Tag-Archive for ◊ thrilling ◊

• Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Martin Davies grew up in North West England. He travelled a great deal from the Middle East to India. Today he is a BBC television senior producer and editor and lives in South West London.

His bibliography :
Mrs Hudson and the Spirits Curse published in 2004.
Mrs Hudson and the Malabar Rose published in 2005.
The Conjuror’s Bird published in 2005.
The Unicorn Road published in 2009.

The Conjuror’s Bird is based on historical facts with genuine people from the 18th century like the well-known explorer, botanist and patron of natural sciences, the wealthy Lincolnshire landowner, Baronet Sir Joseph Banks, who was part of Captain James Cook’s first grand voyage around the world on the “Endeavour”, from 1768 to 1771. He was also the unofficial scientific adviser to king George III.

Other known people of the time are Banks’s best friend, Dr. Daniel Carlsson Solander, the Swedish botanist and natural scientist, his Danish friend, Johann Christian Fabricius, professor of natural history and world famous entomologist, and his German friend, the naturalist, ethnologist and travel writer, Johann Georg Forster.

Upon his return to England from Captain Cook’s second expedition in 1774 in the South Seas, Forster offers Banks the well-preserved single specimen of the extinct Ulieta bird.

The novel focuses on the Ulieta bird which became extinct in the 18th century. The extinction of species remains a controversial subject in our 21st century, with its many on-going debates about how humans are destroying the world’s flora and fauna and therefore creating a dangerous unbalance in the ecosystem. A big and serious problem that existed once upon a time and still exists today with apparantly no way of stopping it, unfortunately.

The Conjuror’s Bird intertwines history, romance and thrilling detective pursuit. It’s a biographical fiction mystery novel with literary merit and an engaging, suspenseful story, well-written with intense emotions.

In his novel, the author runs in parallel, by alternating chapters and by using a different typeface, an interlinked story of three centuries: the 18th, the 20th and the 21st, where the past meets the present. The story of the taxidermist, John Fitzgerald, who goes on a detective mission, hunting for the only specimen left of the Ulieta bird, which once belonged to Joseph Banks but disappeared from his collection without any explanation and was never seen again.

If it wasn’t for a coloured drawing done by Forster’s son, Georg, which can be seen in The Natural History Museum in London, no one would have known of its existence. The second story being the love tale of Joseph Banks with the mysterious Miss B—n, the main link being the elusive Ulieta bird and the unknown Miss B. with the striking green eyes, who seems to be the key to finding the long disappeared stuffed bird.

The third story being the discovery of the Congo peacock by James Chapin, the American naturalist,twenty three years after coming across a single peacock feather earlier in the 20th century.

Another link in the novel is the two unfulfilled love stories which stand two centuries apart. The strong and impossible passion that Joseph Banks once shared with Miss B. (Mary Burnett?) who was a woman well ahead of her time in Georgian society, and the infatuation that John Fitzgerald and the ambitiously independent Gabriella used to have for each other. Both loves seem to have ended due to a child, a daughter.

The characters are well depicted, the novel competently structured and a successful amount of research attained. A very pleasant read.

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• Saturday, March 03rd, 2007

Barbara Cleverly has been a teacher in Cambridge and today lives in a medieval house in an English Suffolk village. She has been a teacher of French, English and Latin, but stopped working in order to dedicate herself to writing full-time.

Barbara Cleverly is the inventor of the Scotland Yard detective, Joe Sandilands, and his adventurous investigations in India.

“The Palace Tiger” is Barbara Cleverly’s fourth novel. The first was “The Last Kashmiri Rose” published in 2001. This was followed by “Ragtime In Simla” in 2002, and by “Damascene Blade” in 2003. Her fourth novel, “The Palace Tiger” was published in 2004, and her fifth was “The Bee’s Kiss” which first appeared in 2005.

Her annually published novels are mysteries solved by the clever British detective, Sandilands, a First World War hero.

Barbara Cleverly explains how she had the idea of writing a series of books all taking place in India. “The battered old tin trunk I found in the attic didn’t look inviting at first sight. Full of family bits and pieces, my husband said. You know, sepia postcards from the Pyrenees, funeral lists, old bank books…” “I opened it anyway. Out spilled more than two centuries of memories, the memories of a family whose exploits and achievements marched in time with the flowering of the British Empire, a family of soldiers, statesmen, architects, doctors and explorers, but my attention was caught by the photograph of a young boy.

Handsome even by today’s standards, his resemblance to my stepson, even down to the haircut, was extraordinary. “Ah, that’s Brigadier Harold Sandilands, my husband explained, when he was a schoolboy at Harrow. My great uncle spent a lot of time in India.”

“The Palace Tiger”, like Barbara Cleverly’s other four novels, is a Whodunit à la Agatha Christie. Joe Sandilands, a Scotland Yarder, finds himself compelled to unravel the mysterious deaths of the dying Maharajah’s three sons and heirs as well as to eliminate a man-eating tiger terrorizing the northern villages. The whole complicated plot takes place in Ranipur in India. The author doesn’t miss an opportunity to describe in detail and in a colourful way, 1920’s colonial India.

The Maharajah’s luxurious palaces, the harem’s quarter, their clothing, their day-to-day life, the death rituals. The beautiful gardens and lake, but most important the conspiracy between different people in the palace. Each character serves a purpose in the complicated plot.

This is an action thriller which keeps the reader in suspense until the end. A good, rich description also of Machiavellic ambitions and greedy characters. All together a very colourful, thrilling and entertaining book.