Day of the Dandelion: An Arthur Hemmings Mystery

Day of the Dandelion: An Arthur Hemmings Mystery

by Peter Pringle

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Seeds of a new corn plant are stolen from Oxford University's botany lab, and the professor, Alastair Scott, and his Russian assistant, Tanya Petrovskaya, are missing.

Alarms ring in London and Washington, where intelligence officials know that Scott was working on a supergene that could allow control over the world's entire food supply.

The British


Seeds of a new corn plant are stolen from Oxford University's botany lab, and the professor, Alastair Scott, and his Russian assistant, Tanya Petrovskaya, are missing.

Alarms ring in London and Washington, where intelligence officials know that Scott was working on a supergene that could allow control over the world's entire food supply.

The British government calls in Arthur Hemmings from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. To his coworkers, Hemmings is just another researcher in the herbarium, but for many years he has been a secret service agent, an outwardly rumpled but dashing covert adventurer.

Officials see a Moscow plot. Has Scott been kidnapped? Is he dead? Have Scott and Tanya fled to Russia? And why is Oxford's vice-chancellor withholding vital information?

The intrepid Hemmings follows a series of clues into the cutthroat world of international patents, where the hunt for priceless genes is always nasty and often deadly.

In Arthur Hemmings, Pringle has created an original heartbreaker of a hero, a botanist detective with a dash of James Bond. Facing murderous threats, Hemmings investigates fearlessly and with devastating precision. Handsome, witty, an ambitious cook, and a wine lover, he is irresistible to a much younger American female researcher.

Day of the Dandelion is a seductive modern hybrid of the thrillers of Graham Greene and the adventure novels of Ian Fleming, filled with political, scientific, and commercial intrigue, and laced with miracle plants, deadly toxins, kidnappings, and car chases. It will keep the reader in suspense and amused from prelude to postscript.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Peter Pringle has managed something special: a thriller with super plants, deadly toxins, and international intrigue. And an appealingly original hero who understands, as the author does, the fascinations and dangers of the botanical world." — Jeffrey Frank, author of The Columnist and Bad Publicity

"Meet Arthur Hemmings — botanical sleuth — whose witty ways with women pervade an otherwise rough and tumble tale of academic science and corporate greed messing about with the future of the world's food supply." — Robert M. Goodman, Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Rutgers University

"A born story-teller, Peter Pringle has pulled off the rare feat of turning his journalistic expertise into an absorbing novel. In the botanical detective Arthur Hemmings, Pringle has created a Hercule Poirot for our times — with a distinctive dash of James Bond." — Anthony Holden, Shakespeare biographer and author of Big Deal and Bigger Deal

"Peter Pringle has cultivated a beguiling new hero in his botanical spy, Arthur Hemmings. Who knew the sexual lives of plants could be so intriguing — and so fraught with danger?" — David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist and author of Body of Lies

"At last — a serious, intelligent thriller. Peter Pringle has written a pacy novel with believable characters and a storyline that will not only keep you reading into the small hours but raises real issues crucial to our future. An amazing achievement." — Phillip Knightley, author of The Second Oldest Profession and The First Casualty

"A twenty-first-century tale with the suspense, mystery and humor of the classic detective adventure story. Only Arthur Hemmings can solve a case as baffling as the real-life Polonium 210 murders." — Nicholas von Hoffman, author of A Devil's Dictionary of Business

