© 2006 Douglas Preston
What do a 'misplaced' lunar sample and a fossil hunter shot dead in the high mesas of New Mexico have in common? Their shared secret is one that would answer one of humanity's oldest questions...and threaten our extinction. Preston, who has traveled Arizona and New Mexico extensively on horseback, puts his intimacy with the landscape of the Four Corners to use here, leading readers through ancient and winding canyons, perfect for ambushes and plot twists.
For the most part, Tyrannosaur Canyon seems like a straightforward murder mystery, made perfectly interesting by its setting of paleontological intrigue. Before going the way of the dinosaurs, the slain fossil hunter conveys a message to a local, swearing him to secrecy and begging him to get a notebook of mysterious numbers to his daughter, Robbie. The notebook is coveted by the murderer and the man who hired him, and eventually by a retired CIA spook turned Benedictine novitiate, but when a mysterious organization armed with Predator drones surfaces, everyone realizes they're in over their heads. At stake is not a lusted-for paleontological prize, but something more dangerous -- so dangerous that it merits a black-ops detachment known only by a number to monitor and contain it.
Tyrannosaur Canyon found a happy audience in me for various reasons; its main character, who values his word more than his fear; the setting of New Mexico; the supporting character whose contribution was her scientific work, which was shown to the reader and not merely declared; and of course, the dinosaur angle. Science and mystery give way to action scenes halfway through, but there are four unfolding simultaneously, involving all the characters. Prolonged peril loses its point, but on the whole I enjoyed this first encounter with Preston's fiction.
Note: reading this and Dragon Teeth side by side was an accident. I started this one first, then a long-forgotten hold for Crichton's came in on Friday, with a short-term loan. Worked out well, though..
The Monkey Wrench Gang, also involving long chases in slot canyons.