Scott Weidensaul has written a fascinating, page-turning exploration of the complexities of species survival and extinction. From the first chapter, a narrative account of his personal search for the probably extinct Semper's Warbler on St. Lucia, to the last chapter where he may, or may not, have found the never before seen female cone-billed tanager, this book never let go of my imagination. Most of the sought-after species in this book are never found, but a few, such as the coelacanth and the almost-aurochs, are. The author looks for big cats rumored to be living in the English countryside, and tells of the accidental rediscovery of the Australian night parrot. He provides one of the few intelligent treatises on the Loch Ness Monster and other cryptobiological "species." Even though most possibly extinct animals are never found, it's the hunt for them that excites both the author and the reader. The often suspenseful narrative is peppered with history and sharp observations as well as varied opinions. The language is rich with visual and engaging details, the kind that makes you feel as though you've entered into the "land of the lost." Trust me, you won't fall asleep reading this book. This is lay science as it should be, full of mysteries and questions, both accessible and intelligent. The author's good humor and pithy insights lend a friendly tone to his science. For example, when he is fighting insects - in his ears, eyes, and under his watch band - during a frantic search for a specific flock of birds, he writes, "There is a reason lost species are lost in the first place. Sometimes the reasons are weighty and formidable, like civil unrest, impenetrable mountains, or bandit warlords who use visitors for target practice. Sometimes they are more prosaic, like bad roads and worse information. And sometimes the reason is sweat bees - too many sweat bees." This witty, conversational tone makes The Ghost With Trembling Wings as fun to read as it is instructional.
I highly recommend this book to anyone with even the slightest interest in conservation, evolution, field biology, and environmentalism; however, you don't need to know a thing about the preceding fields to enjoy The Ghost With Trembling Wings. All you need is a healthy curiosity and the time to indulge it.