Tuesday, June 4, 2019

ARC Review: The Darwin Affair by Tim Mason

The Darwin Affair
Author: Tim Mason
Publication: Algonquin Books (June 11, 2019)

Description: Within three weeks of the publication of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, despite the immediate outrage it created among scholars and England’s powerful clergy, Darwin’s name was added to the list of men who would be knighted by Queen Victoria. History shows that this was an honor he was never to receive.

Tim Mason’s debut novel, The Darwin Affair, takes the reader back to that time, and, through a London police inspector named Charles Field---a real-life policemen whom Charles Dickens immortalized as the inspiration for Inspector Bucket in his novel Bleak House—tells us the story of how forces conspired to keep Darwin and the Queen apart.

Cleverly combining historical figures with an original cast of fictional ne’er-do-wells, Mason weaves a richly atmospheric detective story that features the Chorister, one of the most diabolical and eccentric literary villains ever created.

Fast-paced and filled with twists and turns, The Darwin Affair is a treat for all mystery and thriller fans, and marks the arrival of a distinctively inventive writer. Get ready for an exhilarating experience as the story gallops, steams, and roars from London to Germany and back, taking readers on an exciting ride into a dark but momentous era, accompanied by some of the most fascinating characters fiction—and real life--has ever produced.

My Thoughts: This historical mystery is set in 1860 and concerns itself with a plot to keep Charles Darwin from being granted honors by the Queen. Darwin's Origin of the Species has caused all sorts of furor in Great Britain and around the world. Prince Albert, an amateur naturalist himself, is much in favor of granting Darwin this honor but a cohort of religious leaders, business leaders, and other scientists are completely opposed to this.

This cohort is so opposed that they have set a villain known as the Chorister on the trail of Prince Albert. They want him dead. The Chorister is quite a villain. He has left a trail of dead bodies behind him, most missing their left ear, which he keeps as a souvenir. The Chorister, also know as Decimus Cobb and Will Tailor, has kidnapped and subverted to his service a number of people, including young Tom Ginty who was formerly a butcher's apprentice.

Opposing him is police inspector Charles Field whom Charles Dickens used as an inspiration for Inspector Bucket in one of his novels. This has brought Field a lot of fame which is both a plus and a minus in his police career. Field's fame does give him access to Prince Albert but he has trouble convincing him that he is in danger from the Chorister. Many of the men in Albert's close circle are the ones who originally hired the Chorister and have convinced Albert that there really isn't a conspiracy to assassinate him.

The nineteenth century in all of its glory was shown in this story from the scientific achievements of the age to the young orphans digging in the mud of the Thames for something to sell for their survival. We have cameos from a number of the famous from that time period from Charles Darwin to Charles Dickens to Karl Marx.

This was an entertaining story that was more a thriller than a mystery since we knew the identity of the villain from very early in the book and the suspense came from wondering whether Field could apprehend him before he managed to kill Prince Albert.

Favorite Quote:
"Mr. Gates, I believe my husband to be one one the greatest natural philosophers who ever lived. He is without doubt the kindest husband and father the most decent of men. And I live in desperate fear for his eternal soul." She looked at David searchingly.

"Surely you, a divinity student, can understand my feelings?"

He didn't know what to say so he said nothing.

"If we are not created in the image of God, who are we? What are we? Accidents of nature?"

"I do not know, ma'am. I believe us to be God's creatures, however he created us."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

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