The Mystery of the Venus Island Fetish
by Dido Butterworth (introduced by Tim Flannery)
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Pub Date 30 Jul 2015 | Archive Date 06 Jul 2015
Painted in white, red and black ochre, the heart-shaped mask was one of the greatest creations of primitive man. The size of a dining table, it was carved with crazed, spiky lines that told of its maker’s dangerous insanity. The nose, with its wide-open nostrils, sat above a great slash of a mouth filled with jagged, blackened, pig’s teeth. But these horrors were not what one first noticed. It was the eyes that drew you in. Bloodshot. Manic. Hypnotic. They had been fashioned from pearl shells smeared with red ochre, the irises blackened spirals made from cone shells. They pulled at Archie’s soul as powerfully as a vortex.
It’s 1932, and the Venus Island fetish, a ceremonial mask surrounded by thirty-two human skulls, now resides in the museum in Sydney. But young anthropologist Archie Meek, recently returned from an extended field trip to Venus Island, has noticed a strange discoloration of some of the skulls of the fetish. Has someone been tampering with the primitive artefact? Is there a link between the mysterious disappearance of Cecil Polkinghorne, curator of archaeology, and the fetish? And how did Eric Sopwith, retired mollusks expert, die in the museum’s storeroom?
The Mystery of the Venus Island Fetish is a delightfully risque romp, full of eccentric characters, intrigue and adventure.
‘Flannery has had ample fun writing The Mystery of the Venus Island Fetish and readers can share that with him.’—Sydney Morning Herald
‘There’s a wonderfully quirky array of characters wandering through this delightful period mystery that will not only give you insight into 1930s Sydney, but will also win you over with its warmth and humor. A wonderful read.’—Surf Coast Times
‘A light-hearted murder mystery with delightfully crude jokes.’—Manly Daily
‘Part Indiana Jones-style adventure, part satire on the way museums are run…It features a fanciful plot, a star-crossed hero and heroine, and some of the worst puns I’ve heard. Great fun.’—Australian Women’s Weekly
‘[Flannery] lets rip with a brilliantly daft romp that, alongside a predilection for suggestive surnames, mines the mindsets and manners of pre-war Australia to perfection.’—Australian Book Review
Nothing is known of Miss Dido Butterworth, curator of worms (retired). Museum records contain no employee of that name, though there is speculation that the name is a pseudonym for Hans Schmetterling, curator of worms (1936–55).
Tim Flannery, author of several works of non-fiction, was curator of mammals at the Sydney Museum 1984–99.
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