The uniquely talented writer Bonnie Ramthun, a former war-gamer for the Department of Defense, once again flexes her doomsday imagination and insider's knowledge to brilliant effect in an exciting sequel to Ground Zero. Major Jim Leetsdale appears to have committed suicide during a freak Colorado earthquake. But when Colorado Springs Homicide Detective Eileen Reed and her partner, Dave Rosen, go to investigate, they conclude that Leetsdale's death was a murder carefully orchestrated to appear to be a suicide. Jacob Mitchell, an ex-Senator with presidential ambitions, seems to be the key to the mystery, however his role in the murder is murky. While distracted by a series of small earthquakes occurring in places not previously known to be located on fault lines, Eileen begins to unravel the connections between the suspicious suicide case and the earthquakes. Could it be that Mitchell is somehow behind the enigmatic earthquakes A tension-fraught and emotional showdown in the Colorado Great Sand Dunes brings together all of the elements of Eileen's case: the power-hungry Mitchell, her friends from the CIA, plus a ghost from her past.
Colorado Springs homicide investigator Eileen Reed stars in her second thriller, after Ground Zero. Reed is dispatched to a nearby military base to investigate the shooting death of an air force major. Nobody at the scene is very helpful, least of all the dead man's boss, Jacob Mitchell, a former congressman and presidential candidate who has now resumed work as a scientist heading up a top-secret project. While Reed and her partner, Dave Rosen, struggle along, another murder occurs that of a young woman found dead in the Great Sand Dunes of Colorado's San Luis Valley, an area long known for unexplained physical events. UFO enthusiasts descend on the area, distracting Reed and Rosen with claims that otherworldly forces killed the woman. Eventually, Reed tracks the two murders back to Mitchell, then makes an even bigger discovery: Mitchell has gotten his hands on a special machine that can cause earthquakes and is planning to use it soon. Ramthun does a good job managing a story that teeters on the edge of believability by providing a counterbalance of fact-based scientific detail and historical research into earthquakes and government coverups. A lack of credible suspects besides Mitchell and a waning torque of suspense, however, burden her plot. Ramthun, a former "wargamer" for the Department of Defense, does get high marks for creating a highly atmospheric setting in both the physical and social landscape of Colorado. She also weaves in a couple of personal subplots a love interest for Reed and the surprising emergence of someone out of her past that give her story warmth. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 31, 2001
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Excerpt from Earthquake Games by Bonnie Ramthun
Colorado Springs, Colorado
"I think about it a lot," Eileen said. "That's only natural, I guess."
"What's it?" Gerri Matthews asked, leaning back in her armchair. "Shooting Teddy Shaw, or seeing what he did to Jeannie Bernowski?" Gerri's clipboard rested comfortably on one knee but her pen dangled, point up, in her relaxed hand. Her relaxation was a ploy, Eileen thought, just like the exquisitely shabby little room, like her kindly face, like the delicious smell of the hot tea she served in thick pottery mugs. Gerri was the court-appointed psychologist for shooters. Cops who killed. Six years on the force, and Eileen Reed had finally joined the ranks.
"What?" she asked Gerri.
"Shooting Teddy, or seeing Jeannie?" Gerri repeated patiently.
"Shooting him, of course," Eileen said.
"Okay," Gerri replied. She was forty and looked a weathered twenty-five. Perhaps it was all the bike riding, she'd said during their introductions. Or perhaps because she and her husband didn't have children, and thus she always got a good night's sleep. This was said with a twinkle and a chuckle as irresistible as a little girl's. Gerri had sandy blonde hair and dark blue eyes, and she dressed in clothes that looked so comfortable they could be pajamas. On a plump woman they would have looked awful, but on Gerri's spare little frame, her baggy pants and shapeless pullovers looked terrific. Eileen wanted to like her immediately, and felt her ears pull back like a horse about to bite. Everything felt different since fourdays ago, when she'd shot Teddy Shaw.
"Do you have dreams about Jeannie Bernowski?" Gerri asked calmly.
Eileen closed her eyes momentarily, and the death scene unrolled in front of her. The backs of her eyelids had developed a sort of VCR-like capability, it seemed, and whenever she closed her eyes she was treated to what was now the number-one movie in her head.
"No, I remember Teddy," she said.
It was a fine summer night in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The mild night air blew through Eileen's open car window, carrying with it the scents of summer roses, recently mowed lawns, and sun-heated pines. The breeze felt good in her hair and against her face. One thirty in the morning on a Tuesday. There was no one else on the roads.
Eileen was on her way home after filing a report on a homicide, an easy one. She'd stayed late so she could take off Friday and Monday, thus giving her a four-day vacation. She'd planned to spend it in the mountains with Joe Tanner, her boyfriend. There was a persistent rumor that the Pike National Forest held the remains of an F-16 crash. The plane crashed twenty years ago and was seen only by the occasional hiker, or so the story went. No hiker had come forward admitting they'd seen the wreck, but the story persisted. The ghost of the pilot was said to haunt the plane, since he had never been buried and was, it was said, still strapped into his seat. Since the plane was never found, it was supposedly still full of equipment, including missiles and ammo for the dead pilot's pistol. It was the Flying Dutchmen of mountain wrecks and a juicy target. The fact that the plane probably didn't exist only fueled Eileen's desire to find the thing. She was excited about the adventure and happy to get away from the city.