Rock Bottom: A Mystery Featuring Forensic Geologist Em Hansen (Em Hansen Mysteries)

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9780312676599: Rock Bottom: A Mystery Featuring Forensic Geologist Em Hansen (Em Hansen Mysteries)

Rivers, oceans, streams, lakes―it doesn't matter what shape it takes, Em Hansen is terrified of the water. She hasn't shared her phobia with her new husband, Fritz, and when his best friend, Tiny, organizes a month-long, private, white-water rafting trip through the Grand Canyon as a wedding gift, she can't tell him how awful the trip sounds. Fritz and Tiny cobble together a party of fourteen people for the trip, but at the last minute, Tiny finds himself in the hospital and has to miss the trip. He fills his spot with George "Wink" Oberley, ostensibly a geology Ph.D. candidate at Princeton and expert river rafter, but Em immediately suspects there's more to his story.

Then the rafting trip Em had been trying so hard to enjoy veers further off course than she had ever expected: Someone disappears from their party, and a dead body washes up downstream. Now it's up to Em to figure out what happened―and whether she and her husband and stepson are sharing rafts, food supplies, and tents with a murderer.

Rock Bottom, the latest in Sarah Andrews's beloved Em Hansen series, will delight readers with its breathtaking scenery and riveting mystery.

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About the Author:

SARAH ANDREWS, a professional geologist, has won numerous science and writing awards for her mysteries. She lives in Northern California.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:


 
U.S. National Park Service, Grand Canyon National Park
Transcript of communication received by satellite phone by dispatcher Cleome James
April 16, 0945 hrs.
“—Gotta talk fast ’cause these satellites cross over the aperture of this canyon like hot lead. We’re missing one of our party.”
“Say your name, sir.”
“Fritz Calder.”
“Your location, please.”
“The Ledges. River mile 151.5.”
“You’re with a river party?”
“Yes. A man is missing.”
“Are you reporting a drowning, sir?”
“I sure hope not.”
“State the circumstances.”
“Woke up this morning and he was gone. I don’t know what happened. We’ve done an exhaustive search of the immediate area. His boat is here, his life vest, all his gear. The only thing gone is him. If he left on purpose, he sure didn’t tell anyone, and he sure didn’t hike out, unless he’s a fly and can go straight up these cliffs. Request a ranger—”
End of transmission. Connection lost.
 
