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Reviewed by Charles Remington for Readers' Favorite
Maurice Aldridge is a London-based antiquarian book dealer. Along with most independent bookshops in the age of the worldwide web, his business is struggling. He is surprised but cautiously optimistic therefore when invited to lunch at the Ritz by a rich American collector who entices him by promising an interesting and lucrative commission. Survival of the Fittest by Robin Hawdon describes how Maurice accepts a seemingly hopeless challenge, and embarks on a search for a missing diary and an unpublished postscript to Darwin’s Origin of Species. The collector has unlimited funds available and Maurice, doubtful at first of any success in the venture, starts to piece together the available clues. Using contacts in the trade and speaking to descendants of the families involved, making visits to the Darwin family home and others, he starts to believe that the diary, at least, could be found. He is shocked, however, when he is arrested on suspicion of the murder of an individual whom he had never met but who he believed to be in possession of the very object he is seeking.
Let me say right away that I greatly enjoyed Survival of the Fittest. I found it intriguing, informative, engaging, and a thoroughly good read. I had very little knowledge of Charles Darwin before reading Robin Hawdon’s book but now feel much better informed and rather pleased at having acquired the knowledge in such a pleasant way. The chapters alternate between chapters written in the style of a modern-day thriller and those from an imagined diary written by Emma, Darwin’s wife, through which we are able to get a view of Darwin’s family and social life and his approach to the publication of his magnum opus. Many of the chapters are also headed with extracts from Darwin’s Origin of the Species and The Descent of Man. Cleverly constructed, the book maintains a good pace throughout, proceeding to a most satisfactory conclusion with plenty of twists, turns, and surprises along the way. Survival of the Fittest is well-written and peopled with solid, carefully drawn characters, all set in vividly-described scenarios. The book is intelligent, lucid and entertaining and deserves a wide readership. I can easily see it being produced as a film or TV series. Congratulations to Robin Hawdon for a clever, thought-provoking piece of work. I hope to see much more from this talented author.