The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid

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Overview

"FANTASTIC. If I did not know most of the main players I would have thought the author had a vivid and twisted imagination."--Paul Martin Brown, author of Wild Orchids of Florida

"A fascinating true story of obsession, greed, and lust for the unobtainable. Reminds me a great deal of The Maltese Falcon. This rare flower is definitely the stuff that dreams are made of."--Ace Atkins, author of Devil's Garden and Infamous

"Pittman has captured the ...

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The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid

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Overview

"FANTASTIC. If I did not know most of the main players I would have thought the author had a vivid and twisted imagination."--Paul Martin Brown, author of Wild Orchids of Florida

"A fascinating true story of obsession, greed, and lust for the unobtainable. Reminds me a great deal of The Maltese Falcon. This rare flower is definitely the stuff that dreams are made of."--Ace Atkins, author of Devil's Garden and Infamous

"Pittman has captured the extreme competition, unique characters, and general insanity that often typify the orchid world. The Scent of Scandal exemplifies how passion and profit can overrule common sense and the law."--Scott Steward, former associate editor, North American Native Orchid Journal

After its Peruvian discovery in 2002, Phragmipedium kovachii became the rarest and most sought-after orchid in the world. Prices soared to $10,000 on the black market. Then one showed up at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, where every year more than 100,000 people visit. They come for the lush landscape on Sarasota Bay and for Selby's vast orchid collection, one of the most magnificent in the world.
    
The collision between Selby's scientists and the smugglers of Phrag. Kovachii, a rare ladyslipper orchid hailed as the most significant and beautiful new species discovered in a century, led to search warrants, a grand jury investigation, and criminal charges. It made headlines around the country, cost the gardens hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, and led to tremendous internal turmoil.
    
Investigative journalist Craig Pittman unravels this tangled web to shine a spotlight on flaws in the international treaties governing trade in endangered wildlife--which may protect individual plants and animals in shipping but do little to halt the destruction of whole colonies in the wild. 
    
The Scent of Scandal unspools like a riveting mystery novel, stranger than anything in Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief or the film Adaptation. Pittman shows how some people can become so obsessed--with beauty, with profit, with fame--that they will ignore everything, even the law.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An excruciatingly detailed account of the 2002 controversy that rocked Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Fla., when its scientists were asked to identify an orchid of dubious origin. St. Petersburg Times writer Pittman's (Manatee Insanity: Inside the War over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species, 2010, etc.) zeal for his subject is admirable, but his enthusiasm is unlikely to be shared by many of his readers. Was Michael Kovach a simple orchid collector who, by removing a rare new species of orchid from its native Peru and bringing it back to the United States, unwittingly violated the law? Or was he a greedy, scheming orchid smuggler, well aware of the illegality of his actions? Such questions are intriguing at first, but the book begins to drag as the reader discovers how little is actually at stake: Kovach will either be sentenced to jail but not serve any time, or he'll simply have to pay a small fine. The executive director of the Gardens will either keep her job or be fired. People's professional reputations will suffer, they'll lose money and they'll be otherwise inconvenienced. But after expectations of explosive, life-or-death drama, such mundane reversals feel anticlimactic. However, Pittman's background as a reporter mostly serves him well; he is adept at foregrounding the most pertinent details of a story that involves conflicting accounts and years of complex litigation, and the narrative moves along swiftly. In other ways, though, his journalistic instincts are a liability. The book often feels choppy and rushed, as if it were written on a tight deadline, and Pittman has a penchant for hackneyed phrases ("the big pay-off…that would put you on Easy Street") and heavy-handed foreshadowing ("She believed she had climbed to the pinnacle of success. Actually, she was standing on a precipice"). Though exhaustively researched, the book is not compelling enough to hold the interest of anyone who does not have a personal connection to the material. Read Eric Hansen's Orchid Fever (2000) instead.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813039749
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida
  • Publication date: 4/5/2012
  • Series: Florida History and Culture Series
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 380,292
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig Pittman is an award-winning journalist who writes about environmental issues for Florida’s largest newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times. He is the coauthor of Paving Paradise and author of Manatee Insanity.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2012

    To love an orchid

    This book is well written and comprehensive. It brings alive all the complexities of CITIES, discovery, greed, the passion of orchids, international issues, and how we can schew our thought processes. Micheal Kovach died Aug 26,2012. May he rest in peace and thank you for the beautiful orchid we may now enjoy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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