APRIL 1: LEES FERRY
I’d had a morbid fear of moving water ever since I was a kid and my brother drowned in the irrigation ditch on the ranch I grew up on back home in Wyoming. It sucked him under. I watched him go, and could do nothing to save him. And that was just a man-made ditch, almost narrow enough that I could have jumped across it. Now I stood on the bank of the Colorado River at the upper end of the Grand Canyon, wishing like hell that I was almost anywhere else.
“Isn’t this great!” A strong pair of arms wrapped around me from behind: Fritz, my beloved, my husband of six months.
I plastered a grin across my face and turned toward him to burrow into his hug, trying to press from my brain the image of the roiling water that swept between our heap of equipment and the naked red ground of the Moenkopi Formation that rose above the far bank. We’d unloaded everything out of the hired van: four sixteen-foot rafts, three kayaks, a heap of tents, camp stoves, waterproof duffels, and an impossible mound of food and beer, twenty-one days’ rations for sixteen people. And I was one of those sixteen. Or it would have been sixteen, except that three days earlier, we’d lost our leader, which was another little problem I had with this expedition. What in hell’s name was I doing rigging up to help Fritz row one of those rafts down a gigantic river? I was ready to puke with anxiety, and the water that flowed by the launch beach here at Lees Ferry was hardly a riffle; what was I going to do when we reached the giant rapids that awaited us downstream? Sockdolager, Hance, Horn, Crystal, and the horrendous Lava Falls; Fritz had been going on about them for months, exulting over what an adrenaline rush they were. The rapids on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon were so large that they had their own rating system, and as water levels fluctuated, some of them got worse with higher discharge and others got worse with less. Oh, woe was me.
I know that I should have told Fritz about my little phobia, but I hadn’t had the heart. His friend Tiny had sprung this raft trip on us as his present at our wedding, all happy because it had taken years of entering the lottery to get a private trip permit, and he had been so sure of things that he had put Fritz down on the application as alternate trip leader. By the time Fritz was done slapping Tiny high fives and doing his happy dance and finally turned to me to share his excitement, I’d had time to kid myself that I could maybe do this thing. At worst, I figured that I could look pleased now and sort it out with him later; I mean, how could I disappoint him on our wedding day? But it only got harder to tell him. Tiny had worked damned hard to get a private permit, and Fritz was incandescently excited to take along his son from his first marriage, thirteen-year-old Brendan, who could only come if I was there as substitute mom (you should have seen the stare his ex-wife fixed on me, after she was done glaring at Fritz), and ... well, it all just snowballed.
Brendan shuffled past us carrying a heap of life preservers, struggling to carry more than his short arms and small frame really allowed. “Where should I put these?” he asked.
“Over by the dry bags is fine,” said Fritz. He had bent his own frame down from its eagle’s-nest height and was kissing my neck now, really nuzzling in. Into my ear he whispered, “It’s too bad Tiny couldn’t be here.”
“Yeah, he worked so hard to put this trip together.” Tiny had slid his Harley across Interstate 80 west of Salt Lake City. Tiny was in the hospital in traction. Right now that sounded like a smart place to be.
I felt something metallic jab into my back. “What’s that?” I asked Fritz, shoving my hand between us to find out what was poking me.
“Sorry,” he said, pulling my rock hammer out of his belt loop. He gave it a heft. “I’m glad you brought this along. It’s got a thousand uses.”
“No geologist would consider leaving home without one,” I said. I reached for it, but he snapped it away.
“I’m not done with it yet,” he said. “I was using it to make a couple of adjustments on our rigging. The outfitting company that rented us that raft had it set up for someone with short legs.”
“Everybody’s legs are shorter than yours, Fritz.”
“Oh, hey, here’s the ranger!” Fritz loped over to greet a petite woman in uniform who had just climbed out of a National Park Service truck. He bounded up to her like a Saint Bernard puppy, all loose-jointed and full of delight, announcing, “Hey, hi! Tiny couldn’t be here, so now I’m trip leader.”
She looked up at him, shifted her gaze uncomfortably toward the rock hammer, stiffened her spine, and said, “You’re the alternate?”
“Yes, Fritz Calder.” He poked the spike end of the head of the rock hammer at the list on her clipboard. “Right there.”
“That’s just fine, sir. Now please round up your party so I can check your requirements.” The ranger lined us up and began going down her list of persons who were going on this expedition with us, checking IDs. “Okay,” she said, “so your original leader couldn’t make it, so you have fifteen instead of sixteen, but I only count fourteen of you. Where’s your fifteenth?”
Fritz said, “Not here yet.”
She looked at him over the frames of her sunglasses. “Expecting him anytime soon?” she asked drily.
Fritz colored slightly, hard to see under his tan, a sort of blotchiness. He had not in fact met the fifteenth member of our party. There were several people on the list he hadn’t known before we arrived, but all the others had shown up when we did, the night before, and we had all had dinner together at the café up above the cliffs and had camped out on the riverbank and gotten to know each other a bit. This fifteenth guy figured he was special somehow, like he didn’t need to show his face until launch day. Tiny had put him on the list at the last moment, just before he went and stacked up his motorcycle, without discussing his decision with Fritz. We knew almost nothing about him. The story was that they had met in a bar. Tiny had justified his decision by stating that the guy had a lot of experience on the river. “It’ll be a really good thing to have him along,” he said. “I’m not getting any younger, and, well, I just think we should avail ourselves of real talent and knowledge. He built his own dory,” he concluded, as if being able to handle a hammer and saw made him our dream date in the middle of Class 10 rapids.
The mystery man’s name was George Oberley, but he’d told Tiny that he went by “Wink.” I wanted to kick Mr. Oberley’s ass from the moment I heard that nickname, but having a saucy moniker was the least of what worried me about him. Here was every other thing Tiny had been able to recite on the subject of Wink Oberley:
He was a geologist. (“One of your brethren,” Fritz had said brightly.)
He was working on his Ph.D. in geology at Princeton.
He had been a professional boatman and was soooo experienced that this would be his forty-third trip down the river.
He used to be in the army, an Airborne Ranger.
My basic distrust of anyone who’d let himself be called Wink aside, when I heard this summation of our supposed Colorado River expert, little klaxons and sirens had gone off in my head. That group of factoids sounded more like something on a SAT test than a résumé, one of those questions where you’re supposed to figure out which item doesn’t fit with the others. There was just no way that an Ivy League geologist Ph.D. candidate river rat had ever been an Army Airborne Ranger. Geologists make crappy soldiers on account of we question all authority, including our own. We do not play well enough with the other boys and girls to make it into an elite, tightly knit cadre like the Airborne Rangers. Shout orders at a geologist under fire and you get someone who wants to sit down and open a beer and have a conversation about the plan, parse it down to a gnat’s eyelash, maybe offer up a few alternative concepts, and then do none of the above. Putting one of us into a parachute and telling him to jump out of a plane over a jungle full of people who are shooting at dangly things in the sky would not be a viable proposition, because while “geologist” is, for bizarre reasons, considered by insurance actuaries to be one of the most dangerous professions, we like to choose our dangers rather than having them chosen for us. We ar...

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Book Description Minotaur Books, United States, 2012. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Rivers, oceans, streams, lakes--it doesn t matter what shape it takes, Em Hansen is terrified of the water. She hasn t shared her phobia with her new husband, Fritz, and when his best friend, Tiny, organizes a month-long, private, white-water rafting trip through the Grand Canyon as a wedding gift, she can t tell him how awful the trip sounds. Fritz and Tiny cobble together a party of fourteen people for the trip, but at the last minute, Tiny finds himself in the hospital and has to miss the trip. He fills his spot with George Wink Oberley, ostensibly a geology Ph.D. candidate at Princeton and expert river rafter, but Em immediately suspects there s more to his story. Then the rafting trip Em had been trying so hard to enjoy veers further off course than she had ever expected: Someone disappears from their party, and a dead body washes up downstream. Now it s up to Em to figure out what happened--and whether she and her husband and stepson are sharing rafts, food supplies, and tents with a murderer. Rock Bottom, the latest in Sarah Andrews s beloved Em Hansen series, will delight readers with its breathtaking scenery and riveting mystery. Bookseller Inventory # FLT9780312676599

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