Publishers Weekly

Pringle puts what he learned in writing Food, Inc.: Mendel to Monsanto—The Promises and Perils of the Biotech Harvest(2003) to good use in his promising fiction debut, the first of a new botanical thriller series. His tough, shrewd hero, Arthur Hemmings, works as a researcher at the Royal Botanic Gardens, but is also a spy for the British Secret Service, which sends him after a greedy multinational corporation that has nasty plans to take over the world's food supply by using the single-sexed dandelion as its instrument. Sure, some of the prose is stiff and stodgy ("He was a nice man, she knew, a nice, considerate, widowed man who had several grandchildren of his own, and who had no idea that what was about to occur on his watch could so change both their worlds"), and Hemmings occasionally comes across as too good to be true, but these are small details in a brilliant concept. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
The world's food supply is at stake for handsome scientist-adventurer-British spy Arthur Hemming in this botanical thriller by Pringle, who lives in New York City. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Academics meet 007 in a thriller about genetically modified foods. Arthur Hemmings is both a researcher at the Royal Botanic Gardens and an undercover agent for the Secret Service. In his second capacity, he's called upon by Ag & Fish to discover who broke into the lab of an Oxford professor and stole his research. Professor Scott and Tanya Petrovskaya, his assistant from the Saint Petersburg Botanical Garden, have been working on apomixis, a process whereby plants reproduce without male pollen, thereby enabling them to retain forever whatever desirable qualities they have without losing them in a generational gene shuffle. The consequences for the world food and drug supply are so enormous that governments and private companies are fighting to patent the process. No wonder Professor Scott is drowned, Tanya goes missing and another lab assistant dies of anaphylactic shock. It's up to the clever, urbane Hemmings to find the missing material. Though a greedy multinational company lawyer, the CIA and the British government all want the research for their own purposes, Hemmings, like Professor Scott, would like to see it benefit all humankind. Hemmings visits Oxford and interviews the professor's staff and friends, but it's at the Swiss patent office that opposing forces collide in a battle for the world-altering research. The results, based in part on Pringle's nonfiction work Food, Inc. (2003), are original, fast-paced and altogether delightful. Agent: Michael Carlisle/InkWell Management

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Simon & Schuster
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Read an Excerpt

Day of the Dandelion

An Arthur Hemmings Mystery
By Peter Pringle

Simon & Schuster

Copyright © 2007 Peter Pringle
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781416540755



Brunn, Moravia, Winter 1884

The abbot knew he was dying. Since the beginning of December, he had been

unable to summon the strength to take even a few steps in the monastery

garden. Each morning Frau Dupouvec, his housekeeper, wrapped his swollen legs

in thick cotton bandages to stanch the fluids his failing kidneys could no

longer remove. After a slight improvement in the summer, his sight had dimmed

again; now he could read only a few pages without severe eyestrain and,

sometimes, painful headaches. In recent days, the leaden cold of the

Moravian winter had seeped through the stone walls of the prelate's quarters

and seemed to settle most cruelly in his bones, his very being.

The monks at the Monastery of St. Thomas in Brunn were urgently praying for

their beloved abbot's recovery. They could not bear the thought of losing him

and had convinced themselves that he would get better. When ill health had

overtaken him before, he had always rebounded. The crippling backache that

had prevented him from tending his precious seedlings in the monastery garden

had come and gone. The eye ailment had arrived and then disappeared. Moreover,

he seemed far too young to die; he was onlysixty-three. His predecessor, a

frailer sort, had lived to be seventy-five. The abbot himself knew better

than his devoted brothers, however. He knew that he would not survive to see

another summer, perhaps not even another spring.

For several months he had not received visitors, but before Christmas he

told Frau Doupevec and Joseph, his manservant, that he would make an exception

for a young Russian botanist from St. Petersburg named Ivan Ivanovich

Petrovsky. A year earlier, Ivan Ivanovich had written the abbot asking for

permission to quote from his essay Experiments in Plant Hybridization.

The abbot had been surprised and immensely pleased by the request; it was the

only recognition for his breeding work on garden peas he had received from

his peers. At the time, he was too busy with the administrative duties of the

monastery, but now his workload had diminished and he had sent the Russian an


The day of Ivan Ivanovich's visit, in early January 1884, a surprisingly

sunny day, the abbot appeared to have made an astonishing recovery. He was

walking on his own, without the aid of Joseph's arm. He was reading without

eyestrain, the headache had gone, and mercifully, even the fluids had stopped

leaking into the bandages around his legs.

The abbot asked Joseph to light the stove in the Orangery, where he would

receive his visitor. He also wanted to take the Russian on a tour of the

monastery gardens to show him where he had planted his peas, where he had

potted his seedlings, and where he had observed the strange activities of the

bees in his apiary.

Joseph warned his master not to linger outside -- the January sunshine was

deceptive -- but the abbot had rebuked him with uncharacteristic sharpness,

"I am well aware of the meteorological readings, Brother Joseph."

Frau Dupouvec had also protested, "Father Abbot has not even put on walking

boots in five weeks, let alone ventured into the garden," she said sternly.

But the abbot had insisted. Since it was not wet outside, merely cold, he

would wear his felt boots, which would be loose enough for his tender,

bandaged legs.

