ScienceThrillers.com review of Quicksilver by Toni Dwiggins; no star rating given for indies
Publication date: November 7, 2013
Category: science thriller
Tech rating (out of 5):
Summary (from the author):
A young man disappears in the wilderness of the California mother lode. He leaves behind a gold-flecked rock and a vial of liquid mercury. He is a misfit in the modern world, a throwback to the Gold Rush days.
A venture capitalist–whose gold country is Silicon Valley–hires forensic geologists Cassie Oldfield and Walter Shaws to track his missing brother.
Following one of the ‘lost rivers’ of California, Cassie and Walter plunge into the dark history of the legendary lands, into the dark past of the brothers, into a poisonous sibling feud that threatens both lives and the land.
And the question then becomes: which brother is on the hunt?
Quicksilver is the latest installment in Toni Dwiggins’ Forensic Geology series. Dwiggins is one of my favorite indie authors. She writes quality stuff, and she creates stories in a niche I simply love. The niche incorporates a type of science I’ve not seen in other novels: forensic geology. And not in an urban, police/FBI setting. The investigative team Cassie Oldfield and Walter Shaws work out in the wild, in a land of ancient stones and complex geological history. It’s a land I am personally familiar with and fond of: the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.
Quicksilver is an excellent introduction to Dwiggins’ style and subject matter. It’s a novella, about 1/3 the length of a typical thriller novel. (This format, by the way, is one I expect to see much more of in the digital age. Perfect length for an ebook; too short for a commercial print run.) The story, set in present-day California in ’49er gold mining country of the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, is about two brothers with a complicated past and a childhood spent catching gold fever from their father. One brother developed a fascination with mercury (quicksilver), which was used in vast quantities to isolate gold at mining sites. This fascination has led to his destruction as years of exposure to the toxin take their toll on his mental and physical health. The other brother has secrets of his own.
As Oldfield and Shaws help one of the brothers locate the other in the lovingly-described Sierra wilderness, the tension mounts. Mercury is a physical presence in the story as well as a metaphor for aspects of the brothers’ relationship. Dwiggins once again makes excellent use of geology, letting the reader see the landscape with fresh eyes and understanding of the clues that lie in plain sight.
Quicksilver is a splendid story for science thriller fans in a length that makes it a fast read. Give it a try and if you like, read Dwiggins’ full-length novels in this series.
Key words: pluton; metamorphic rock; igneous dike; chiastolite hornfels aureole; chert; serpentine; deep blue lead; feldspar