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by Christine Gentry
Poisoned Pen Press, April 2005
247 pages
ISBN: 1590581504

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Ansel Phoenix makes a living as a paleoartist. She draws accurate representations of dinosaurs from their bones and other fossils. She lives near the Big Toe Natural History Museum, which features a life-sized replica of an Allosaurus that she helped design. One day she gets a frantic phone call to come to the museum. What she finds is a dead body dangling out of the Allosaurus' mouth.

The Bureau of Land Management wants to use this dead body as a reason to take away the town's rights to the land and move the fossils to another site. As this is the only tourist attraction in the area, Ansel does not agree with this decision. She vows to investigate the murder and prevent the BLM from accomplishing their goals.

This murder presents problems for the local police agency as well. As the man was murdered, they feel that they should be responsible for the investigation. The FBI also feel they should be responsible for the case as it is government land. Both agencies set about investigating without informing the other of their plans or results.

The FBI draw Ansel into their investigation by explaining that they are on the track of a huge illegal trade of dinosaur bones and fossils. Her background as half Native American will be helpful in their sting operation. Ansel's biggest problem is to decide if they are telling her the truth or what they think she wants to hear.

CARNOSAUR CRIMES has a great premise but the book did not live up to its potential. By including so many plot elements - Ansel's heritage, her relationship woes, the FBI, family problems, dinosaurs, various criminals, local police, and opinions about Montana - the book just got bogged down in the details.

The use of many of these plot devices seemed more a method for capturing more readers than because they were necessary to the story. Some authors can write books with multiple subplots and a lot of personal description, but they manage to include all of this information without slowing the book down.

Gentry does not yet have the ability to write a plot that is richly developed and appears seamless. Until she has this ability, it might be a good idea to cut out some of the superfluous information. In addition, Gentry needs to decide what type of book she is writing. Does she want to write a mystery novel or is she more interested in exploring Ansel Phoenix's life and personal traumas? Ultimately, she has the option to combine both genres, but her writing ability needs to strengthen to do this successfully.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, April 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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