An attempt to unravel the mysterious events of 1934 within the small community of residents on Floreana, or Charles, or Santa Maria Island in the Galapagos group.
"This is a brilliant tale of mystery....It has a sex-mad baroness, a crackpot philosopher, a number of pirates, some pioneers and some nudists. It also has deaths and disappearances; and mayhem; and a man who believes that it is possible to live exclusively on figs."
--Paul Theroux, The (London) Sunday Times.
It reads like fiction, but it is in fact true--the actual story of a series of strange events that took place on the remote Galapagos Island of Floreana half a century ago which have teased and mystified investigators ever since, and which, in a bizarre way, reflect the life-style conflicts of our own day.
The "crackpot philosopher" was a German doctor and disciple of Nietzsche who arrive on the island first, along with another man's wife, to put into practice the Nietzschean doctrine of the Superman. The pioneers were a stolid, sturdy German family driven out of Germany by the Depression who planned to homestead in the tropics. And after them came the "sex-mad baroness" with an entourage of lovers who claimed that she had bought the island and planned to turn it into a millionaires' playground.
Trouble between the groups was inevitable. What was not inevitable was that the Baroness and her current lover should suddenly disappear in the throes of poisoning and that the Baroness's former favorite should turn up mummified on a distant island some months later.
There were investigations, but nothing was ever proved. Then, fifty years later, John Treherne, a Cambridge University zoologist who came to the Galapagos Archipelago to do scientific research, stumbled on the story, saw the film of the strange inhabitants that was made in the 1930s, and with the instincts of a true Sherlock Holmes set out to follow the clues and solve the mystery. [from the jacket]