Digging For Trouble

Digging For Trouble

by Linda Fairstein


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Twelve-year-old supersleuth Devlin Quick heads to Montana to dig out dinosaur bones, but instead she uncovers a mystery in this second book in the thrilling series from New York Times bestselling author Linda Fairstein

After successfully apprehending a map thief at the beginning of summer, Dev is going to spend the second half of her summer vacation in Montana with her best friend, Katie, participating in a dinosaur dig. Before long, trouble arrives in the form of a mysterious fossil stealer. But the fossil thief isn't the only danger here, with snakes, scorpions, and bears abound, Montana is a treacherous place for finding answers. But nothing can stop Devlin from investigating!

When the mystery takes Dev and Katie back to Manhattan—to the Museum of Natural History—the case gets even more complicated, even with Dev's friend Booker there to help. Dev has to use her brains, brawn, and yes, okay, the lessons learned from her police commissioner mother if she wants to dig up the truth once and for all. This is the perfect read for fans of Nancy Drew and Theodore Boone.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399186479
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 09/04/2018
Series: Devlin Quick Mysteries Series , #2
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Linda Fairstein worked in the district attorney’s office in Manhattan for more than two decades. Her Alexandra Cooper novels are international bestsellers and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She lives in Manhattan and on Martha’s Vineyard. The Devlin Quick Mysteries are her first books for children.


New York, New York and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

May 5, 1947

Place of Birth:

Mount Vernon, New York


B.A., Vassar College, 1969; J.D., University of Virginia School of Law, 1972

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

“I think I’m afraid to keep digging, Dev,” Katie said.

We were both on our hands and knees, crawling up the side of a gulch in Montana, somewhere between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. I turned over and sat up, reaching for a bottle of water from my backpack.

“You haven’t got any reason to be afraid, Katie,” I said. “Take a sip and chill out.”

It was 94 degrees in the middle of the afternoon, and there was nothing—no trees, no bushes or shrubs—nothing to offer any shade to us as we inched forward over the brown sandstone surface of the hill.

“I don’t want to be touching anybody’s bones,” Katie said, brushing off her hands. “That would really creep me out.”

“It’s not people we’re looking for. It’s fossils,” I said. “Trust me, I’m not interested in coming face-to-face with human bones, either.”

“Then why are you working so hard at this?”

I had a small hammer and a whisk broom, sort of a handheld miniature version of a large sweeper, sticking out of my pants pockets. I had been using both of them—one to poke at rock formations and the other to brush away the dirt that covered them—as I made my way up the steep incline.

“C’mon, Katie. You like a good adventure as much as I do. There are supposed to be dinosaur fossils all over this valley,” I said, sweeping my arm around in a semicircle, taking in the vast expanse of what the locals called Big Sky Country. “Isn’t it cool to think we might find some of them?”

“Don’t even mention the word ‘cool,’” Katie said, holding the water bottle against her forehead. “I think I was six years old when my dad bought our ranch out here in Big Timber. I never figured Montana doesn’t have an ocean anywhere around it. I really miss the beach right now.”

“If you paid attention in science last year, you’d remember that where we’re sitting this very moment was once the sea,” I said, reaching over to fan my best friend with my whisk broom. “The Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway, right next to the coastal plains where gigantic dinosaurs roamed seventy million years ago.”

“I can’t believe that you actually did homework to prepare for this summer vacation trip,” Katie said, rolling her eyes at me. “That is so Devlin Quick of you.”

“I am Devlin Quick,” I said, getting to my feet and giving Katie my hand to help her up. “Besides, your dad signed us up for this dino dig, and we’ve only got two more days to go. I’m getting fossil fever, for sure.”

Katie Cion and I met in kindergarten. We were starting eighth grade at the Ditchley School in Manhattan—a private girls’ school—after summer break. We were pretty much inseparable, and I was so happy her parents had invited me to spend two weeks at their ranch.

“Now what?” Katie asked.

“We’ve got a couple more hours to go,” I said. “We have to reach that tent at the top of the ridge by five o’clock, for everyone to check in on the day’s progress.”

“Why isn’t there a ski lift to get me up there, Dev? My legs are too short for this climb.”

I was back on my hands and knees, trying to concentrate on unusual spots on the surface of the ground. “Think of it this way, Katie. Your very cute neighbor will be waiting at the peak, and I’ve seen the way you look at that cowboy.”

