of mystery books, is Em Hansen is a character after my own heart. She comes from an abnormal family, whose formative years, were on a working ranch in Wyoming. It is in the wide open spaces, that Em becomes one with the Earth, and is allowed the freedom of thought. She is a natural detective, asking the right questions, for unanswered questions. This is also a skill of a geologist, or perhaps it is these skill sets that are the making of Geo-scientists.

Em and I have come a long way in a few weeks, from "A Fall In Denver" to "Killer Dust". In "A Fall In Denver", she is a geologist working for the gas & oil industry, and her view of the industry is multiple faceted; 1). Modern society needs fuel and energy to operate machines, 2). Geologists need to work, 3). When geologists are too good at finding oil and gas, eventually the geology jobs play out. 4). Mining and drilling are needed for economic necessity. 5). It is good when the energy interests abide with environmental concern. "A Fall in Denver" was written in 1996.

Sarah Andrews finished "Killer Dust" on September 11, 2002. It was published in 2003. "Killer Dust" covers the topic of bio-terrorism, and male vs. female terrorism parallels this story.

A reader who understands geology and the environment can imagine that "Killer Dust" is talking about particulate matter that is airborne, and causes death, or great harm. It is.

What strikes home with the adventures, and heroism of Em Hansen is that she has had to come to grips with the cavernous problem of the destruction of the Earth that she loves. Within the pages of "Killer Dust", she has come to the realization that U.S. Government entities, our Representatives, Senators, and even past Presidents have gone from representing a human population, to working for the corporate entities.

Earlier in the story, Em had located a buried SAM-7; so she and her retired FBI friend Tom, and some ex Navy Seals unearthed it from a beach at the far end of the Florida Keys. It was pointed toward Cape Canaveral by a psycho stalker. Em was treated the excavation as a crime scene. Because she shared samples with Guffey, and the FBI lab at Quantico, Guffey must have gotten enough information from the soil samples taken from the plastic casings of the SAM-7, to lead him in the direction of the Bahamas.

Tom, her friend and ex-FBI agent, knew when Guffey disappeared from the USGS, that he had enough information to get him to the approximate area where the red dust (anthrax) was being manufactured, but Miles Guffey did not realize he was going into a lawless area, where weapons and terrorists would protect their business. Em used her knowledge of maps, and the help of an ex-Seal, to locate the 'Sea Dingo'; Guffey's boat, and hid away while the craft was uninhabited.

On page 267, of "Killer Dust", there is a scene where Em Hansen had stowed away on the boat of Miles Guffey; (a well respected geologist, gone rouge from the Florida USGS [United States Geological Survey]. Guffey, after offering to run some samples of dust, and other fauna, gotten from Em. He and his lab partner Waltrine, went off seeking to find the source of some red dust, that has helped kill coral reefs in the Florida Keys).

They are awaiting passage through the lock systems, created by the U.S. Government, as a train passes ahead. Em notices that Guffey seems to be annoyed by the wait, and passage of the gondola train cars carrying limestone. Miles Guffey then pulls out a newspaper article, from a drawer on deck. The article was from the Washington Post.

The article reported that "...real-estate developers had bought themselves a huge loophole in the law, thwarting the professed federal plan to 'replumb' the Everglades from a ghostly relic back into a thriving ecosystem. Using a mining law dodge, they were excavating vast quantities of the underlying limestone between Miami and Lake Okeechobee, digging down into the ground water, which created both rubble to sell as concrete aggregate...not only were the aquifers within the limestone thus forever crossed and the vitality of the ecosystem further ruined, but the rock was being sold for seven cents on the dollar." (p 267)

The story gets very exciting, and our protagonist Em Hansen finds courage and fortitude to act in the manner of a warrior, protecting her friends, her Country, and the Eco-system; Mother Earth, she loves so much.

Sarah Andrews includes summation in the Author's Note, at the end of this mystery. Her summary is apropos for 2012, as it was on that fateful day of September 11, 2001. Sarah Andrews credits Gene Shinn (genius geologist), with providing information that drove the helm of this story from personal terrorism suffered my thousands of women, usually from the men they know or love, into a parallel story of terrorism world wide.

Gene Shinn as a lover of the coral reefs, and a student at the University of Miami in the 1950's, began studying and photographing the corals. In the 1970's his life journey led him to the discovery, that the coral reefs in south Florida were dying. Ms. Andrews explains the problems he faced getting funding to find out what was causing this, and how to stop it. Gene could get no funding. Finally, he did get some funding from NASA, in a new public health program they launched. (p.306 - Author's Note)

The final message of environmental concern, for the earth, skies, sea, and all living creatures is that during the Cold War, tons of anthrax was manufactured, and cannot be accounted for.

As our Republican Congress acts in corporate interest in 2012, let me add this passage from "Killer Dust" written in 2002: "...What worries me is the growing trend of scientific research being increasingly predicated and directed by vested interests and the politicians who cater to them. When big money directs research, big money influences and even dictates findings. We live in the age of bean counters, people who confuse the bottom line with the moral line. Corporate culture is quickly becoming human culture, to our peril as a species." (p. 307 - Author's Note - "Killer Dust" by Sarah Andrews

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