Monday, 20 March 2017

The Birdwatcher by William Shaw

The Birdwatcher
By William Shaw
Published by riverrun (Paperback - 9 February 2017)
ISBN: 978-1784297244

Publisher's description
Sergeant William South has always avoided investigating murder. A passionate birdwatcher and quiet man, he has few relationships and prefers it that way.
But when his only friend is found brutally beaten, South's detachment is tested. Not only is he bereft - it seems that there's a connection between the suspect and himself.
For South has a secret. He knows the kind of rage that killed his friend. He knows the kind of man who could do it. He knows, because Sergeant William South himself is a murderer.

Moving from the storm-lashed, bird-wheeling skies of the Kent Coast to the wordless war of the Troubles, The Birdwatcher is a crime novel of suspense, intelligence and powerful humanity about fathers and sons, grief and guilt and facing the darkness within.

My verdict
Having seen crime writers raving about The Birdwatcher on social media, I decided to treat myself to one of the glossy Goldsboro Signed Limited Edition Hardbacks. And I'm certainly glad that I did.

DS William South is a quiet man leading a solitary existence, with birdwatching on the isolated marshes as his only passion in life. A neighbourhood police officer with no desire for the limelight, he is reluctant to get involved in a murder investigation, even when he discovers that the victim was one of his neighbours, a fellow birder and possibly his only friend.

The Birdwatcher intrigued me from its brilliant first few lines, leaving me wondering what secrets DS William South was hiding. It's written in sharp succinct narrative with natural dialogue and vivid descriptions of the haunting bleak landscape. The characters are well developed and the slow-burning plot is cleverly constructed.

As the story gradually unfolds, we learn more about South's childhood in Northern Ireland through a series of flashbacks dotted throughout the book. This links the present day murder with events nearly 40 years earlier.

An intelligent yet also quirky read, The Birdwatcher kept me gripped right until the end, with some surprises along the way. It's far more than just 'another police procedural' and definitely a book to recommend.

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