195. The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines by Jo Ann Yhard

The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines by Jo Ann Yhard (Canada) - (USA)

Pages: 169
Ages: 8+
Finished: Sept. 19, 2010
First Published: Apr. 29 2010 CAN (Oct.1 2010 US)
Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
Genre: mystery, children
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Grace double-checked her gear: flashlight, matches, pocket-knife, caving rope, rock hammer, and gloves -- all there.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the author.

Reason for Reading: I liked the whole caves/fossil hunting angle of the mystery.

Grace's father died a mysterious death three months ago, her mother is taking it very hard, and last but not least her creepy neighbour appears to be watching Grace's every motion. So Grace spends most of her time with 3 friends fossil hunting (an activity her father was passionate about) out by the caves near abandoned mines and sinkholes. Grace soon turns her friends into detectives when she receives an anonymous note saying her father's death was not an accident and as they begin investigating what really happened to her father the truth of what is actually going on at the Sydney Mines is unraveled and they are met with life threatening danger from both the land itself and devious criminals out to stop them.

I didn't particularly like the dynamics of the young teens. Grace was very much the boss and two others kept bickering constantly. Grace is the only character fully developed and came off, to me, as a girl who was disrespectful to her mother, constantly lied and disobeyed. The other three were her followers and simply snuck out of their houses whenever the case called for it. However, the four children do grow throughout the story and eventually work out their character issues by stories end.

Character mores and manners aside, I became immersed in the mystery and Ms. Yhard surprised me at every turn by making the plot more and more intricate as it went along. The friends start off looking for any clues that can help tell what really happened to Grace's father and end up finding a much bigger illegal operation, as well as being stalked and chased by someone. On top of that, they are searching on treacherous land where sinkholes can appear at any minute and cave-ins could happen at any time. The mystery is very well-written, fast paced and exciting. The fossil theme is also given great attention as everything relates back to either Grace's father or the Fossil Museum he started. I found the topic very interesting and have a couple of destinations in mind now if I ever make it out to Nova Scotia again for a trip. Kids looking for a straightforward mystery without all the spooky nonsense prevalent in so many mysteries will be happy to find here an intricate mystery, full of excitement, set in the real world.


  1. Oh, you know what else The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines reminded me of? Scooby Doo!! It totally had a “those meddling kids” kinda vibe to it. Loved that.

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  2. I totally agree! I had the Scooby Doo feeling flash through me too, but didn't mention it in the review because I wasn't sure whether that would be taken as a good thing or a bad thing. Though I would have totally meant it in a good way!

  3. I probably wouldn't have liked some of the characters' actions either, but maybe you use that as a way to explain to kids about unacceptable behavior. The mystery aspect sounds good though.

  4. I just picked this up at a book festival. Glad to see you liked it.


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