|Genre||Thriller, Science fiction|
|Publisher||Forge Books (Tor)|
|Dewey Decimal||813/.54 22|
|LC Classification||PS3566.R3982 T97 2005|
|Preceded by||The Codex|
The novel opens with a lunar find by the Apollo 17 astronauts, which is suppressed.
Tom Broadbent (who first appeared in Preston's novel The Codex) is riding in the New Mexico desert when he hears gunshots coming from Tyrannosaur Canyon (a fictional canyon east of the Rio Chama Gorge, on Mesa Viejo, and north of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert). Following the sound, he comes upon an old prospector who has been shot by a sniper. He gives Tom a notebook just before he dies, and Tom rides off on his horse to find help. The murderer, Jimson Maddox, is furious that the notebook is gone by the time he reaches the body; he has been hired to retrieve it at any cost. He does, however, find an interesting rock sample. When Tom returns to Tyrannosaur Canyon with the police, the prospector's body has disappeared without a trace.
The notebook is filled with numbers, some kind of code Tom is unable to decipher. He brings the book to Wyman Ford, a monk in training at a nearby monastery. Ford is a retired CIA analyst and he takes the notebook to try to decipher it. Ford discovers that the numbers are not a code but a sequence of ground-penetrating radar readings. When processed, they form the image of a fully intact Tyrannosaurus.
The rock sample Maddox found turns out to be a fragment of the Tyrannosaurus. Maddox's employer, Iain Corvus, is a curator at the American Museum of Natural History, and he convinces a lab assistant, Melodie Crookshank, to examine the sample in secret. Corvus intends to steal her research, acquire a permit to excavate the Tyrannosaur, and thus secure tenure at the museum, as well as wealth and fame.
Melodie discovers tiny particles within the sample which she calls "Venus particles". Upon making this discovery, Melodie calls Corvus to describe it to him, and the NSA hears the call. They initiate a black op led by J.G. Masago to cover up evidence of the particles, kill any witnesses, and retrieve the specimen.
Meanwhile, Ford goes into the desert to look for the dinosaur. At the same time, desperate to recover the notebook, Maddox kidnaps Tom Broadbent's wife. He takes her to an abandoned mine to use as a bargaining chip, forcing Tom to hand over the notebook. Now that Maddox has the notebook, however, he intends to kill Sally so he can not be identified. She manages to break free, Tom rescues her, and the two of them escape into the desert on foot, pursued by Maddox and his rifle.
Masago infiltrates the museum and kills Corvus, stealing the samples and his research. But Melodie, realizing previously that Corvus would try to steal the credit from her, had made copies of everything and hid them, along with more samples of the dinosaur. When she sees that he has been murdered and that his work is missing, she realizes she is the next likely target. Her only chance is to complete the research and post it to the Internet, so killing her would no longer serve the purposes of a cover-up. During her final research, she discovers that the 65-million-year-old Venus particles are still alive. They are a type of virus that destroys the cell structure of reptiles, evidently introduced to the earth by the Chicxulub meteorite. She posts her findings to the web to show the world.
Back in the desert, the black ops team has tracked Ford down, and Maddox is gaining on Tom and Sally. They manage to overpower Maddox and kill him, retrieving the notebook, and Ford leads them out of the canyon in an effort to evade the government assassins. Trapped in an old Anasazi cave, they discover the partially excavated Tyrannosaurus Rex. Ford convinces Masago's team to turn on him. Masago tells them about the Venus particles, which had also been found on the moon, thus establishing convincingly their extraterrestrial origin. All leave in a helicopter. Masago breaks free and causes the helicopter to crash, killing most on board. Tom, Sally, Ford, and Masago's former right-hand man escape alive.
By the time they arrive with news about the dinosaur's location, Melodie's research has spread across the Internet. All those involved are made famous, including Robbie Weathers, the old prospector's daughter. The Smithsonian Institution funds a program to research the Venus particles and the dinosaur itself and the theory is raised that the particles may have been intentionally developed by an alien race to destroy the dinosaurs and allow humans to begin their evolution.
- This book marks the first appearance of Wyman Ford, who will be seen in most Douglas Preston novels going forward.