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The Darwin Conspiracyby John Darnton
Synopses & Reviews
Hugh spotted the boat while it was still a dot on the horizon and watched it approach the island, making a wide, white arc. He shaded his eyes but still he had to squint against the shards of reflected light. Already the morning sun had cut through the haze to lay a shimmering sword on the water.
All around him the birds swooped and darted in the cacophonous morning feeding-hundreds of them, screaming swallow-tailed gulls, brown noddies, boobies homing in with fish dangling in their beaks. A frigate circled behind a gull, yanked its tail feathers to open the gullet, then made a corkscrew dive to grab the catch-a flash of acrobatic violence that had long since ceased to amaze him.
The boat appeared to be a panga, but that was odd: supplies weren't due for days. Hugh fixed his stare on the dark silhouette of the driver. He looked like Raoul, the way he leaned into the wind, one arm trailing back on the throttle.
Hugh dropped his canvas tool bag near the mist net and started down. The black rocks were streaked white and gray with guano, which stank in the windless air and made the lava slippery, but he knew the footholds perfectly. The heat pressed down on him.
When he reached the bottom of the cliffside, Raoul was already there. He idled the swaying panga a few feet from the landing rock, a narrow ledge that was washed by an ankle-deep wave every few seconds.
Amigo, shouted Raoul, grinning behind dark glasses.
“Hey, Cowboy,” said Hugh. He coughed to clear his throat-it had been a long time since he had talked to anybody.
Raoul was wearing pressed khaki shorts, a Yankees cap over his thick black hair at a jaunty angle, and a dark blue jersey with the insignia of the Galapagos National Park on the left breast pocket.
Just stopping by, he said. “What's new?”
I thought you will be totally crazy by now.” His English was almost perfect but sometimes an odd phrasing gave him away.
“No, not totally. But I'm working on it.
So, how’s the ermitano?”
Ermitano, Raoul repeated. “How do you say that?”
Raoul nodded and regarded him closely. “So, how're you doing?
Fine,” lied Hugh.
Raoul looked away.
“I brought two chimbuzos.” He gestured with his chin to two water barrels strapped to the mid-seat. Help me to deliver them.
Hugh leapt into the boat, unstrapped a barrel, and hoisted it over his right shoulder. The weight threw off his balance and he tottered like a drunken sailor and almost fell into the water.
Not like that, said Raoul. “Put them overboard and shove them to the mat. Then you climb up and pick them up.
The mat, short for welcome mat,” was the nickname the researchers called the rocky ledge. Raoul had hung around them so long, help- ing out now and then because he admired what they were doing, that he was picking up their lingo.
Hugh finally got both barrels ashore and lugged them up to the beginning of the path. He was dripping with sweat by the time he returned.
Want to come on shore, stay a while? he ask
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.
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.
From the Hardcover 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.”
From the Hardcover edition.
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