I obtained this book when the author Bill Hartmann came to my Arctic home town of Barrow, Alaska to do some public science presentations about Mars,and also brought along this very good mystery novel set on the Red Planet.
Some of the other reviewers rightly note that this is not the best novel ever produced, but it is a great combination of mystery and science fiction.
Hartmann the astronomer does a lot of work interpreting photos of Mars from missions ranging back to Mariner 9, through Viking and Mars Pathfinder to the present. And that background is put to good use as the main character, Carter, uses similar talents to unravel the mystery of the missing scientist.
There are similar scientific touches added to the story, including seldom-discussed --daily life on the small Martian moon Phobos. Sometimes, the details on Mars and Phobos are a little long, and slow down the plot, but it is a small price to pay for the overall reading experience---
accuracy on the real Mars, solid science fiction and a rather unique Mars mystery.
Some have criticized the love story within the book. Sure,it could be tightened up a bit, but give Hartmann some praise for including passion in the Mars mix.
Let's all remember that Mars itself is a planet of passion and mystery to many of us. There was Percival Lowell and his canals, and Orson Welles and the Mars scare over radio, and pioneers like Robert Goddard who dreamed of flying to Mars and then worked long and hard to develop rockets to get us there.
Hartmann combines this passion, and sense of mystery, built on a solid Mars science foundation.
On to Mars---in person someday, but for now, through robot spacecraft, and creative scientists and writers like Hartmann.