“Kyle? You’re ridiculous, Dev. He’s just my Montana buddy,” Katie said. “And he’s fourteen years old. I mean, he’s not interested in me.”

Katie was back in position with her head just inches above the top layer of earth, probably so that I couldn’t see her blush. She was pawing away at the dirt with renewed enthusiasm.

The land we were digging on was privately owned. It was a few miles away from Big Timber, which is the town where Katie’s dad had built a ranch on the Boulder River. He liked to go fly-fishing, and the river that roared through the Cion’s backyard was perfect for that.

“What do you think this is?” Katie asked, holding up a round gray object that looked like an ordinary rock.

“I have no idea. Why not wrap it in that soft material they gave us and put it in your backpack to show to Mr. Paulson?”

Steve Paulson was the man who was supervising the dig. He was a paleontologist—a scientist who studies fossils. The government doesn’t fund much of this work, so Steve told Katie’s dad that he liked to have volunteers to help him with summer digs.

About nine months ago, the rancher who lives on the land we were on today, found the giant leg bone of a dinosaur. He had just been out hiking on a path that went from his property into the state forest next to it when he spotted it.

Steve met with all the volunteers last night to explain what we’d be doing and what we should look for. He told us he was pretty certain that the remote acres of land on the Double G Ranch were actually a bone bed—a dense deposit of fossil bones from prehistoric times.

Katie stopped and removed a length of light-brown padding from her pack. “This really smells gross,” she said, wrapping the rock inside it and tucking it away.

“It’s made from the hair of a camel,” I said. “It’s called camel matting. It’s what they use in the desert to protect things they find there, like your piece of rock, because it’s so soft.”

“Cotton’s soft, too, and it doesn’t smell like it’s been sweating in the desert sun for hundreds of years.”

“Stop whining about everything, Katie,” I said. “Get back to work.”

Katie readjusted her hat. She was fair-skinned and blond, and needed to keep covered from the sun. I had black hair like my dad and a complexion that tanned easily, though both Katie and I had lathered up with sunscreen. Katie was petite and at least four inches shorter than me. I was what my grandmother liked to call a “gangly girl”—long-legged and lanky.

I scraped away loose dirt in hopes of finding buried treasure. Every now and then, I looked back over my shoulder to check out what the others were doing. Some were working by themselves, while others formed small clusters on the broad hillside.

I must have been ten or twelve feet ahead of Katie.

“Why are you going so fast?” she said to me. “I don’t want you to leave me behind. Don’t you know what the Double G stands for?”

“You mean the name of this ranch?” I asked. “Clue me in.”

“My dad says the initials stand for Great Grizzlies, Dev. Like this land is totally covered in bears. That’s what the place was named for.”

I paused and looked back at Katie, laughing at her. “Not right here, that’s for sure. Bears don’t like the heat. They spend this part of the day sleeping in some shaded grassy spot. They’re more likely to be under the cottonwood trees along the river in your backyard in Big Timber than where we are now.”

I continued my climb up the slope, even though I was losing my patience. It was tough work to comb the ground for bits and pieces of stuff. I didn’t realize how far I had gotten from Katie until I heard her shout my name out loud.


I stood up and glanced down at her, now thirty feet away.

“What is it?”

Katie’s voice had carried across the hillside and almost everyone stopped in his or her tracks to look over at her.

I ran down, slipping as I neared my friend and landing on my tail. “What is it? Are you all right?”

“I’m fine. I’m perfectly fine.”

There was a small bump protruding from the sandstone, covered in gnarled pebbles and sharp pieces of rock. Next to that were a few strips of gray-black stone that almost looked like fingers. Human fingers.

I let out a low whistle. “I bet they’re dinosaur bones,” I said. “They look exactly like the photographs Mr. Paulson showed us last night.”

“The color is right,” Katie said, almost shivering with excitement. “The size and shape are the same. They could be remains from small dinosaurs, couldn’t they?”

Katie took a few more pieces of camel matting out of her pack and began to wrap the three pieces she had found. “This mat smells like perfume to me now.”

I reached into my bag and pulled out the small can of orange-neon paint, spraying a large circle around the area to mark the spot of Katie’s find, like Steve had taught us to do this morning.

Neither one of us heard the approach of the man until he stood over us, the brim of his cowboy hat casting a shadow over my hand and the tip of his hiking boots practically stepping on the spray-painted marking I’d made.

