Spotlight on animal intelligence

Spotlight on animal intelligence


With Animal Souls, the master of scientific thrillers José Rodrigues dos Santos offers this year a remarkable, original adventure, at a fast pace, which reveals both the bestiality of men and animal intelligence. The author of the best-selling The Formula of God relies this time on the latest scientific research in ethology to drive his plot. In doing so, he forces us to look at the darkest side of humanity. 

This very gripping story, which will haunt your imagination for a long time, begins with the discovery of a floating body in the orca tank of the Lisbon Oceanarium, in Portugal. All clues converge on Maria Flor, who is arrested. Only one man can help her: her husband, Tomás Noronha.

To prove Maria For's innocence, Tomás must find the real perpetrator of the crime. This quest makes him discover the secret project of the victim and leads him to the heart of a cult painting, ancient, esoteric like no one: The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch. At the end of his quest is a wonder of nature: the intelligence, emotions and consciousness of animals. 

The discoveries

J.R. dos Santos explains in an email interview that he has recently become interested in ecology, ethology and conservation. 

“Even though I was not very concerned about animals, I recently realized that major scientific breakthroughs have been made in the field of animal consciousness. It seems that, contrary to long-established scientific dogma, there is nothing we humans can do, and animals can't do too, although they have different skills. »

“We have long believed that humans were the only ones who could make tools. Yet it has been discovered that animals can also do this. It was long thought that only humans could cultivate. But it was discovered that they could do it too. And so on.

“It turns out that animals can count, love, hate, talk, and even use grammar in their own language. In fact, they can do everything we do, to varying degrees. It is partly this story that I tell in Animal Souls. »

His new novel is a true whodunnit. 

“Someone is murdered. Someone is wrongly accused of murder. And our hero, Tomás, must find the real culprit. It's an investigation, except that this investigation will lead him to examine the most recent scientific discoveries in the field of animal cognition, since they are relevant to understanding the crime. »

J.R. dos Santos is an outstanding storyteller…and he's done his homework. 

“Everything the animals do in the novel does not come out of my imagination; these are things that scientists have been able to observe in real life. »

Hard-hitting questions

J.R. dos Santos explains that the big challenge in writing the book was to find a balance between the scientific part and the fictional investigation. 

“I never just tell a story. I always try to tell real facts, through a story. »

« Animal Soulstalks about animal intelligence and then formulates a question: if animals are so intelligent, aware and sensitive, how come we treat them the way we do? How can we do what we do to them in slaughterhouses, in laboratories, in nature? »

“Did you know that of all the vertebrate biomass that exists on Earth, only 3% lives in the wild? Three percent! This means that 97% of the vertebrate biomass on our planet belongs to animals that are in fact our slaves. What does this say about us? » 


Seeing that the mistress did not realize what was happening and did not run away, she freed herself and disappeared down the hall screaming, panicked. Stunned, the teacher tried to follow her student, but Ana had disappeared. What had happened to make her feel like this?

Worried, she turned and followed the hallway until she came to the railing of the Arctic Ocean Basin. Everything was calm. She leaned over the water and everything seemed normal.

As she was about to leave, she saw a red stain. She approached and examined the pool more closely. She saw a figure floating in the middle of all that red and took a second to realize what it was. The corpse of a man. »


  • J.R. dos Santos has been a journalist, war reporter, star presenter of the 8 p.m. news in Portugal for more than 25 years. 
  • He is one of Europe's greatest thriller writers. 
  • His saga Tomás Noronha now has nine volumes and has been translated into 18 languages. 
  • He became known in France and Canada with his best-selling God's Formula, which has sold over 2 million copies worldwide. 
  • The film rights to this series have been purchased by Belga Films. 
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