This American geologist writes about a detective who is also a geologist. The novel is the eleventh in the Em Hansen series (though she only plays a minor role in the story).
To be honest, I only bought this one because I needed a second story set in Antarctica.
Valena Walker, a geology student, gets her first glimpse of the Antarctic station McMurdo from the height of 35,000 feet. “The confectionary swirl of chocolate mountains notched by whipped cream glaciers went on and on, trackless mile after mile… She saw not a tree, not a road, no cities, no towns, not even a lonely hut, no marks of man, and for that matter, no animals, plants… nothing but ice!”
Small wonder so few good crime novels are set there.
Valena is supposed to work on her master´s degree under Dr Emmett Vanderzee, but upon her arrival she learns that Vanderzee has just been sent back, apparently arrested for the murder of a journalist who died in his camp a year earlier.
Valena does not just give up; she has come to Antarctica to work and write her thesis so she begins asking questions. Besides, she admires her professor and wants to clear his name – so she contacts Emily Hansen, a specialist of forensic geology (and crime).
“It [the trail] was formed of bashed-up scoria, a volcanic rock filled with little air bubbles because it had flowed out of the ground frothing with rapidly expanding gasses. It was odd to think that in this world of ice, the island had been born of fire. She had been to Hawaii, where volcanic rock weathered quickly under invasive vegetation and other organisms, but this scoria was so cold and perennially bound in ice and snow that nothing could grow on it or live in it, nothing to break it down into soil.”
I am not quite convinced a young, inexperienced girl could solve a year-old crime just by chit-chatting to a bunch of tough survivers, but it didn´t bother me too much because I enjoyed the description of Valena´s initiation to Antarctica so much more than I had expected.
So if you want to learn something about geology, global warming and surviving under extreme conditions, you might enjoy this story, though the plot is not the best and the characters are numerous but not all very memorable.
I read it as my last 2010 Global Reading Challenge book, Antarctica, and for that purpose it was a fine choice.