June 2009


The Rough Guide to Evolution by Mark Pallen

352 pages

Release date: January 1, 2009 – Rough Guides

ISBN: 978-1858289465

A 2007 Gallup poll indicated approximately one-half of all Americans and two-thirds of Republicans do not believe in the theory of evolution.  In a perfect world, Mark Pallen’s The Rough Guide to Evolution would change some minds.

The book is divided into three sections.  The first, “Ideas and evidence” discusses pre-Darwin theories of evolution, as well as Charles Darwin’s theory.  It also gives a brief biography of Darwin, and as the title implies evidence to support his theory.  The second section, “The greatest story ever told” presents the history of life on earth, including the most recent discoveries.  Mr. Pallen also discusses some of the current controversies between scientists.  The final section, “Impact” unsurprisingly explains the impact Darwin’s theory has had on an array of related and unrelated sciences.  The chapters on politics and religion discuss the recent court battles with proponents of Intelligent Design, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, and evolution in pop culture, amongst other things.

This book is definitely not for anyone who majored in biology in college.  Mr. Pallen, a Professor of Microbial Genomics at the University of Birmingham, offers evolution for the non-specialist and manages to explain everything in a manner that is easy to understand.  If you have a hazy grasp on Mr. Darwin’s theory or if you have spent your life believing the world was created in seven days give this book a read.

I received this book from the Libray Thing Early Reviewer program.

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The Lost Throne by Chris Kuzneski.

512 pages

ISBN 978-0-399-15582-6

Release date: July 23, 2009

Jonathan Payne and D.J. Jones are former members of a top secret American military unit.  A request for help sends them to Russia to save Allison Taylor whose employer has been murdered.  Payne, Jones, and Taylor then pick up her murdered boss’ pursuit of an ancient treasure.  Meanwhile, Nick Dial, Chief of the Interpol Homicide Division, is investigating the brutal murders of seven monks in Greece.  No routine murders these, it is soon revealed they were committed by men dressed and armed as ancient Spartans.  Payne, Jones, and Taylor follow the clues that eventually lead them to Greece, where Dial and his assistant Marcus Andropoulos follow their own clues in an attempt to solve the murders of the monks.

I have been trying to find a book like The Da Vinci Code, except one that’s good.  I like the idea of searching for lost treasures but I haven’t had much luck so far.  I had high hopes for The Lost Throne even though I dislike the use of “top secret” military units and the idea of anyone form Interpol actually heading a murder investigation makes me laugh.  I was also willing to overlook 21st Century Greeks, who had maintained ancient Spartan customs and traditions, so perhaps my high hopes were misplaced.  Mystery writer James O. Born provided a blurb for the back cover which reads, in part, “Part Tom Clancy, part Dan Brown”, considering my opinion of The Teeth of the Tiger and The Da Vinci Code maybe I should have known better.

In spite of these concerns I enjoyed the book right up until Chapter 70, at which point I lost all hope and considered throwing the book across the room.  I don’t wish to give away what happened since some readers may enjoy the book and I don’t wish to spoil it.  It’s enough to say that there was a most unbelievable coincidence.

If you enjoyed The Teeth of the Tiger and The Da Vinci Code this is probably a book for you.  If you didn’t like them, look elsewhere and if you find a good thriller with a hunt for ancient treasure thrown in, let me know.

I received a review copy of this book from G.P. Putnam’s Sons.