I’m going to kick off this monthly book review with what has become (so far!) my crime novel of the year – The Birdwatcher by William Shaw.
Police Sergeant William South has a reason for not wanting to be on the murder investigation.
He is a murderer himself.
But the victim was his only friend; like him, a passionate birdwatcher. South is warily partnered with the strong-willed Detective Sergeant Alexandra Cupidi, newly recruited to the Kent coast from London. Together they find the body, violently beaten, forced inside a wooden chest. Only rage could kill a man like this.
But soon – too soon – they find a suspect: Donnie Fraser, a drifter from Northern Ireland. His presence in Kent disturbs William – because he knew him as a boy. If the past is catching up with him, South wants to meet it head on. For even as he desperately investigates the connections, he knows there is no crime, however duplicitous or cruel, that can compare to the great lie of his childhood.
William Shaw writes with a quiet intensity that draws you in to the story and makes you care about the characters. I very much enjoyed the interplay and shifting of dynamics between William South, DS Cupidi and Cupidi’s teenage daughter, Zoe, who is struggling to adjust to the Kent coast after life in London. At first all three are wary of each other, but gradually a degree of trust grows between them.
The bleakness of the Kent coast, its wild nature and wide expanse of beach in the shadow of a power station is beautifully drawn and acts as a perfect backdrop to violent murder. The novel is atmospheric, thought-provoking and beautifully crafted, and builds the tension, layer upon layer. It stayed with me long after I had finished it.
William Shaw is also the author of the Breen and Tozer trilogy of novels set in the 1960s.
The Birdwatcher, was published in May by Quercus Books and is available from bookshops and Eye Library (though you may have to reserve it!).
Mary-Jane Riley – latest book “After She Fell” is published by Harper Collins.