Once again author Michael Crichton weaves a tale that blends fiction and historical facts to make a fascinating story. (Sadly, Crichton passed away in 2008-truly one of modern greats.) The novel centers around a Yale student of wealth and privilege, William Johnson, who decides to go West on a bet with another student. The venture West to the Dakota and Montana Territories of 1876 is fraught with danger and led by Othniel C. Marsh, a professor of paleontology.
The search is for dinosaur bones hidden within the vast amount of rock.
Fairly quickly Johnson is abandoned in Cheyenne, Wyoming by Marsh due to unfounded suspicions that he is a spy for another professor of paleontology, one Edward Drinker Cope.
In reality and within the story, these two professors had quite the rivalry and enmity between them.
Fortunately for Johnson, he finds himself recruited by Cope and aids him on his excavations.
Johnson’s story is a vehicle to tell of the incredible finds by Cope in the wild and dangerous Badlands of Montana. Not to spoil it for you, suffice it to say Johnson does return East, a changed man. 5 stars.
This is a fantastic novel by Matthew Pearl. It offers the reader an interesting and captivating mystery that must be solved by the members of the Dante Club (a real group)–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and J.T. Fields. These real historical figures are perfectly positioned to solve a series of murders around Cambridge, MA. because all assist Longfellow on his translation of Dante’s masterpiece into English. The macabre crimes replicate scenes from Dant’s Inferno, which leave the Boston police baffled.
The author makes the inclusion of these real men, all primarily professors or related to literature, come alive with well-researched historical facts, settings, and dialogue of the Civil War era. Any reader that enjoys a riveting mystery, whether knowledgeable about Dante’s works or not, will delight in this wonderful story. 5 stars.
Thriller fans and readers may be disappointed by Christopher Reich’s first book in the Jonathan Ransom series, Rules of Deception. The premise of the story is that Ransom’s wife dies in a mountaineering accident with Jonathan, but he soon finds that she is not who she seemed to be when alive. His decision to investigate this oddity, though only a medical doctor, thrusts him into the dark world world of espionage, terrorism, counter terrorism, and fanatical religious zealots.
It all appears to be a good recipe for a great thriller, except for several points. First, there are way too many implausible plot points. Second, at least for me, none of the main characters are very appealing or likeable, except for a Swiss policeman named von Daniken.
Decide for yourself. I give it 2 stars and that’s being generous.