The Mystery of the Venus Island Fetish

Written by Tim Flannery
Review by Beth Turza

This novel is a silly romp through the Australian Museum collection in 1932. Archie Meeks returns home to his fiancée, Beatrice, after five years of research living with the natives of Venus Island. He finds the staff much changed in his absence: curators have left or simply gone missing, and Beatrice won’t speak to him. The museum’s most noteworthy artifact, the Venus Island Fetish, is a ceremonial piece ringed by 32 human skulls and hanging in a place of honor, but subtle changes have occurred. Some of the skulls have taken on a different coloration, and the number of odd skulls is, coincidentally, the number of missing curators. Is someone killing off the staff and collecting their skulls? Archie puzzles over this, but his biggest challenge will be winning Beatrice over and convincing her he is not crazy. The author, a former museum curator himself, enjoys creating his characters with whimsical names that sum up their jobs or personalities, which left me with a smile. The book is great fun to read.