St. Martin’s, May 2008, $24.95
In Blanco County, Texas, Peter “Pastor Pete” Boothe hires backhoe operator Hollis Farley to clear the land for the construction of a mega church complex, a controversial project not warmly received by everyone. Hollis uncovers an Alamosaurus skull that if reported would halt construction until it can be determined whether the area is an archeological gold mine. However, someone shoots an arrow into Farley’s back and the fossil vanishes.
Red O’Brien learned from Hollis what he found and wants the valuable fossil. So does paleontologist Dr. Underwood, who based on pictures told Game Warden John Marlin the skull could be worth millions. Meanwhile Red persuades his roommate three-hundred pound Billy Don Craddock to seduce Farley’s sister, Betty Jean, as he assumes she is the most likely person to have the dinosaur skull. He also considers those in Pastor Pete’s inner sanction like the preacher’s cheating wife and his top lieutenant. On the other hand there are those working for dinosaur-lover Darwin Parker. While Red works his amateur sleuthing from all angles, he intrudes on Marlin’s official professional inquiry into what happened to Hollis though O’Brien sees the cops getting in his way.
This is a wild well written salute to avarice as just about everyone has a reason to claim the skull and will do what it takes to gain possession. The story line is fast-paced and filled with greedy twists as rivalries battle for ownership. Interestingly Marlin is the hero as he was in GUN SHY, but he shares top billing with Red, Paster Pete, and an assortment of people who spent too much time sniffing oil fumes or baking in the Texas heat.