Book Review: The Fossil Hunter by Tea Cooper

About the Book:

A fossil discovered at London’s Natural History Museum leads one woman back in time to nineteenth century Australia and a world of scientific discovery and dark secrets in this compelling historical mystery.

The Hunter Valley 1847

The last thing Mellie Vale remembers before the fever takes her is running through the bush as a monster chases her – but no one believes her story. In a bid to curb Mellie’s overactive imagination, her benefactors send her to visit a family friend, Anthea Winstanley. Anthea is an amateur palaeontologist with a dream. She is convinced she will one day find proof the great sea dragons – the ichthyosaur and the plesiosaur – swam in the vast inland sea that millions of years ago covered her property at Bow Wow Gorge. Soon, Mellie shares that dream for she loves fossil hunting too…


When Penelope Jane Martindale arrives home from the battlefields of World War I with the intention of making her peace with her father and commemorating the death of her two younger brothers in the trenches, her reception is not as she had hoped. Looking for distraction, she finds a connection between a fossil at London’s Natural History museum and her brothers which leads her to Bow Wow Gorge. But the gorge has a sinister reputation – 70 years ago people disappeared. So when PJ uncovers some unexpected remains, it seems as if the past is reaching into the present and she becomes determined to discover what really happened all that time ago…

Published by HQ Fiction AU

Released 27th October 2021

My Thoughts:

The Fossil Hunter is my first Tea Cooper novel, but it certainly won’t be my last. What a terrific novel of historical fiction this was. It contained so many of the story elements I like best: pioneering women, natural history, and an abandoned house tainted by mystery. What a talented writer Tea Cooper is, both with character creation and her story weaving.

There were some serious underlying themes explored within both timelines and the links between both eras were solid and plausible – something I always look for in dual narrative historical fiction. References to early female pioneers of palaeontology – fossil hunters – were sprinkled throughout, offering a springboard for further reading if you were so inclined. It was just by coincidence that I recently watched the film Ammonite, a story about Mary Anning, the 19th century English palaeontologist, who is mentioned as an associate of Anthea Winstanley in The Fossil Hunter. I love it when my reading and viewing crosses over like that.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Fossil Hunter and recommend it highly to fans of Australian historical fiction.


Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Fossil Hunter by Tea Cooper

  1. Pingback: Historical Fiction Round Up: October 2021 | Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s