Saturday, July 27, 2019


What a sad week this has been. Janet Dawson just posted on Facebook that mystery author Sarah Andrews (Brown), her husband, Damon Brown, and her son, Duncan Brown were killed in a plane crash on Wednesday. All three were pilots.

Sarah Andrews was a geologist who wrote 11 mysteries about forensic geologist Em Hansen. She lived in Graton, CA. I knew Sarah for many years. She will be missed.

Partial Bio from her website:

In 1969, the year of Armstong’s and Aldrin’s moon walk, Sarah left the East Coast to attend college in Colorado, where she developed an abiding love for the tall skies and open heart of the West. She graduated from Colorado College (where she studied with John Lewis, William A. Fischer, and Richard M. Pearl) with a B.A. in Geology and headed up to Denver to work for the U.S. Geological Survey.
There she had the great fortune being taken under the mentoring wing of fabled mega-geologist Edwin D. McKee, who had started his career as Chief Naturalist at Grand Canyon National Park in 1929. Eddie McKee took the lump of proto-geologist that was Sarah and formed her into a dedicated professional using love, kindness, and a wealth of humor and storytelling.

Under his tutelage, she developed expertise in eolian sedimentology. Eddie taught her how to do research and write up results. He taught her to write clearly and concisely, and with a dictionary open beside her. He taught her how to give public speeches. He opened professional doors for Sarah, helped her build her ever-growing professional network, taught her professional comportment and gratitude, and, most importantly, he told Sarah, “Whatever you do, I just want you to be happy.
Sarah next earned an M.S. from Colorado State University, studying with the immensely talented Frank Ethridge. Frank added an important layer of pragmatism to Sarah’s repertoire, teaching her to apply her USGS research to the practical issues of earth resources exploration and management. Frank believed in matching students to jobs and helping them further their careers. Sarah did her Master’s research in uranium ore deposition in alluvial fans.
Sarah in WY 
M.S. in hand, Sarah became one of Frank’s “famous former students,” and headed out into the oil patch and her first encounter with corporate America and its fabled glass ceiling. She worked first for Amoco Production Company and then ANGUS Petroleum Corporation, both in Colorado, where she applied her knowledge of terrigenous clastic sedimentology to enhanced recovery of hydrocarbons (got oil out of rocks formed by wind and rivers).
Sarah doing field work at Killpecker Dunes, WY
During her years working in the Rockies, Sarah repeatedly found her way into Wyoming, first as a traveler and later as a geologist for both the USGS and Amoco.
She then moved to California with the man she would marry—fellow geologist Damon Brown—and began to write the Em Hansen mysteries. As she refined the first books (Tensleep and A Fall in Denver, set in the oil business) she worked as an environmental geologist, gaining the experience to write Mother Nature.
While directing site contamination characterization at a Superfund site (Castle Air Force Base), Sarah finally achieved her most important job…at last becoming a mother at age 42. Tensleep was published seven weeks after son Duncan was born.
Delighting in motherhood, Sarah simplified her task list somewhat, quitting office-bound work so that she could stay home and immerse herself in raising this delightful and fascinating child. After six months, sleep deprivation gave way to storytelling deprivation, and Sarah began to write Mother Nature and did the final edits on A Fall in Denver.
As Only Flesh and Bones (in part inspired by complaints voiced by fellow superannuated mothers pushing strollers, and otherwise again set in the oil business) entered the editorial pipeline, Sarah began once again to attend professional geological conventions. This was at the urging of J. David Love, another geologist with Scottish surname and lineage (there is an uncannily long list of same who have influenced Sarah’s career, but perhaps Scots are the quintessence of the kind of “prove-it-to-me” irascibility that makes a good geologist great), who kindly performed technical review on the early books in the series.

At the conventions, Sarah’s geological colleagues began to approach her with material from their various specialties. First and foremost was M. Lee Allison (yet another Scot) who suggested the setting for Bone Hunter, which visits the world of paleontology. Beginning with that book, Sarah formed the series into a vehicle for educational outreach, teaching the public about geology and geologists. An Eye for Gold tunnels underground into mining, Fault Line shakes things up with earthquakes, and Killer Dust travels back into the pure research world of the USGS. Earth Colors is a pentimento for Sarah's dad with its forensic examination of the geology of artists’ materials.
Concurrent with writing Bone Hunter, Sarah began to lecture part time in the Geology Department at Sonoma State University, and returned to the lecture circuit for public events and geological symposia.


CluesSister said...

Great writer, great character. Each book was both an adventure and a learning opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, her death is a terrible loss. I have not read her books (yet) but based on her various writings throughout her website, she was indeed quite a special human being! Would love to have known her!

Unknown said...

she was one of my favorite writers and a gracious lady. she will be sorely missed.