Meet Wilson. No first name necessary. All he’s ever known is a life of crime. He has chosen a criminal path even in the face of his family members’ attempts to dissuade him. His method is simple: take on jobs from Hamilton mob boss Paolo Donati – no matter how brutal – and execute them. Wilson measures his existence according to his boss’s underlying philosophy, which, as the book’s title suggests, owes a lot to The Origin of Species: “Paolo saw his empire as a vast ecosystem, and he would not allow it to become unbalanced. Unbalanced meant he was not in control, and that chaos signaled weakness.” But even the smallest act can blow up in complicated fashion. For Wilson, that includes stealing a bag from the nearby airport without checking the contents, and administering rough justice on behalf of a less-than-trustworthy friend. In episodic fashion, we see how Wilson’s quest to grasp any specks of humanity remaining within himself is repeatedly stymied, and others are incited to vengeful acts borne out of the idea that “weakness was worse than death.” Yet the novel, while violent and sometimes nihilistic, is not bleak. There is welcome black humour: “favors from a mob boss are like Grandma’s china – nice to have, but you never thought of actually using it.” Knowles also keeps Wilson balancing on a seesaw between likeability and villainy, tipping it just enough toward the former that readers empathize with him even as he moves further down the line toward the latter. Darwin’s Nightmare is a sobering look at what happens when a tentative quest for morality comes up against the reality that everyone lives in the jungle – where life has no value.
"Relentless. Only the most ruthless survive. A fantastic new hard-boiled voice. Anti-hero Wilson is pitch-perfect." John McFetridge, author, Dirty Sweet
"A sobering look at what happens when a tentative quest for morality comes up against the reality that everyone lives in the jungle, where life has no value." Quill & Quire
"Fans of Charlie Huston and Chuck Palahniuk will probably enjoy Darwin's Nightmare." Sacramento Book Review
"This fast paced novel is not for the faint of heart." MagillOnLiterature Plus