Did Morgan really disappear from the museum?

The Paleontologist

Luke Dumas

Atria Paperback


The Covid outbreak was hard on many people. Paleontologist Dr. Simon Nealy suffered mental health issues and the end of his relationship. Seeking escape, Simon applies for a vacancy as Director of Paleontology and Curator of Dinosauria at the Hawthorne Museum of Natural History in his hometown of Wrexham, Pennsylvania. The Hawthorne is familiar to Simon. Not only did it fuel his love of dinosaurs, it was also the place where his six year old sister Morgan disappeared twenty years before when Simon was only tenHis drug and alcohol addicted mother left him, leaving Simon with her sister who took him home to Chicago. Excitement wars with dread in Simon when his application is accepted. On returning to Wrexham, it’s clear the Hawthorne’s seen better days. The late Victorian building is deteriorating, the institution on the verge of financial collapse. Only a major new exhibit has any chance of turning things around. Simon has an idea, but from the moment he enters the museum matters take an eerie turn.

At night strange sounds made by creatures that lived millions of years ago echo throughout the building. Shadows of ancient beasts move in the halls. Even the fossilized remains of Theo, the Jurassic-era ceratosaur which Simon hopes will revive the Hawthorne’s fortunes seems to be haunted. Fearing the loss of his sanity, Simon delves into the fossils’ background and uncovers a litany of strange events stretching back through the museum’s history almost to its foundation. His predecessor, Albert Mueller, left records that show increasingly erratic behavior with disturbing connections to Simon’s past. As the unveiling of the new exhibit approaches, Mueller’s revelations drive Simon almost insane. Did Mueller have something to do with Morgan’s disappearance? Is there a high level cover-up in the Hawthorne’s institution? Only a direct confrontation with the suspect promises any kind of relief from Simon’s nightmares, but it’ll come with a heavy price.

The Paleontologist is a page-turner with few rivals in the build-up of suspense. The darkness in the museum’s halls and the increasing sense of dread are palpable throughout. Dr. Simon Nealy is sympathetic character with all too human failings, foibles—and strengths. Readers of suspense thrillers will get a big kick out of this book.