Friday, December 24, 2021

Short Book Reviews: A Dinosaur Hunting Romance in the Wild West

Every Hidden Thing
, by Kenneth Oppel (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Oh my. Dinosaur hunters and the Wild West and star-crossed lovers, all in one fast-paced, eminently readable novel.

The late 19th Century was marked by, among other things, rivalries between paleontologists. The equivalent of a fossil Gold Rush sent them into the West, in this case the Badlands, in search of ever more spectacular finds. Amateurs vied with professors for the fame of their discoveries, although by the time of Every Hidden Thing, professional journals and museums were already favoring those with academic credentials. To say these bone hunters were cavalier about their treatment of fossil-bearing sites, their understanding of anatomy, and their ethics in dealing with one another is an understatement. Bribery, theft, lies, luring away employees, and outright destruction of excavations were not unheard of.

Set in a fictional version of this fossil race is a love story between the adult children of the two rivals, one an amateur desperate to hold on to his tattered reputation, the other a pompous academic. The young people manage to get themselves included in the expeditions mounted by their fathers, a race to find and unearth “Black Beauty,” a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. They encounter grifters and Native Americans, the latter resentful about incursions into their territory, guides and traitors, not to mention the elements and hazards of excavation.

It’s a lively page-turner with a pair of engaging lovers, curmudgeonly elders, plot twists, and best of all, dinosaur bones!

No comments:

Post a Comment