From the book jacket: The Conjurer's Bird is inspired
by one of the great puzzles of natural
history: that of the Mysterious Bird of
Ulieta. Seen only once, in 1774, by Captain
Cook's second expedition to the South Seas,
a single specimen was captured, preserved,
and brought back to England. The bird was
given to famed naturalist Joseph Banks (who
accompanied Cook on his first voyage to the
South Pacific), who displayed it proudly in
his collection until its sudden, unexplained
disappearance. Two hundred years later,
naturalists continue to wonder if the world
will ever get another glimpse of the elusive
bird. Were it not for a colored drawing done
by the ship's artist, there would be nothing
to say that the bird had ever existed.
The Conjurer's Bird is a gripping literary mystery and passionate love story that tackles the intrigue surrounding the celebrated Banks, his secret affair with an enigmatic woman known only as "Miss B," and the legendary bird that becomes a touchstone for their love.
Comment: The 'mysterious bird of Ulieta' refers to a rare bird that was caught during Captain Cook's second voyage to the South Pacific in 1774. It ended up in the collection of famed naturalist Joseph Banks (who accompanied Cook on his first voyage) and, according to this book, was then given by Banks to his mistress, Mary Burnett a naturalist and gifted botanical artist (who the book jacket bills as the enigmatic "Miss B"). However, the bird then disappears without trace from history - not only did the stuffed specimen disappear, but no-one else has ever caught sight of the bird in the wild. If it wasn't for a sketch drawn by the ship's artist we would have no record of this thrush-like bird.
If you enjoy intelligent historical mysteries you should take a close look at The Conjurer's Bird. Some reviewers feel the plot is a little overdone in a few places but, on the whole, conclude with praise.
"Readers who like Andrea Barrett, Arturo Perez-Reverte, and David Liss will find this a page-turner through and through." - Booklist.
"A good-natured combination of hammy modern and more sensitive historical mysteries, amounting to something rather less fabulous than The Maltese Falcon." - Kirkus.
"Suspenseful, intriguing, and romantic, this is great entertainment and an excellent choice for book discussion groups; highly recommended for all libraries." - Library Journal.
This review was originally published in February 2006, and has been updated for the August 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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