From Publishers Weekly
BBC TV producer Davies, the author of mysteries starring Sherlock Holmes's housekeeper, turns his attention to the search for "the rarest bird ever recorded" in this gripping book of literary suspense. In 1774, on Captain Cook's second expedition to the South Pacific, a single specimen of a thrushlike bird was captured. The bird entered the collection of eminent naturalist Sir Joseph Banks—but then it disappeared. Moving adroitly between the 18th and the 21st centuries, Davies indulges in clever speculation about the bird's whereabouts and adds an appealing strain of romance surrounding the identity of Banks's mistress, "Miss B." Alternating chapters chronicle the adventures of Fitz, a present-day London conservationist who's agreed to try to find "the Mysterious Bird of Ulieta" at the urging of a woman he once loved—but it's his spunky female graduate student whose ingenuity and indefatigable research do much to keep the plot spinning past red herrings, dead ends and the machinations of unscrupulous people racing to find the bird first. A third subplot concerns Fitz's grandfather's search for the Congo peacock, and it is to Davies' credit that he renders the novel's botanical and zoological details with an immediacy that helps along the narrative. A few farfetched plot twists aside, this is a captivating novel. (Nov. 22)
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This novel will not disappoint fans of literary mystery and readers who are drawn to naturalist accounts. The focus is the Ulieta bird, a specimen unique to science; both remarkable and romantic, it has a fascinating history. Two protagonists vie for the reader's attention: Joseph Banks, the famous eighteenth-century naturalist, who is given the elusive bird of Ulieta, captured on one of Captain Cook's voyages in the South Seas before its extinction, and Fitz, a present-day conservationist, who joins the competitive race to find the bird's remains, which mysteriously disappeared from Banks' collection many years before. Fitz's journey does not lead where he expects: he was looking for a bird but found a face in a picture--the face of Banks' mistress. What links her to the Ulieta bird? What is her name? Why did she disappear? And why is finding the Ulieta bird important to Fitz? Readers who like Andrea Barrett, Arturo Perez-Reverte, and David Liss will find this a page-turner through and through. Sarah WatsteinCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved