The Darwin Affair

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

A sterling read!

Startling  Victorian thriller featuring Chief Inspector Detective Charles Field supposedly the model for Dicken's Inspector Bucket character. Much to Field's chagrin.
It's 1860. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are in danger. Prince Albert is much struck by the theories of Charles Darwin. Shockwaves are felt in certain quarters.
A consortium of  powerful people collude to bring Darwin's theory into disrepute. They let loose a man with a powerful motive to rid the world of Darwin's theories. Murder follows. Unfortunately this talented yet insane protagonist, the Chorister, cannot be controlled and slips the reigns of his handlers. Inspector Fields must dig deep to come anywhere near solving the issue, if he even does.
I really enjoyed the complexities involved.

An Algonquin Books ARC via NetGalley
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Enjoyed this book. Kept me interested all the way through. Would recommend to a fellow reader.  Love the cover.
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So, this book was written by a screen writer, and it definitely feels that way. The author is good at setting the scene and having dramatic moments happen. There's a shooting! There's a mysterious sinister stranger! There's a policeman in trouble because the shooting was a distraction! Quick, the real villain is getting away!

It's all very breathless like that, and I wasn't in the mood for drama over plot, which is the choice you'll have to make to read this book.
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I received a free copy of The Darwin Affair from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  The Darwin Affair is a great mystery that includes many historical facts in its great fiction.  You get to meet Prince Albert, Queen Victoria, Charles Dickens, Karl Marx and many others.  This story is about Mr. Fields, a Chief Inspector who suspects (and later uncovers) a conspiracy to kill the Royal family.  All over Charles Darwin.  The story does get a bit drawn out, which is why I only gave it 4 stars.  However it has lots of twists and turns and keeps  you guessing as to how it will end.  And I must say that the ending isn't quite what you'd expect.  A great story.
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“We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” The iconic line from Farmers Insurance resonated when I read The Darwin Affair. Without Inspector Charles Field’s mind and muscle memory for nefarious doings—plus a magician’s ability to recreate a crime scene—the death toll of The Darwin Affair would be higher. Close readers of Charles Dicken’s Bleak House will recall that the fictional Inspector Bucket was thought to have a real-life counterpart: “Though Dickens himself denied it, there is much to suggest that Bucket was based on a real person with whom he had struck up a friendship, Inspector Charles Frederick Field [1805-74] of the Metropolitan Police…”

The events of The Darwin Affair begin in “London circa 1860.” An attempt to kill Queen Victoria fails, and by happenstance, Inspector Field witnesses the attempt from a roadside vantage point. He runs away from the hubbub into the crowd. For a law officer of his stature to run away from a crime scene is more than passing strange. Detective Field is asked to present himself at Buckingham Palace later that day where he endures an uncomfortable interrogation by the Queen’s officials. Suddenly, Prince Albert enters the room.

“Detective Field, as I saw this morning’s events, you arrived late and you left early. Turned tail and ran, as a matter of fact.”

 

Take me out and shoot me, please. Draw me, quarter me—anything but this.

 

“I was most distressed by what I observed of your behavior. Now, however, I see that you are quite literally covered in what I can only imagine to be blood. So there must be more to the story, is that so? You had reasons for acting as you did?”

 

“I did, sir. A common criminal, known to me, was planted in the crowd on purpose so I’d find him, sir. Or so I now believe. Thereby I was took out of the way, sir.”

 

“If this were true, it would suggest conspiracy rather than lunacy,” said Albert, glancing at Commissioner Mayne. “What leads you to believe this, Field?”

 

“Because of the bloke, um, individual, being found by myself moments later with his head halfway sawed off, sir.”

Could it be that Field’s methods and past cases are so well known to the public that a savvy criminal or conspirator—to use the Prince’s terminology—used Field’s methods against him?

The “murder of a small-time underworld figure in London” is merely the opening salvo. It is “followed by the kidnapping of a butcher’s boy, the death of a divinity student from Oxford,” and a rising body count. Some of the deaths follow on the heels of situations where Field and his team get too close to the evidence. Field finds the term conspiracy makes sense as he ties together the disparate crimes.

The young Oxford divinity student, who grew up on friendly terms with Charles Darwin’s family, is killed when he attempts to warn the famous naturalist that he has been targeted for harm. Josiah Kilvert, one of Field’s men, is stabbed at the University Museum and dies from his wound. Field is convinced that Kilvert alerted the murderer in some way, hence his execution.

Field puzzles mightily over why anyone would want to harm Charles Darwin. He bounces a notion off Police Constable Sam Llewellyn, wondering who has the most reason to hate Darwin and his theories. Field’s answer: the bishops, the lords, and captains of industry (some of whom are also members of the aristocracy).

“Bad for business, Mr. Darwin’s notions are. But for blokes like you and me? Well, even a policeman can dream, can’t he? It’s not flattering, perhaps, having an orangutan as your forefather, but there’s a kind of hope in it, don’t you see? Last I checked, there weren’t no quality monkeys, nor were there lower-class ones.”

 

“And?”

 

“Crash, boom, Mr. Darwin brings it all down. Rule Britannia and the lot. Brings it down harder and more thorough than Mr. Marx ever dreamt in his darkest revolutionary dream.”

 

“So why kill the Queen? Why not kill Mr. Darwin?”

After all, “the book’s out, ain’t it?” Fleeing horses, barn doors, and all—the theories Darwin posits in On the Origin of Species cannot be eradicated. But could Darwin and his theory of evolution be taken down a peg? Who are Darwin’s champions, and how could conspirators put a spoke in their wheels? Field comprehends in a flash; had the police “just assumed it was the Queen who Philip Rendell was aiming for?” He blurts out to Sam that Rendell “even told me” the Queen wasn’t the target.

“I’m guessing the Queen don’t know Darwin from Adam’s off-ox. But Albert? Lover of natural philosophy and all things scientific? He’s Mr. Victoria, ain’t he. And even if his good wife don’t care about Darwin’s monkeys, Albert does. All the Prince has got to do is put a word in her ear. Round Christmastime.”

 

“Land of my bloody fathers, the Honors List,” said Llewellyn. “The Honors List.”

 

“Sir Charles Darwin.”

 

“Come the New Year, that’s it exactly, lad. Knighted by Her Imperial Majesty, Darwin and his theory given the blessing of the Crown. There’d be no putting that genie back in the bottle, not ever.”

Field establishes the “why” of the inexplicably related deaths, disappearances, and kidnappings. When he realizes that Queen Victoria is quite possibly not the intended victim, the race is on!

Many of the deaths have a grisly attribute in common: the ears of the dead are ripped off. Someone is taking a fiendish delight in killing and the attendant mayhem. The madman is dubbed the Chorister—readers may be reminded of Silas, the mad monk in the movie The Da Vinci Code. Walk-ons from famous people like Karl Marx and Charles Dickens add to the verisimilitude of The Darwin Affair. Kudos to Tim Mason for wrapping a fascinating tale around an indisputable fact: Charles Darwin was not knighted by Queen Victoria.
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Chief Detective Inspector Charles Fields suspects a conspiracy is afoot after an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria occurs in 1860. Not everyone is on board with Fields’ conclusions, however. At the heart of the conspiracy is Charles Darwin and his book on evolution. Several high-ranking officials and clergy are vehemently opposed to Darwin’s theory and have engaged the services of a diabolical killer known as the Chlorister. The deck is firmly stacked against Fields, but he’s determined to stop the Chlorister.

The Chlorister may haunt my nightmares for a while. Time Mason masterfully crafts one heck of a diabolical killer, fleshing his character out enough to terrify while still keeping so much about him in the shadows. The whole conspiracy hinges on the reader’s belief in the sick and twisted nature of the Chlorister, and Tim Mason makes a believer out of the reader. 

In fact, none of the characters in THE DARWIN AFFAIR are infallible. In fact, most of the characters are quite unlikable, which makes it all the more amazing that the book is practically impossible to put down despite (and maybe at times even because of) the unpleasantness of the characters. Tim Mason makes a solid point about how extreme ideology can destroy even the kindest of people.

THE DARWIN AFFAIR is a dark, twisted historical thriller that takes readers on a wild and sometimes nightmarish ride. Tim Mason brilliantly weaves together factual events with a fictional and overarching conspiracy to explain how these events intertwine. THE DARWIN AFFAIR is one heck of a good read!

*review is in the editing queue at Fresh Fiction*
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This is a big mess of a book with real historical figures doing stupid and ridiculous things because of a made-up villain. The beginning is really more about sadism and child abuse than anything else, and it is described in detail again and again. When even American Typhoid Mary enters the plot, the book officially jumps the shark. This really is not a pleasant read, my advice is to skip it.
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Madmen make attempts on Queen Victoria's life on a regular basis, but Chief Detective Inspector Charles Fields (grudging inspiration for Dickens' Inspector Bucket) sees something more sinister in the most recent shooting. He soon has the threads of a massive conspiracy in hand, but only his loyal lieutenants take him seriously. Undeterred, Field stalks the murderous zealot known as the Chorister, little suspecting how outmatched he is. A breakneck thriller stuffed full of real historical figures, period detail, and grisly deaths. Too rushed to give any characters but Field and his adversary any depth before they die horribly.
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Fans of historical thrillers/mysteries that blend real people and events with imagined events might just like this one as much as I did.  Set in 1860, it makes good use of the Victorian era prejudices- a villain known as the Chorister is determined that Queen Victoria not accept Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.  DI Charles Field has the con to find and stop the Chorister and if there's a place he doesn't travel to, well, that's not for lack of trying.  This one weaves around the UK and even to Germany with lots of characters (maybe too many) and multiple murders.  You have a good sense early on of the Chorister but there's still some twists. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC. A good read.
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Tim Mason has written a fast paced historical fiction thriller, The Darwin Affair. It involves multiple historical figures and events in Victorian England beginning in 1860 with an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert. 

Charles Darwin had recently published his controversial book On the Origin of Species, which Prince Albert recognized as an important contribution to science. The Prince wanted to have the Queen grant Darwin special honors but a group of important men secretly came together who were opposed to Darwin and his theories. Each man had his own reasons for discrediting Darwin and Mason brings these historical figures to life along with an understanding of the times and the connections between government, business, academia and church.  This group hires an extremely bright assassin to kill Prince Albert without understanding that he is an uncontrollable psychopath.

The Chief of Detectives, Inspector Field, is assigned to protect the royal couple. Charles Dickinson supposedly modeled his "Detective Bucket" after Field and he is therefore, known throughout the country. Field must track the assassin through a series of murders with limited resources and dealing with the challenges of the time including social class issues and politics.  There are many plot twists and turns with some surprising alliances between conspirators. Field solves many threads of the case with his uncanny ability to read people only to be stymied by yet another twist. The murderer always seems to one step ahead.   

There are many plot twists and turns with some surprising alliances between conspirators. The real historical characters and true events give this book depth and contribute significantly to the interesting plot.

The Darwin Affair is a page turner from beginning to end. At times, the psychopathic villain and his gruesome deeds are a bit hard to take.  Detective Field balances it out by being a very likable hero.  Overall, Tim Mason succeeds in bringing to life many fascinating real and made-up characters all connected by key events in an interesting historical time period.    I look forward to reading more books by this author.
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I felt the Darwin Affair was a mystery.  The book held my interest.  The book takes places during Queen Victoria's reign and starts during one of the attempted assignations.  Several people are killed throughout the book.  The police detective has his tribulations trying to find the killer or killers.  This book also relies on Darwin and his findings.  I would recommend it.
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One of my favorite books about the Victorian era (and Victoria herself.) This book is set in a fascinating time that is in some ways the beginning of the modern era. The author has breathed life into many famous characters of the 19th century, and made them complicated and often sympathetic. Nothing is more distracting to me than the anachronisms and modern language I often find in historical fiction, but I sensed none of that here. Above all this is a fast-paced book that examines the use of evil by members of the status quo, when threatened with systemic change.
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The Darwin Affair follows a 19th century detective in London as he works to capture a serial killer. The story is loaded with historical figures and had promise, but moved rather slow at times and I struggled with it. I just couldn’t seem to be pulled in like I had hoped. Fans of The Alienist and who want a historical fiction detective read with murder and mystery may enjoy this book. At moments I did not have a lot of patience for it, but I still felt it was interesting.
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The Darwin Affair is a fantastic book with great characters and well written. I enjoyed it from the first chapter and could not put it down.
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Very well researched and written, The Darwin Affair  by Tim Mason tells  a story of intrigue, science and religion centered on protecting Prince Albert from would-be assassins.  Concerned with the spreading of Darwin's new theory of evolution, powerful men are plotting to keep the theory from spreading and perhaps upsetting the class system.  Chief Detective of the London Police, Mr. Field, begins to see conspiracy in the attempted assassination, and murders of various street criminals, many of whom are found missing their left ears.  We follow Inspector Field as he travels the country looking for the assassin and puzzling out the reasons and methods of the plot.  The reader also learns the inner life of the killer, and his sadistic and cruel ways and past.  Intriguing, dense, and interesting, the novel keeps one engaged til the very end.  Highly recommend.
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Full review forthcoming........................................................................................................................................
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This book was not quite for me, though I can see where it might be the right read for others. If you enjoy Netflix shows about serial killers, for instance. THE DARWIN AFFAIR is a compellingly if sometimes confusingly written Victorian-era thriller, following a conspiracy that involves, directly or obliquely, Prince Albert to Karl Marx. That historical aspect of the book was interesting. Sometimes it felt like the book needed annotations, to keep the reader abreast of all the 19th-century allusions and cameos, but on the whole, the concept is cleverly assembled. I could have done with less time spent in the intimate atrocities of the epicly deranged serial killer whose actions form the thrust of the plot. That’s personal preference in part, but it’s also down to the pacing of the book, which has the effect that character deaths just feel like more blood painting the walls rather than having real emotional impact. The book also fell down for me in its female characters, who are an assortment of Dickensian stereotypes. Maybe by design, but if so, it’s not a design I care for. That said, I can see where this book would appeal to a certain kind of reader, and I’ll be glad to put it in their hands when I have the opportunity.
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The Darwin Affair begins with assassination attempt on Queen Victoria and Albert, the Prince Consort. Those in power believe this to be the work of one mentally ill man. Detective Inspector Charles Field sees it otherwise. Field begins to piece together a puzzle that leads him to a connection with Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, and involves some of the most prominent and power men in the Empire.

