Like I've said before, I'm a sucker for books that combine mystery and historical elements. Arturo Pérez-Reverte's The Club Dumas is a great example of that. A.S. Byatt's Possession almost was, but got bogged down in describing the loneliness of it's main characters. I'm about ready to try again though, so along comes The Conjurer's Bird by Martin Davies.
Davies has made a name for himself by writing mysteries starring Sherlock Holmes's housekeeper. It's an unusual concept, though one that doesn't particularly grab me. With The Conjurer's Bird, he's turned his imagination to another quirky mystery: the search for "the rarest bird ever recorded." The historical basis for the story is a unique bird that was discovered in 1774 on Captain Cook's second voyage to the South Pacific. It was captured, but later disappeared. Three hundred plus years later, a London conservationist tries to pick up the trail and solve the mystery.
A book about a missing bird wouldn't ordinarily catch my attention, but it's getting reviews that are making me very curious. Publisher's Weekly says that "it is to Davies' credit that he renders the novel's botanical and zoological details with an immediacy that helps along the narrative. A few farfetched plot twists aside, this is a captivating novel." Bookgasm says, "You’ll want to discover the whereabouts of that damned bird just as much as everyone in the book. This excellent novel is one of those more literary-minded efforts that doesn’t know how smart it is, making for an unpretentious trip."