“What have you got there, little lady?” he asked in a Montana drawl.

“Just some rocks, I think,” Katie said, always fast-thinking on her feet. “I’m picking them up to give to Mr. Paulson when we get to the crest.”

“Why don’t you show them to me?” he said, holding out his hand to her.

“I don’t know you, sir. I was told to hold everything until Mr. Paulson gets a chance to look at stuff first. I’m sure they’re nothing at all.”

The man crouched beside us. He was probably fifty or so. His skin was weathered and lined, and his outstretched hand was bigger than a catcher’s mitt.

“I’m Chip Donner. I work for Steve Paulson,” he said, turning his eyes to me. “Nobody draws a neon circle on the ground around nothin’, missy, do they? So why not just show me what you two found?”

Katie looked to me and I nodded. “Let him see, Katie. No harm in that.”

She slowly unrolled her three little packages and set them back on the ground. Chip Donner glanced at the odd-looking pieces. He didn’t crack a smile. I had no idea what he was thinking.

“Just rocks,” he said. “You girls will learn soon enough. I thought maybe you had something real good, like a dinosaur tooth.”

“We’re pretty happy with these for right now,” Katie said. “Whatever they are.”

“Tell you what—Miss—?”

“Cion. Katie Cion.”

“So you’re David Cion’s kid?” Donner said, reaching underneath the trio of camel mats with his huge hand and standing tall to hold them up over our heads, before I could get to my feet to challenge him. “Why don’t I just help you out, for your daddy’s sake? I’ll walk these right up to the tent and make sure they get tagged and photographed and returned to you by the time you reach the top.”

“We don’t need help,” I said. “Thanks very much but we’re doing just fine.”

“Wouldn’t want you breaking up things in the event they have value,” he said. “I wouldn’t want you to get blamed for splitting these rocks in half in case you slip down again and fall on top of them.”

“Katie’s the most responsible girl I know,” I said, but Donner was walking away from me faster than I could go, and Katie was still picking up her supplies from the ground.

“I can’t believe I let that guy take off with my fossils, Dev,” Katie said. She was close to tears and I understood exactly why.

“Cowgirls don’t cry,” I said. “The faster we can get to the top, the sooner we blow the whistle on him.”

“But my bones,” Katie said.

I grabbed her hand and started pulling her up the incline. “You didn’t want any bones in the first place. Now get moving.”

We reached the ridge about twenty minutes later, sweating and out of breath and completely disheartened.

The area under the small white open-sided tent held three tables, one of them set up with lemonade and cookies. The other two seemed to be work sites, where an assortment of specimens were laid out, each one of which was resting on a piece of paper on which the volunteer’s name was written. I looked for three pieces the shape of Katie’s find, but didn’t see anything like them.

Two women were in charge of refreshments. Several of the older volunteers were seated on folding chairs, refreshing themselves, while others were chatting in small groups.

Kyle Lowry, Katie’s Big Timber neighbor, was just getting off his dirt bike and ambling over to the tent.

“The worst thing happened to us just now, Kyle,” Katie said.

“What’s that?”

“Well, I found some things—Dev and I think they might be dinosaur fossils. And I guess I made too much noise, and the next thing I know this guy came down the hill and he took them away from me. Just snatched them and walked off.”

“Steve Paulson?”

“No, Kyle,” I said. “We met Steve last night. This man said his name is Chip Donner. He spooked both of us, to tell you the truth. Does he really work for Steve?”

“I mean the pieces I found aren’t here on the table,” Katie said, breaking in to my series of questions. “They’re just gone.”

“Don’t get panicky, Katie,” Kyle said, pulling his hands out of the pockets of his jeans. “They’ll turn up. Donner’s not a thief. My dad knows him from back home in Big Timber. Nobody working for Steve would be a thief.”

“What do we do?” I asked. I felt sort of out of place here. Back in Manhattan, I was a lot surer of myself. “Should we ask Steve about this?”

“I don’t think so,” Katie said. “Not yet, anyway. I don’t want to bother him unless I’m really certain of everything.”

“Whatever you think,” I said. “I know who to go to for help when I’m at home, but this territory feels like being on a different planet.”

“You’re in the Badlands, Dev. The Montana Badlands,” Kyle Lowry said. “Let’s all just stick together. These parts didn’t get that name for no reason.”


Excerpted from "Digging For Trouble"
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Copyright © 2018 Linda Fairstein.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
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