THE ORIGIN OF MURDER by Jerold last is the latest offering in the Roger and Suzanne mystery series. The book is two parts travelogue to one part murder mystery, all with a nod to famed researcher Charles Darwin. You got the title’s riff on ORIGIN OF SPECIES, right?
THE ORIGIN OF MURDER romps through the capital of Ecuador (did you know it was Quito?) as well as the Galapagos Islands and a run-down Mexican resort. The story, narrated by California private detective Roger Bowman, includes a wonderfully diverse and charming cast of characters: Roger’s brainy wife Suzanne, their gay ex-Seal nanny named Bruce, an Ecuadoran general, and a Paraguayan cop who moonlights as a Mossad spy. And those are just the good guys!
As in Last’s previous novel in the series, THE DEADLY DOG SHOW, the setting is the heart of the book. Both Quito’s charms and slums are described and the reader gets a healthy dose of major historical locations. When the action moves to the Galapagos, the author spares no effort to put the reader right there, with exceptional descriptions of the islands’ unique bird life, terrain, and access by boat. The mystery is woven throughout but the magnificent setting is what really drives the narrative.
A favorite element of the book was the way each chapter begins with a relevant quote from Charles Darwin’s ORIGIN OF SPECIES, written while Darwin was cruising the Galapagos on the HMS Beagle in the early 1800’s. Last’s choice of quotes is perfect in every case, so that the action is presaged and the reader understands the clarity of Darwin’s observations as well.
THE ORIGIN OF MURDER is a great book for armchair travelers, anyone interested in Ecuador, and is a must-read before your next expedition to the Galapagos–either real or virtual!