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The Conjuror's Bird Paperback – 2 Jan 2006

45 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; 1st. Edition edition (2 Jan. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034092053X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340920534
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 23.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 667,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Martin Davies grew up in North West England. All his writing is done in cafes, on buses or on tube trains, and an aversion to laptops means that he always works in longhand. He lives in London and works as a consultant in the broadcasting industry.

Martin Davies has travelled widely, including in the Middle East and India, and he often plots his novels while abroad; substantial parts of The Unicorn Road were written while travelling through Sicily, and his plan for The Conjuror's Bird was put together on a trekking holiday in Greenland.

Martin Davies' books have been translated into twelve languages.

Product Description


'This book I loved on so many levels...the excitement of a great mystery...a truly fantastic book.' (Manly Daily (Sydney, Australia))

'A pacy confection of history, mystery and romance... a most engaging and unusual novel' (The Times)

'An exciting and absorbing debut novel.' (Sue Baker, Publishing News)

An enjoyable tale of love, loss and taxidermy . . . a cracking holiday read. (Observer)

A pacy confection of history, mystery and romance...Davies interweaves his complex narrative with energy and authority...a most engaging and unusual first novel. (The Times)

'Two gripping, intercut narratives... a lyricism that captures the joy of the natural world... a highly successful and informative entertainment' (Independent)

[an] absorbing historical detective story . . . a beautifully evoked narrative from the past (Guardian)

Ambitious and intriguing... part thriller, part love story, part quest, this is a hugely readable book. (Spectator)

'Ideal for book clubs, ideal too for any lover of commercial literary fiction. An exciting and absorbing debut novel from Davies.' (Publishing News)

'Poignant and beguiling... like all the best novels, it left me with a sense of having learned something.' (Andrew Taylor, author of The American Boy)

'A poignancy that will aptly linger with you after you've turned the final page' (Lincolnshire Echo)

'Intriguing and cleverly constructed' (Choice)

"[A] gripping book of literary suspense. . . . Davies indulges in clever speculation about the bird's whereabouts and adds an appealing strain of romance surrounding the identity of Banks's mistress. . . . A captivating novel." (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

"Suspenseful, intriguing, and romantic, this is great entertainment and an excellent choice for book discussion groups; highly recommended." (Library Journal (starred review))

'Ambitious and intriguing... part thriller, part love story, part quest, this is a hugely readable book whose concerns linger in the mind... Davies' novel hints, unobtrusively but effectively, at many of the issues underlying man's urge to collect ornithological specimens, and also the uneasy relationship between science, business and the natural world.' (Andrew Taylor, Spectator)

"A gripping blend of history and conjecture, romance and consists of two parallel stories wrapped around the race to unravel one of natural history's most enduring puzzles. [An] elegantly crafted journey into the nature of loss and love, memory and history." (Canberra Times)

"This book I loved on so many levels. Firstly for a greater understanding of the life of Sir Joseph Banks...then for the excitement of a great mystery... A truly fantastic book full of three centuries of secrets and surprises." (Manly Daily)

Book Description

Here is a clever, warm, exciting and satisfying novel, spanning three centuries of secrets and surprises. The Conjuror's Bird will appeal to reading groups and general readers of all ages.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Rowie on 28 Mar. 2006
Format: Paperback
I LOVED this book! Who'd have thought that a story about an extinct bird, a 18th-century naturalist's mistress and an emotionally challenged contemporary detective could be so gripping?! The narratives alternate between the different times cleverly, sucking you in, then turning to a new chapter just as you feel you're getting somewhere and understanding the mystery a little bit more.
The themes are big - we're talking about Man's destruction of the natural world, the reasons why some species survive and others don't, creation myths - but at its heart is a love story, and one that'll have you hooked from start to finish.
Like all good books, it makes you feel AND think. It's a really good yarn. All I can say is read it, enjoy it, read it again!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Strobs on 28 Aug. 2006
Format: Paperback
In essence, the story revolves around two interlinked tales, an historical love story and modern day thriller. For me the most successful part is the eighteenth century love story between the real Joseph Bank's and his unnamed mistress and the fate of a preserved specimen of a very rare bird, The Mysterious Bird of Ulieta. The narrative alternates between the different times cleverly. The emotionally challenged modern detective Fitz and his hunt for the bird lead him to having to decode the puzzle of the identity of the woman Banks loved - a woman who has disappeared from history as effectively as the specimen he is hunting. In doing so Fitz must face a demon or two of his own and resolve his feelings for Gaby and their past life. I loved this book I found the story plausible and the love story moving. Great stuff.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Conchie on 10 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
I loved this book ! Both stories unfolded and interchanged with great ease. I loved the Joseph Banks/Mary Burnett storyline, what an amazing character Mary was. It was an education in itself to see how society's boundaries affected people's lives as they did in the 18th century. I could never quite understand if Joseph was single and Mary was single...why not marry !!! Whats stopping them. But the social constraints of course were rigidly in place. Joseph had a social standing far above Mary, and her family's history pretty much sealed her fate in that regard. In the modern storyline, I loved Fitz....and particularly loved the growing friendship between Fitz and Katya as they joined forces to search for the ulieta bird.

