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The Darwin Conspiracyby John Darnton
Synopses & Reviews
In this riveting new novel, best-selling author John Darnton transports us to Victorian England and around the world to reveal the secrets of a legendary nineteenth-century figure. Darnton elegantly blends the power of fact and the insights of fiction to explore the many mysteries attached to the life and work of Charles Darwin.
What led Darwin to the theory of evolution? Why did he wait twenty-two years to write On the Origin of Species? Why was he incapacitated by mysterious illnesses and frightened of travel? Who was his secret rival? These are some of the questions driving Darnton's richly dramatic narrative, which unfolds through three vivid points of view: Darwin's own as he sails around the world aboard the Beagle; his daughter Lizzie's as she strives to understand the guilt and fear that struck her father at the height of his fame; and that of present-day anthropologist Hugh Kellem and Darwin scholar Beth Dulicmer, whose obsession with Darwin (and with each other) drives them beyond the accepted boundaries of scholarly research. What Hugh and Beth discover — Lizzie's diaries and letters lead them to a hidden chapter of Darwin's autobiography — is a maze of bitter rivalries, petty deceptions, and jealously guarded secrets, at the heart of which lies the birth of the theory of evolution.
With The Darwin Conspiracy, John Darnton again delivers a stunning tapestry of history and imagination, a galvanizing novel.
"Darwin's theories have been under attack since he first published The Origin of Species in 1859, but this grandly ambitious novel goes a few steps further to intimate that he was a fraud — and a murderer. Told by turns from three perspectives, the story opens in the present on a volcanic outcrop off the coast of Ecuador where Hugh Kellem, a British field researcher, while tracing Darwin's research path, meets Beth Dulcimer, a beautiful scientist rumored to be distantly related to Darwin. A quick shift shows an ambitious young Darwin about to embark on the Beagle. A little further on, Darwin's youngest daughter, Lizzie, enters via her journal entries, written in the 1870s, decades after Darwin's famous five-year voyage. As the three perspectives unfold, Hugh and Beth find themselves trying to solve the same mystery that intrigued Lizzie 130 years earlier: what happened on the 'nuit de feu,' the night that transformed the confident, robust Darwin into a haunted near-invalid for his remaining years? Stilted dialogue, perfunctory romance and expendable subplots make for a rough voyage, but Darnton (Neanderthal) puts real passion into his historical imaginings and recreations: the revelation of the 'true' origin of the theory of evolution is particularly inspired and more than enough to sustain another Darntonian bestseller. Agent, Kathy Robbins. 100,000 first printing. (Sept. 20)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Darnton expertly builds suspense...[and] once again displays the thrilling fast pace and intrigue, meticulous research, and strong character development that he demonstrated in Neanderthal (1996), The Experiment (1999), and Mind Catcher (2002)." Booklist
"Going back and forth in time and written with careful elegance...this work...dares you to put it down at every chapter's end. Recommended..." Library Journal
"[T]he final sections are just plain silly....Reduces one of history's most important scientific discoveries to a mediocre whodunit." Kirkus Reviews
"An elaborately plotted but unconvincing historical thriller in which two young researchers comb musty archives and crumbling manor houses for hidden documents that will reveal a secret side to Darwin's personality." New York Times
"The pages of The Darwin Conspiracy turn quickly and the ending is a neat surprise...But as it is, however, the book is not burdened with too much substance." Christian Science Monitor
"If there is a set of requirements for the idea-driven popular novel that serves up fast-paced history and questions of consequence, The Darwin Conspiracy has them all..." Washington Post
"A wonderfully entertaining creation that stands as a convincing mixture of truth and speculation....engaging speculative fiction about the convergence and deviations of science, faith and the truth they make up." Dallas Morning News
Fact and fiction become intertwined in this novel that explores the mysteries attached to the life and work of Charles Darwin. The narrative unfolds through Darwin's view, that of his youngest daughter, Lizzie, and two scholars.
From the author of the bestselling "Neanderthal "comes this novel of gripping suspense and scientific conquest-a page-turning historical mystery that brilliantly explores the intriguebehind Darwin and his theory of evolution.It's 1831, and aboard HMS "Beagle "the young Charles Darwin sets off down the English Channel for South America. More than 150 years later, two ambitiousscholars pursuing their obsession with Darwin (and with each other) come across the diaries and letters of Darwin's daughter. What they discover is a maze of violent rivalries, petty deceptions, and jealouslyguarded secrets, and the extraordinary story of an expedition embarked upon by two men. Only one returned-and changed history forever.
"From the Trade Paperback edition."
About the Author
John Darnton has worked for thirty-nine years as a reporter, editor, and foreign correspondent for the New York Times. He was awarded two George Polk Awards for his coverage of Africa and Eastern Europe, and the Pulitzer Prize for his stories smuggled out of Poland during the period of martial law. He lives in New York. His first novel, the best seller Neanderthal, was praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for being "as informative as it is entertaining."
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