A great read!! This story grabbed me from the beginning, and had me racing right along with it. It was intricately plotted with multiple twists, but was never confusing. It also touched on many of the injustices and horrors of life in Victorian England, and did so in a way that made it integral to the plot.

The characters were fascinating. There are appearances by prominent real life individuals of the day, Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, and many other men of science, government, commerce, and religion. But it was the obscure individuals, the maids, mudlarks, butcher boys, and police sergeants who peopled the story that really kept me captivated. 

Mr. Mason has written a story filled with striking period detail, riddled with dry humor, and several twists. I was riveted from the beginning, and think you will be too.

My thanks to NetGalley and Algonquin Press for the advance copy of this book for my review.
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In 1860 London a madman, with encouragement from opponents of Charles Darwin, attempts to assassinate a member of the Royal family. The detective assigned to investigate the case is none other than Chief Detective Inspector Charles Field, the real-life inspiration for the Dickens character Inspector Bucket. My appetite for the fantastic, bizarre, and depraved is limited, but somehow it just seems to suit the Victorian era, and with ingredients of personages like Charles Darwin and Karl Marx, accented by notes of Charles Dickens, Tim Mason has created a dish I really savored.
The plot takes off with the dramatic assassination attempt and never slows down, but Mason was not content simply to tell a good tale and enriches the story in a number of ways. First of all, he peopled it with real historic persons. In addition to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, there are Karl Marx, Sir Richard Owen, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, and other luminaries from the period. There was even an echo of a young Irish-American person who wreaked some havoc in our country…but I don’t want to insert any spoilers. Since Charles Field was Dickens’ model for his character Inspector Bucket, Mason cleverly capitalized on that connection in several ways. I am a big fan of Charles Dickens, and the Dickens influence permeates the whole book. In addition to the era in which it is set, the plot is twisty in ways that I think Dickens would admire, and there is a cadre of ragtag children and quirky characters who would be right at home in a Dickens novel.
Mason is primarily a playwright, and I think this background has enriched his writing. The book developed very much through well-done dialogue. It is easy to imagine the vividly described scenes as a backdrop to a dramatization. I can see the PBS special now! Or maybe a major motion picture.
I only have one small quibble. Clever as it is, what makes it really special is the presence of real persons, like Prince Albert, Sir Richard Owen, and even Charles Field. From time to time I would stop to fact-check and found many details to be accurate, like the fact that Prince Albert’s stepmother died in 1860. I certainly don’t think there was a real historical conspiracy to kill Prince Albert in reaction against his admiration of Charles Darwin, and the real Charles Field retired in 1852, before the events in this novel. Many readers like me would really appreciate an Afterword telling us in general terms where the book departs from real history. For example, did Victoria and Albert really take the trip to Germany described in the book, and was there an international meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1860 in Oxford to discuss evolution? One of the side benefits of reading historical fiction is the history we pick up along the way, and I would like to know what knowledge I can carry away in addition to the enjoyment of a fine book.
The Darwin Affair is a thrilling suspense tale that will tempt you to race through for the story alone, but slow down long enough to enjoy the writer’s craft
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This cinematic debut novel takes readers deep into mid-Victorian times through masterly use of period details and believable mingling of historic and fictional characters and events. After shots are fired at Queen Victoria's carriage, police personnel on the case include Inspector Field, a minor -- and very reluctant -- London celebrity, due to novelist Charles Dickens having used him as a model for the memorable Bleak House character Inspector Bucket. Field's investigation into the attempted assassination becomes a desperate attempt to persuade England's highest powers that a bizarre conspiracy is at work, involving multiple murders, dismemberments, kidnapping, and grave robbing, all centered around an obsessive hatred of the controversial theories of evolutionist Charles Darwin. Not even dismissal from the force and threats to his family can stop Field from pursuing his  hunches to a violent and terrifying series of outcomes in confrontation with brilliant, psychotic Decimus Cobb, a frightening villain worthy of this thriller's twisting, page-turning plot. Note: The publisher suppled an advance reading copy via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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