Two niggles stopped me giving five stars. In the midst of the two wonderfully unfolding stories and their intertwining connections.....I found myself irritated everytime our author dragged us into the congo to hear more about Fitz's mad grandfather's futile search for that flipping peacock !!! Who cares about that damn peacock ... get back to the story - I found myself screaming on many an occasion !!!.

Secondly, I found that the book came to a rather sudden almost anti-climactic end for my liking. As Mary was such an extraordinary character and truly the glue that held the entire thing together, I really would have liked to see Fitz and Katya continue their search just a little further and find Mary's grave. It would have been a fitting ending to have them lay some of her beloved forest flowers at her resting place.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By M. Cookson-carter on 12 Oct. 2006
Format: Paperback
I was drawn away from my usual read and did what they tell you never to do...I judged this book on its beautiful cover. The pages within are not disappointing either.

Martin Davies flits between the two periods of the story with gentle ease, which keeps you waiting for the emerging stories and characters, it is almost two novels in one and the way they interweave is fascinating.

And all because of a small, brown, quite unimpressive little stuffed bird, which vanished and the race for its discovery by the wealthy and the academics.

Just read and enjoy, it is a lovely book, suitable for both male and female readers, with not too much romance but just enough to keep it interesting.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. D. Naylor TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 26 Mar. 2006
Format: Paperback
Despite the mixed reviews here i thoroughly enjoyed this book with it's interesting characters and well written storyline.The story is told as both an historical love story and modern day thriller with and the events of the older story (set in the 1700's) determining the outcome of the modern day thriller part of the novel.Where the author is clever is that as he tells both stories side by side in alternating chapters but keeps the reader one step behind in order to keep you guessing as to what happens next which in my opinion is what writing a good mystery/thriller is all about.All in all a well written and very entertaining page turner written in a simple but enjoyable style.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I did enjoy this book, though it many ways it seemed such a Possession `lift' though at a much more superficial level and the twists and turns of the search for the mysterious bird of Ulieta, and the interested parties and their game playing, stayed at an intellectual, rather than a visceral level, for this reader.

Plot, with no spoilers. Fitz, a previous environmentalist, academic and researcher on fragile environments, and particularly fragile and endangered birds, has a trouble history which is not revealed until quite late in the story, which has led him to change career and become a taxidermist. An obvious career move really. Asked by his ex-lover Gabby's current squeeze, Anderson, a wealthy `finder' of valuable rare items to search for a long vanished bird briefly noted by the naturalist Joseph Banks more than 200 years earlier, he embarks on the search for his own reasons. However, there are more than these two searching for the bird.

A fairly tall story around DNA sequencing and scientific funding but an agenda which is about something else entirely takes in the stultifying opportunities a scant 200 years ago for intelligent, freethinking women, and a search to uncover the identity of Joseph Banks' mistress (alluded to, briefly in some letters from the time, by or to Banks). The mistress, the bird and the love affair itself are the brief facts the author spins his fable upon.

The love affair of 200 years ago also appears to have a parallel (so Possession) which something burgeoning between Fitz and Katya, the other resident in his house, also an academic - in this case of history.

I didn't completely believe in the historical sections, and the character of Banks' mysterious mistress seemed a little modern.
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