The Hanging Tree

David Lambkin, Author
David Lambkin, Author Counterpoint LLC $23 (400p) ISBN 978-1-887178-19-8
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-887178-71-6
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Magic and science, past and present, collide in Lambkin's fast-paced thriller, which was a bestseller in South Africa. Kathryn Widd, a paleontologist specializing in violence, goes to Kenya to examine an ancient skull and gets involved in a mystery surrounding a death that occurred on a 1908 expedition, led by John Henry Patterson, to the same locale. From her office in present-day Johannesburg, she recounts the tale of her expedition in a foreboding tone. Accompanied by researcher Ray Chinta, museum administrator Victor Macmillan and his beautiful and enigmatic wife, Marion, Widd makes historic discoveries among the fossils that lend disturbing insight into the origins of human violence. But as the expedition continues, the party begins to relive events that occurred during the ill-fated Patterson expedition. Soon, they find their research straying from the exactitude of science into the realm of magic and mysticism. Looking for metaphysical heft, Lambkin juxtaposes scientific theory with black magic, quantum physics and Bach and uses the metaphor of a fugue to add layers of depth. He falls short of illuminating the implied connections among his many competing themes, and his characterizations rarely rise above stereotype. He does, however, deliver a page-turning puzzler filled with suspense and a richly evoked sense of the African landscape. (Sept.)
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