Nothing is known of Miss Dido Butterworth, curator of worms (retired). Museum records contain no employee of that name, though there is speculation that the name is a pseudonym for Hans Schmetterling, curator of worms (1936–55). Tim Flannery, author of several works of non-fiction, was curator of mammals at the Sydney Museum 1984–99.
It was the eyes that drew you in. Bloodshot. Manic. Hypnotic. They had been fashioned from pearl shells smeared with red ochre, the irises blackened spirals made from cone shells. They pulled at Archie’s soul as powerfully as a vortex.
It’s 1932, and the Venus Island fetish, a ceremonial mask surrounded by thirty-two human skulls, now resides in the museum in Sydney. But young anthropologist Archie Meek, recently returned from an extended field trip to Venus Island, has noticed something amiss.
Fetish. Has someone tampered with the fetish? Is there a link between the puzzling disappearances of museum curators and the strange discoloured skulls on the primitive artefact? Could Archie be next? But murder, mystery and malevolence are not the only things on the assistant curator's mind. Why hasn't Beatrice - registrar, anthropology - accepted his Venus Island love token and proposal of marriage?