Set in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, park rangers start to notice that not all is as peaceful as it normally is. Chief Ranger Henry Shore and his local newspaper reporter wife Ann are in for an adventure….or a nightmare. First there are a few tremors, which aren’t so unusual. Then the temperature of the lake begins to rise. Finally, park visitors are going missing and there are rumors of some beast wandering the lake shore.
The suspense started off subtle, twining it’s way through the character & location set up. We learn quite a bit about Henry and his wife, a bit about their grown daughter (Leila) and their infant granddaughter (Zoe). Crater Lake is a peaceful place, much more so than New York city where Henry was once a cop. Then the rumors of a possible lake creature start along with the tremors. A magnificent fossil bed is revealed by a minor earthquake and the paleontologist Justin arrives on scene. From there are on out, more and more pieces fall into place as folks go missing, boats are wrecked, and odd prints appear along the lake shore. The last two hours of the book were pretty intense with a good mix of action and quiet, intense dinosaur hunting.
Henry, our main character, is pretty interesting. We see much of the book from his viewpoint, observing what he sees and hears, watching his thoughts turn things over. I liked that he wasn’t some young, romantic action hero. Nope, he’s well into the second half of his life, has a solid marriage, a once troubled daughter, and a job that gives him peace of mind. Ann is our second main character, having a passion for journalism and for good cooking. While she does play second fiddle to Henry throughout the book, she is still and integral part of the story. The local paper she works for is going under and she wishes to save it. Perhaps her attempts to do so will put her in the middle of the action.
And that leads me into my one criticism. The ladies have very little to do in this book. They are wives, love interests, or children. They must be tucked safely way or rescued. Ann is the most proactive of them all and even so she has to be kept save at a friend’s house out of the way and rescued later on. There are no female paleontologists or park rangers or cops. There is one other female journalist & one female homeless wife & mother. Both have very short roles. If the book didn’t contain modern tech like cell phones, I might have placed this story in the 1950s or 1960s for the subtle remarks made about women in careers and the strength of women. So that’s my only negative about this book: I wish the women had more roles and roles that pertained to the plot and not just window dressing.
Now, obviously, there is plenty of dinosaur talk throughout the book. Hooray! I liked the tidbits on what scientists know about dinos and what scientists have guessed about dinos. There were also some theories kicked around about how such a beast came to be in the lake. I have to say that while they were all fantastical, none of them were realistic. But I was totally cool with that because this is fiction and none of the characters were biologists or ecologists, who would have had a much better guess. I also really like that the folks involved had various reactions to this beast. Some wanted to capture it and study it. Others wanted to let it have the lake for its lifetime. Still others looked at the body count and got realistic. Overall, this was a fun tale that started with a dream many of us have had (to see a real dino) and ended in strive and consternation as the reality of mixing dinos & humans hit the characters. Looking forward to the sequel!
The Narration: Johnnie Hays was a good fit for Henry. He has a slightly graveling voice that makes me think of a mature, somewhat hardened, male authority figure. He also had a range of male voices for the other male characters. His female voices always sounded like they were in a stage whisper. So throughout the book I kept picturing Ann whispering everything even when she was upset or excited.