THE EARTHQUAKE LADY is the third Gideon Marshall Mystery. The stories center around the potential danger of scientific discoveries and the sometimes eccentric lives of people who make them. Marshall is dragged into efforts by various people to control the discoveries of a genius-level scientist, a former faculty member in his department, this unhappy woman—Rebecca Stitcher—who was the murder victim. Stitcher’s theoretical research in geology could empower a nation to produce ideal weapons of mass destruction, namely large volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis occurring at times and places chosen on purpose. Needless to say, there many people interested in this possibility, and all of them eventually descend on Gideon Marshall’s small liberal arts college in Iowa. As Marshall’s perceptive wife Mykala says to him: “Gideon, it’s just beginning.”
Dr. Charlie Weatherford, dashing young geology prof at Cavanaugh College in Iowa, is arrested for the murder of a colleague, Rebecca Stitcher, reputed to have solved the problem of making major earthquakes occur on purpose, using hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) techniques developed by the petroleum industry. Connecticut “Connie” Bergen, a civil attorney for Stevens Oil, Inc., the company supporting Weatherford for proprietary access to research results, gets on a company jet bound for Des Moines, sent by owner Delmar Stevens himself to defend Weatherford. This is Bergen’s first assignment in a criminal case, and he’s met at the airport by Amber Buchanan, a mysterious woman with various roles in Stevens Oil, Inc., whose job evidently is to guide him through the legal labyrinth surrounding this murder. It’s not obvious that anyone, even Weatherford, cares whether he’s convicted or acquitted.
The Weatherford Trial leads us through the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation witness protection efforts, Bergen’s handling of forensic geology, competing expert witnesses, and Bergen’s education at the hands of Amber, until the jury adjourns to arrive at a verdict. The Weatherford Trial is the fourth Gideon Marshall Mystery. As with the first three books, this one brings out the deadly potential of seemingly arcane ideas, the phenomenon of scientific illiteracy in high places, and the power of belief regardless of truth.