In this Victorian novel, Cora Seagrave’s abusive husband has died, leaving her and her son the best possible gifts: freedom and wealth. Cora is lately obsessed with the new science of paleontology, and decides to leave London for the sleepy town of Essex, where old rumors of a winged, scaly serpent have resurfaced and, to Cora, represent the potential of a long-lost ichthyosaur. There she befriends the local rector whose wife is dying of consumption. The serpent hovers over their complicated and intimate relationship, in which Cora’s trust in science and burgeoning feminism clashes and weaves with the rector’s faith in god and his love for his town. A wonderfully engrossing and distracting book.