Wednesday, 26 December 2018

The Dinosaur Hunters by Patrick Samphire

The Dinosaur Hunters by Patrick Samphire is the first novella in The Casebook of Harriet George. Although it’s the first in the series, I actually read the second novella first, because it was included in The Underwater Ballroom Society anthology. While the two novellas do stand alone, I suspect reading them in order adds to the context for the second story.

Mars in 1815 is a world of wonders, from the hanging ballrooms of Tharsis City to the air forests of Patagonian Mars, and from the ice caves of Noachis Terra to the Great Wall of Cyclopia, beyond which dinosaurs still roam.

Sixteen-year-old Harriet George has never had the chance for an adventure. Now her older sister is determined to marry her off. Harriet can’t think of anything worse.

Meanwhile, her brother-in-law, Bertrand, has a problem. He’s never been much of a police inspector. As far as Harriet knows, Bertrand has never caught a criminal in his life. But now the famous jewel thief, the Glass Phantom, has come to Mars, and Bertrand has been given the job of tracking him down. If he fails, Bertrand will lose his job and the whole family will be ruined.

Harriet will not let that happen.

So she comes up with a plan: she will capture the Glass Phantom herself. Even if that mean that she and Bertrand have to follow the thief’s intended victim, the Countess von Krakendorff, on a dinosaur hunt in the perilous Martian wilderness. But there is far more going on in this expedition than mere robbery, and the dinosaurs are not the greatest danger.

If Harriet cannot solve the mystery, her family won't just be ruined. She and Bertrand may not make it out of the wilderness alive.

In this novella we are introduced to Harriet who, at the age of sixteen, is living with her older sister and brother in law, after the death of her parents. Her brother in law is a police investigator but, alas, not very good at his job. Because Harriet can see that her future depends on his ability to bring in a paycheque, she decides to help him solve an impossible jewel thief case (which has been handed to him to give his superiors an excuse to fire him when he fails). And so, Harriet dresses up as a boy and accompanies her brother in law on a dinosaur hunting expedition in the hopes of catching the thief.

This was a fun and entertaining read. Harriet is pretty cool and I was amused at how she successfully manipulated Bertrand and his employers to keep herself safe. The world building is super weird and almost not at all scientific. There are dinosaurs on Mars, and airships and a breathable atmosphere. And a lot of their technology runs on springs and compressed air, which is actually pretty cool. It’s also probably sort of period appropriate, alternate history aspects notwithstanding.

I definitely recommend this novella for readers of speculative fiction after a cosy and fun read. It was relaxing (despite a bit of dinosaur-related peril) and I would definitely go and get the next story in the series if I hadn’t already read it.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2016, self-published
Series: The Casebook of Harriet George volume 1 or 2 so far
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from Kobo

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