The Piltdown Confession

Irwin Schwartz, Author St. Martin's Press $20.95 (210p) ISBN 978-0-312-11043-7
Could the greatest hoax in the history of archeology have been perpetrated by a trio of co-conspirators that, in addition to amateur geologist and natural historian Charles Dawson, included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin? That's the intriguing premise behind Schwartz's first novel. Despite several engaging moments, however, the speculative story line is dragged down by inconsistent prose and the extensive use of intricate footnotes and diagrams. Narrator Dawson doctors the requisite bones and plants them in the Piltdown site, then enlists Conan Doyle and Teilhard to assist him in his ruse. Most of the action revolves around a murder plot by an insider in the fundamentalist Christian movement to expose the scam and nip in the bud the acceptance of evolutionary theory. Featuring credible and appealing characterizations of Conan Doyle and Teilhard, the novel reads smoothly when Schwartz concentrates on propelling his plot. But he seems intent on ``proving'' the historical links between fact and fiction through detailed documentation, a tactic that may appeal to archeology buffs but ultimately gets in the way of a good story. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/04/1994
Release date: 07/01/1994
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