11 September 2007

Geology and Art (from 2005)

Here's another bit of old Reading. This is a review from 2005.

Ten or so years ago, Nancy found Tensleep, a book by Sarah Andrews, in the Northfield library. We both liked it very much. It was a good summer mystery. The main character was a geologist and the story was partly about rocks and land. Her second book was not quite so good and the third was less enjoyable. Somewhere back there we stopped looking for Andrews' books.

Nancy picked up another Sarah Andrews book in the library last year. It's the ninth mystery she's written. Geology is still a key element. And this one, Earth Colors, is worth reading. There's a bit of forensic geology (Isn't everything vulnerable to becoming forensic in today's entertainment milieu? I'm waiting for forensic poetry to make its appearance.) and some art history. A couple scenes take place in the Whitney Gallery of Western Art at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming — a place I really enjoyed visiting a couple years ago.

Andrews has a deft, although not consistent, touch creating dialogue. A couple times while reading I found myself chuckling at exchanges between characters. Some of the relationships and some aspects of the characters are complex yet succinctly and delightfully described. There are some art history mini-lectures in this book, mostly about Frederic Remington and the 19th century romantic realists. I enjoyed them. I also liked learning about the chemistry and geology of the paints artists like Remington used.

Andrews' story is pretty good, but there are some gaps in the way she tells it. A couple times her main character slips into the Sue Grafton implausible behavior pit. A couple times the main character is incredibly perceptive and a couple other times she's wildly clueless. Andrews resorts to a courtroom scene to end the story. When her main character, as a witness, takes control of the proceedings to spin out the tale of the intrigue and murder before an astounded judge and prosecutor, I had some credibility issues with the author. (We had a little heart to heart discussion in my head about that one.)

All in all, I recommend Earth Colors for good escapist reading. Let us know what you think. And if you read any of Sarah Andrews' books between number 3 and this one, let us know what you think of them.

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