This was a pleasure to read: "The Conjuror's Bird" by Martin Davies.
It is the first time I have come across the author, and it happened quite by coincidence: some time ago, in one of the blogs I regularly follow, the books by Lindsey Davis were mentioned. L. Davis writes detective stories set in Roman times, with a very good cast of characters and a lot of witty humour thrown in. After having read that blog article, I checked the online catalogue of my town's library and indeed found three of her books in English, so I asked my mum to get them for me next time she would be going to the library.
She did - and because Davies, Martin is on the shelf next to Davis, Lindsey, she accidentally took that book as well, only realizing her mistake later.
Such "accidents" often provide one with a pleasant surprise, I find, and this time was no exception.
Looking at the cover illustration, one might expect a romantic love story.
Well, there is a love story (actually, more than one), and it is rather romantic in places, but that is not all what the book is about.
We meet a desillusioned scientist whose interest in lost species of birds is reawakened by events that lead to the search for the only known mounted specimen of the long-extinct "Ulieta bird", a species that was discovered and lost at the time of one of Captain Cook's great expeditions to the South Seas.
What starts out as the quest for that specimen, the existence of which after so many years is very much doubted by the scientist, develops into a veritable detective story, and we learn that there is more to this than just looking for an old stuffed bird.
A lot of money is involved, and several people are trying to track the bird down, all for their own reasons.
The scientist gets help from his tenant, a student; clues from unexpected sources pop up, and while the chapters are alternatingly set in the past and present, the threads of both stories are cleverly brought together only at the very end of the book.
Not everybody is who we think they are, the characters are all portrayed convincingly, the settings well described - like I said, a pleasant read all over, and a book that you can learn something about the time of the great expeditions from as well as about the struggle of today's scientists to preserve endangered species - some of which are on the brink of becoming extinct before we even know about them.