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FAULT LINE
by Sarah Andrews
St. Martin's Minotaur, January 2002
307 pages
$23.95
ISBN: 0312253508


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Shortly after 4 AM one wintry day, Em Hansen, now living in a bed-sitter in Salt Lake City, is awakened by an earthquake. Unlike the other residents of the building, she is not frightened. She's a geologist, and she is exhilarated. (The four things a geologist lives for are earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and flash floods. ) The quake measured only 5.2 causing a few chimneys to fall and a few whatnots to topple from shelves. but the tremors are only a symbol. Dr. Sydney Smeeth, State Geologist's press conference is abruptly terminated while she is standing in front of the unfinished Olympic Stadium, warning the citizens of the earthquake danger in the fracture zone on which Salt Lake City is built. When she is murdered shortly thereafter, FBI agent, Tom Latimer, asks Em to help.

Em follows the paper trail through the fault lines of big business, big construction, big money, the upcoming Winter Olympics and the attempts of big business, big construction, and big religion to make Salt Lake City seem a paradise, notwithstanding the expensive subdivisions built on (not near) a fault scarp, the cracks in the structure of the Olympic stadium, caused either by the earthquake or by slipshod construction. There are fault lines everywhere, whether hidden or exposed, including the personal ones, such as Em's boyfriend, SLC police officer Ray Raymond who wants to make Em over into a good Mormon wife, and the relationship between Tom Latimer and Hansen's best friend, rich pilot Faye Carter.

Several of the chapters have short paragraphs written by eyewitnesses, including Bret Harte, Jack London and Charles Darwin, to various earthquakes: Loma Prieta, California, 1989 Good Friday Earthquake, Alaska,1964, San Francisco, 1865, Concepcion, Chile, 1835, Salt Lake City, 1910, Montana-Yellowstone, 1959, San Francisco, 1906, Seattle, 2001; Cyprus AD 365, and Santa Rosa California 1969. The destruction in built up areas is frightening, and gives us an idea of what might have happened had there really been an earthquake of 7 or greater in Salt Lake City.

With Fault Line Andrews returns to the promise of the first few books in the series, and delivers a cautionary tale well worth reading. Rather than being distracting, the well chosen eyewitness accounts draw one further into the story. Don't let the science scare you. The reality is more frightening.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, April 2002

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