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, USA, 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.
Craig Pittman, author of the twisted and amazing new non-fiction book The Scent of Scandal, is a native Floridian. Born in Pensacola, he graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him ""the most destructive force on campus."" Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998 he has reported on environmental issues for Florida's largest newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times), where his coverage has won both state and national awards. A series he co-wrote with Matthew Waite became their book, Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss, published in 2009. Since then Pittman has written Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species (2010), which the Florida Humanities Council declared an ""essential read"" for all Floridians, and The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution declared ""irresistible.