Winner of the Danish Crime Novel of the Decade, S.J. Gazan's debut novel The Dinosaur Feather is a classic of Scandinavian noir, from its richly imagined and deeply flawed characters to its scintillating exploration of one of the most fascinating aspects of contemporary dinosaur and avian research.
Biology postgraduate and hopeful PhD Anna Bella Nor is just two weeks away from defending her thesis on the origin of birds when her supervisor, the arrogant and widely despised Dr. Lars Helland, is found dead in his office chair at the University of Copenhagen. In the dead man's bloody lap is a copy of Anna's thesis.
When the autopsy suggests that Helland may have been murdered in a fiendishly ingenious way, the brilliant but tormented young Police Superindendent Søren Marhauge begins the daunting task of unraveling the knotted skeins of interpersonal and intellectual intrigue among the scientists at the university. Unfortunately for him, everyone involved - from embittered single mom Anna Bella Nor to Marhauge's own ex-wife, who is pregnant with her current husband's child - has something to hide, presenting the detective with the greatest professional and personal challenge of his entire career.
Germany, 5 April 1877
Anna Bella Nor was dreaming she had unearthed Archaeopteryx, the earliest and most primitive bird known. The excavation was in its sixth week, a fine layer of soil had long since embedded itself into everyone's faces and the mood had hit rock bottom. Friedemann von Molsen, the leader of the excavation, was the only one still in high spirits. Every morning when Anna staggered out of her tent, sleepy and shivering in the cold, von Molsen would be sitting by the fire, drinking coffee; the congealed oatmeal in the pot proving he had cooked and eaten his breakfast long ago. Anna was fed up with oatmeal, fed up with dirt, fed up with kneeling on the ground that only revealed bones that were, of course, interesting in their own right, but were too young to be the reason she studied biology, and most definitely not the reason she was spending six weeks of her precious summer vacation living in such miserable conditions. The year was 1877...
It’s a perfect book to get you in the mood for a dark winter. And – a warning for some, a promise for others – it’s filled with revolting descriptions of creatures from biology’s underbelly. Parasitic tapeworms that munch their way through nerves and tissue and lay eggs inside peoples’ intestines, spiders the size of dinner plates, scorpions crawling under bedspreads… it’s all in there.
(Reviewed by Elena Spagnolie).
Full Review (596 words).
In S. J. Gazan's The Dinosaur Feather, when Professor Lars Helland, a cantankerous PhD advisor at the Institute of Biology in Copenhagen, is found dead in his office, the police soon discover a copy of PhD student Anna Bella Nor's thesis on his lap
covered in blood. Her controversial paper puts to rest a major scientific debate between Helland and his long-time rival, the hotheaded Dr. Clive Freeman. She dares to prove, once and for all, that birds are, in fact, present-day dinosaurs.
Many Paleo-ornithologists today believe that birds descended from dinosaurs, but deciphering the family tree is (and has been) a very difficult matter. According to award-winning environmental journalist Gareth Huw Davies, "Numerous finds in recent ...
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