Sunday, June 6, 2021

The Birdwatcher: William Shaw

The first three short paragraphs of this book set the tone of the rest of the story.

There were two reasons why William South did not want to be on the murder team.

The first was that it was October. The migrating birds had begun arriving on the coast.

The second was that, though nobody knew, he was a murderer himself.

William South has worked as a policeman for 20 years but has successfully avoided being on a murder team.  For the newest case, he is immediately signed on to work with a new Detective Sergeant, Alexandra Cupidi, since she is unfamiliar with the area and the body was discovered in his neighborhood. He soon finds out that the victim is his next door neighbor, Bob Rayner. They were not close, but had similar interests, including birding, so they spent a lot of time together. So he has a personal reaction to the crime. Rayner was sort of a mystery man, never talked much about himself or his past. His sister was visiting, and was the one who found the body, but after she was interviewed she disappeared.



As the case continues, South gets to know DS Cupidi and her troubled teenage daughter. DS Cupidi is driven and aggressive, the opposite of Shaw. Cupidi's daughter, Zoƫ, is a good character. She is annoying because she is always trying to irritate her mother, and compensates for her loneliness as the new girl in school with sarcasm and rude humor. South gets roped into taking her birding with him a couple of times and they form a bond.

William South is a good policeman; other than doing his job, he spends most of his time birding. He is a very sympathetic character, much more so than DS Cupidi. Getting back to the fact that South has killed a man, this happened before he was a policeman, and throughout the book there are flashbacks to the time period when that event took place. It is pretty clear who South killed but there are plenty of questions (why and how, for starters) that don't get answered until close to the end of book. So in a sense there are two mysteries.

The story and style of writing kept me engaged. The descriptions of the setting, the coast of Kent near the Dungeness nuclear power station, were very well done. I was very involved in following William South's story and seeing how this case affected him. By the time I had read about 80% of the book, I had no idea how it would be resolved. Perhaps the story did not end exactly as I would have liked, but the disparate threads of the story were pulled together effectively.


This book is followed by the first in the DS Alexandra Cupidi series, where she becomes the main character. I am very curious about that and will be reading that one.


 -----------------------------

Publisher:   Mulholland Books, 2017 (orig. pub. 2016)
Length:      328 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Prequel to the DS Alexandra Cupidi series
Setting:      Kent, UK
Genre:       Police procedural
Source:     I purchased my copy.

20 comments:

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I really enjoyed The Birdwatcher, I found out about it through andother blog and keep meaning to read the followup as well but, haven't done so yet.

TracyK said...

Diane, it took me a while to get a copy of this book and I was glad I finally got to read it. I have reading plans for at least the next couple of months with the 20 Books of Summer but I will start looking for a copy of that next one soon.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Birds and I have an uneasy relationship since the time I got pecked on the head for venturing too close to nests. My backyard is filled with CDs floating in the wind to keep nest builders away because I was unable to into my yard at all last summer with all of the nests. I bet you can guess the movie that scares me most.

TracyK said...

Patti, I had not heard of birds being that aggressive. Although I can see that they would be protective of nests. We have hummingbirds come in (or just one visiting all the time, hard to tell). We have a lot of crows hanging around our condominiums and sometimes they start swirling around like in THE BIRDS...High up in the air though.

Margot Kinberg said...

I have to admit, I've heard a lot of good things about this one, Tracy, but I haven't (yet) read it. I really should; it's on my wish list. Thanks for the reminder of it.

Debbie Rodgers said...

Hi, Tracy. If you’re interested in a detective series that includes the birdwatching aspect, the “Birder” series starring Dominic JeJeune by Steve Burrows available. I thought the first, A Siege of Bitterns was excellent.

Rick Robinson said...

Are all teenaged girls “troubled”, or are authors just unoriginal about them? It seems every teen of either gender in mystery novels is troubled in someway. That aspect alone turns me off to this one, I’m afraid.

As for birds, we love them, and there are many here. We have seed feeders both front and back yards, plus a Hummingbird feeder in front and suet feeder in back. I’ve never heard of a bird pecking anyone as Patti said happened to her. Very unusual!

Birdwatching is an interesting setting for a mystery, I remember liking J. S. Borthwick’s Case of the Hook-Billed Kites.

TracyK said...

Rick, I must not have described the character of the teenage character that well. She is not really troubled, just in a difficult new situation. She seems fairly typical, only very outgoing, which I never was as a teenager (or now).

We love birds also and have a few who stop by our backyard sometimes, in addition to the hummingbird, who visits our cuphea and agastache and sage plants.

The one other birdwatching book I have read is one from the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves. She also wrote the George and Molly Palmer-Jones series in the 1980s-1990s about a birdwatcher and his wife, but I haven't read any of those yet.

TracyK said...

Margot, I know you will enjoy The Birdwatcher when you read it. It has many elements you would like, including a great setting and some good characters.

TracyK said...

Debbie, thanks for that information on the books by Steve Burrows. I recently saw two later books in that series in a catalog and I wondered if the books were any good. I will definitely find a copy of A Siege of Bitterns.

Sam Sattler said...

I really enjoyed this one a lot, and I was actually a little disappointed to find out which character the rest of the series would be built around. But after reading Salt Lane, I was OK about the way it went. I still haven't been able to get my hands on a copy of Deadland, the next book in the series, but I'm still planning to do that.

Lark said...

I've got this one on my TBR list. It sounds like one I would like a lot.

TracyK said...

Sam, since I have my reading planned for the next two months at least, I have plenty of time to find a copy of Salt Lane, at a reasonable price. I do look forward to see how that series goes.

TracyK said...

Lark, I am pretty sure you will like this book and it is definitely worth trying.

Cath said...

This was very good even though I tend to avoid books about The Troubles. However I didn't really care for Cupidi so haven't felt inclined to carry on with the series.

TracyK said...

Cath, I found the parts about The Troubles interesting but there were times that switching back to the past interfered with the main story. I am curious to see how the author builds a series around Cupidi so I will try the first book if I can find a copy I am happy with. I have heard good things about his other series too.

Rick Robinson said...

Oh no! I thought SALT LANE was the first in the series, so I got it from the library, now I think I should have started here! *expletive*

TracyK said...

Rick, in this case I am not sure it makes any difference. In this book, William South is the protagonist, even though he is working with DS Cupidi. In the later books DS Cupidi is the focus (I assume) and I don't know if William South even shows up again. Since this is the only one I have read so far, I don't know enough to say for sure.

Rick Robinson said...

We’ll, I didn’t pay attention, and now have SALT LANE in hand, so I’ll start it today. Thanks.

TracyK said...

Well, I hope you like it.