Darwin and the edge of the Empire
Amateur naturalist Chad Hobbes—the atheist son of a preacher—has come to the colony of British Columbia to learn a bit about life before he settles down to a life as a lawyer. Unfortunately for Chad, he’s just missed the Gold Rush, which means that nobody in Vancouver or nearby Victoria really needs a lawyer. But what they do need is a policeman. The wilderness settlement has several police officers but none with Hobbes’ particular set of skills. The idea of being a “peeler” appeals to Hobbes and he’s soon thrust into the heart of a murder mystery that has racial and colonial implications.
Hobbes is fascinated by his duties and dutifully records everything he observes in a leather-bound journal his mother gave him before he left home. There’s plenty to observe. Elections are pending and one of the questions is whether B.C. will become part of America. Passions run high on both sides of the question but not as high as when an American “alienist” is found dead and the most likely suspect is a medicine man.
Sean Haldane’s novel transcends genre here with its literate (but never ponderously literary) style and the sharp observations on everything from class to vegetation. (Hobbes is fascinated by the quality of blue in the sky, so different from the English sky back home.)
Fans of historical mysteries are in for a treat with this book.