When the Russian arrived, promptly at ten o'clock as invited, the abbot was

sitting upright in his favorite, wingbacked chair in the Orangery, facing out

toward the garden. He was dressed, as usual, in his ankle-length black

soutane, and Joseph had managed, after a struggle, to pull on the abbot's

felt boots. For the sake of good relations with Frau Dupouvec, the abbot had

allowed her to place a gray woolen blanket over his lap even though the

Orangery was now warming up nicely with the heat from Joseph's fire.

Ivan Ivanovich was a tall man with curly brown hair, a high forehead, and a

bushy beard. He wore a stiff white collar, a black frock coat, and high

leather boots, the traditional dress of the tsarist professorial class.

Behind the spectacles, clear blue eyes gleamed eagerly.

As the Russian entered the Orangery, the abbot rose to greet him with the

wide familiar smile that Frau Dupouvec had not seen in several months.

"I am so pleased you have come," said the abbot with outstretched hand.

"I am honored to meet you, Father," replied the young Russian, bowing. "Very

honored indeed."

From a respectful distance, Joseph and Frau Dupouvec watched as the abbot and

the young Russian engaged immediately in a discussion of the genus

Pisum. From the bright enthusiasm on the abbot's face and his energetic

gesticulations, Joseph recognized each stage of the beautiful pea experiments.

And when the abbot began shrugging his shoulders and raising his hands in

gentle frustration, Joseph understood he was talking about his more recent

encounters in the garden, with a plant that seemed to defy all his theories

about heredity -- the orange hawkweed, or Hieracium.

The abbot was talking heatedly and now loudly enough for Joseph to hear. "I

must admit to you, my dear friend, how greatly I was deceived in this

respect. I cannot resist remarking how striking it is that the hybrids of

Hieracium behaved exactly the opposite to those of Pisum. They

did not vary in shape or color, or in any respect, in the next generation.

They were identical to their parents. Suddenly, I found myself in danger of

having to renounce my experiments completely -- and, therefore, my theory of


Ivan Ivanovich let out a cry of protest. "But no, Father, you must not allow

such oddities to dissuade you from your theory. I, for one, perfectly

understand what you have discovered, and I believe that you have, indeed,

unearthed a provable theory of inheritance. Your valuable work must continue

and be repeated by others, as I am sure it will be."

The abbot adjusted his heavy frame in the chair, shifting his legs just a

fraction, a movement that clearly caused him considerable discomfort. Then he

again addressed his Russian visitor.

"I confess to you, dear friend, that part of my reason for seeing you today,

besides thanking you for your mention of my essay, is my hope that you will

continue my work. There is no one here at the monastery with sufficient

interest, or expertise, to keep the experiments going. In fact, there are

some, I fear, who will seek to destroy my scientific legacy as soon as I am


The abbot paused.

"I have an idea about the strange behavior of Hieracium. Evidently, we

are dealing with an individual phenomenon that is the manifestation of a

different law of nature from the one I have uncovered. It appears that the

seed of Hieracium can be made by the plant without fertilization. I

have found only one other plant that behaves in this way, the common

dandelion, of the genus Taraxacum. Dandelions, like hawkweed, do not

reproduce as males and females normally do. The mother cells can produce the

seed on their own, without fertilization by the pollen. In short, these

plants do not have sex, like other plants."

The abbot paused again, carefully weighing what he was about to say.

"Ivan Ivanovich, my friend, I wish you to do me the honor of accepting my

garden notes and other work that I have so far prepared on this matter. I

would be happy to assist you in transporting these materials to St.

Petersburg. May I ask bluntly, do you accept this assignment?"

The young Russian was stunned. He had not expected any such outcome. He had

wanted simply to pay his respects to this remarkable old man who, as an

amateur gardener, had apparently discovered a fundamental law of nature. For

a long moment he was silent.

Then the abbot asked him again, this time more anxiously and yet still

graciously. "It would make me most happy, I assure you, if you would accept

this assignment."

Ivan Ivanovich quickly pulled himself together. He would accept, of course.

"Father, I am honored that you have considered me worthy of such a task. I

will conduct the necessary experiments with all means at my disposal."

"Good, that is settled then," said the abbot, with obvious relief. "Now I

must tell Joseph to prepare the materials, and we will walk in the garden,

briefly, before lunch."


Excerpted from Day of the Dandelion by Peter Pringle Copyright © 2007 by Peter Pringle. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Peter Pringle is a veteran British foreign correspondent. He is the
author and coauthor of several nonfiction books, including the
bestselling Those Are Real Bullets, Aren't They? He lives in New York

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