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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Conjurer's Bird by Martin Davies

The Conjurer's Bird by Martin Davies. New York: Shaye Areheart Books, 2005. ISBN: 1-4000-9733-9

This is a remarkable novel, well worth the time and whatever effort is involved in its reading. I love books that are erudite, and that involve searching for something old and lost, with lots of research required. And that's what we have here.

What are we looking for? The “Mysterious Bird of Ulieta,” a fairly plain, ordinary looking bird, that was seen, captured and preserved on Captain Cook's second journey to the South Pacific. All that remains today is a single drawing. No one knows if the actual specimen survived, or where it might be, if it did. The bird was never seen again in the wild. Apparently its species had become extinct by the time the next naturalists visited that island. Did the bird even ever exist?

Our narrator, an academic taxidermist, who used to have dreams of writing THE definitive book on extinct bird species, is enlisted by his former lover to help track down the bird. Meantime, is he falling in love with his young tenant, Katya?

In between segments of this modern story, we are privilege to a budding relationship between the famous naturalist, Joseph Banks (who went on the original Cook expedition, and in whose collection the bird ended up), and a very private young woman whose artistry in botanical drawing and painting he admired, but whose circumstances are less than ideal.

So we have love stories both in past and present, all caught and inter tangled with the search for the mysterious bird, and some equally mysterious drawings that may be hidden with it. All undoubtedly extremely valuable if found.

I don't suppose this description really does the book justice. Suffice it to say that it's one of those books with characters and events that grab you, and make you want to keep turning the pages. As the romantic relationships unfold over time, the mystery, too, is gradually unraveling. Highly recommended. Read this bookyou won't be sorry!

Postscript: Apparently Martin Davies has also written two mysteries featuring Mrs. Hudson, housekeeper to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Titles are Mrs. Hudson and the Malabar Rose (2006) and Mrs. Hudson and the Spirit's Curse (2004). Since I'm a fan of anything Sherlockian, and I enjoyed this book so much, I must definitely look these two up and read them.

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