A fossil discovered at London's Natural History Museum leads one woman back in time to nineteenth century Australia and a world of scientific discovery and dark secrets in this compelling historical mystery.
The Hunter Valley 1847
The last thing Mellie Vale remembers before the fever takes her is running through the bush as a monster chases her - but no one believes her story. In a bid to curb Mellie's overactive imagination, her benefactors send her to visit a family friend, Anthea Winstanley. Anthea is an amateur palaeontologist with a dream. She is convinced she will one day find proof the great sea dragons - the ichthyosaur and the plesiosaur - swam in the vast inland sea that millions of years ago covered her property at Bow Wow Gorge. Soon, Mellie shares that dream for she loves fossil hunting too...
When Penelope Jane Martindale arrives home from the battlefields of World War I with the intention of making her peace with her father and commemorating the death of her two younger brothers in the trenches, her reception is not as she had hoped. Looking for distraction, she finds a connection between a fossil at London's Natural History museum and her brothers which leads her to Bow Wow Gorge. But the gorge has a sinister reputation - 70 years ago people disappeared. So when PJ uncovers some unexpected remains, it seems as if the past is reaching into the present and she becomes determined to discover what really happened all that time ago...
This elegant dual narrative historical from Cooper (The Cartographer's Secret) follows a young woman as she pieces together the fate of a 19th-century paleontologist. In 1847 Wollombi, Australia, 12-year-old Mellie Vale is put in the care of Dr. Pearson and his wife, Edna, while Mellie recovers from chicken pox and her father awaits sentencing for his murder conviction. At Edna's behest, Mellie accompanies Edna's two daughters for an extended stay in nearby Bow Wow with Anthea Winstanley, a paleontologist and friend of the Pearsons. Mellie takes to fossil hunting, but becomes spooked by the arrival of a London gentleman with shadowy motives angling to buy Winstanley's land and telling stories about bunyips, the mythical amphibious creatures Mellie believes responsible for her ill-remembered trauma. In 1919 London, P.J. Martindale visits the Natural History Museum and finds a fossil with a connection to her hometown of Wollombi. Eager to outrun her grief over her brothers' deaths in WWI, she returns to Australia and visits the Bow Wow Gorge, where her discovery of human remains leads her to investigate what became of a paleontologist rumored to have disappeared there decades earlier. Cooper's confident prose and deep empathy for her characters will keep readers hooked as she unspools her intrigue-filled mystery. Historical fans will want to dig this one up.