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The Birdwatcher by William Shaw
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The Birdwatcher

by William Shaw

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
The first four lines of The Birdwatcher are stunning. You know immediately that William South is a killer, but as you read and make your way around South's mind, you can't believe that he is. And then you learn more. And more. South is a completely sympathetic character in a vivid, atmospheric setting, tasked with finding a killer, and teamed with the questionable DS Alexandra Cupidi. I first learned about this book after reading the synopsis of Salt Lane and discovering that it was the second book in the Alexandra Cupidi series. I had a feeling that I definitely wanted to start at the beginning, so I got a copy of The Birdwatcher. I'm glad I did because I was only a few pages into the story when I knew that I was reading something very special.

It wasn't just about a mystery that keeps you guessing. It wasn't just about the remoteness and loneliness of a landscape that mirrored the mind of the main character. It was about a troubled teenage girl who proved to be the one person lonely William South could open up to. And it was about a totally infuriating lead investigator. As I read The Birdwatcher, I wondered if I really wanted to go on to read Salt Lane. You see, I couldn't stand Alexandra Cupidi. She's the type of "force of nature" that I want to head in the opposite direction from. Cupidi presumes much when it comes to William South. She commandeers his house and turns it into their base of operations, and she also turns him into a babysitter. It's almost as if she went out of her way not to endear herself to me. And it worked. But... she's a fine investigator.

I think William Shaw is a puppetmaster when it comes to storytelling. Keep your eye on him. I was completely drawn into his tale, and although the ending was inevitable, I loved the book, and nothing is going to keep me away from the second Alexandra Cupidi mystery-- not even Cupidi herself. ( )
  cathyskye | Jul 16, 2018 |
Author William Shaw has also written a three book series (Breen and Tozer) about a London homicide detective pair. I read the first two of the three book series and enjoyed them thoroughly, particularly the mid-1960s setting and all the wackiness of that period, featuring the Beatles, the Viet Nam war, police women as coffee fetchers etc. etc. Recently, I noticed this “new” series (two books so far) featuring homicide inspector Alexandra Cupidi and I thought I’d give it a try. It takes place in Kent, a county in southeast England, and unlike the Breen-Tozer novels, this takes place in current times.

If you haven’t yet read the plot description of “The Birdwatcher” (BW) on the Amazon book page, then don’t – it gives away far too much information. If you haven’t read other reviewers comments yet, please realize that the focus of many is on the title character, William South, another police officer who happens to be a birdwatcher, as was his friend, a murder victim. However, the series is about Alexandra Cupidi, who has just transferred from a similar position in London; she is the single mom of a 15 year old, Zoe. The story begins with the discovery of South’s murdered friend.

Before too long, there is a flashback – not always my favorite plot device. For whatever reason, I found this use of flashbacks annoying, though necessary and key to keeping the tension high – I always wanted to get back to the “main story”. Because of his close (but sexless) relationship with the victim, South is ordered off the case, but finds ways to keep injecting himself into the investigation. And occasionally he babysits Zoe, which produces some incredibly interesting, revealing and touching scenes rarely scene in crime fiction. The search goes all over the place, and then of course there is the flashback thread which will have to intersect with the murder somehow, sometime.

Good story, nicely developed characters, good tension, and excellent dialog. A winner! Then there’s the climax. A real shoot ‘em up. Rare in Brit crime fiction since most cops are still not armed. And it’s movie-worthy, though not over cooked. The story is well-ended and serves as a stand-alone for those who don’t want to get into another series….but for the rest of us there is that little seed growing inside and we’re wondering what happens next to these characters…. ( )
  maneekuhi | Jul 14, 2018 |
Quite a good mystery that shifts between a detective's childhood (and the murder of his father in Northern Ireland) and the present day as he reluctantly assists a newly-arrived Londoner tackle the murder of his neighbor, who it turns out isn't what he seemed. In fact, nobody is - but it's all kept on a human scale, though with a very dramatic ending.
  bfister | Feb 6, 2018 |
The Birdwatcher lived up to its reviews. A crime novel taking place in Kent, England and involving William, a veteran detective and avid birdwatcher, who is identified on the first page as a murderer. So, when he is assigned the first murder investigation of his career and it is that of a quasi friend and fellow birdwatcher, he is unwillingly drawn into the case. The present murder story is interspersed with the story of William's youth, culminating in the murder he committed. The present day murder forces William to reflect on and remember what he has tried to forget for many years.
Another reviewer wrote that "this is a slow burner of a book, the tone somewhat melancholy and lonely". There is little sentiment expressed in the writing, which matches the starkness of the landscape and the turmoil of the major characters. I found the book arresting, unusual, and as good a crime novel as I've read in a while. ( )
  bogopea | Nov 24, 2017 |
The opening paragraph is definitely a hook, a self confessed murderer. But how and when? As we read we come to know Community officer William South, an avid birder living on the coast at Kent, a mild mannered man, a quiet soul who lives alone. He has never been part of a murder investigation before, but is brought into one when a neighbor and fellow birder is murdered.

Alternating chapters take us back to the past, William's past as a child, living in Ireland with his mother and father during the period designated as The Troubles. What happened there will have a huge impact on his life as he lives it now and on his future. This is a slow burner of a book, the tone somewhat melancholy and lonely. Although William loves his quietness, his isolation, he becomes involved in a strange concurrence of events, although is to to back away. A young,troubled teen and a new officer to the police rota also play important parts.

One of those books that has almost the whole package, good and multilayered characters, a steady if slowly unraveling pace, gorgeous setting. Interesting asides about birds and birding, a book that connects past with present in a surprising way, a book to become immersed is and just enjoy the unraveling.

ARC from Netgalley. ( )
  Beamis12 | Jul 25, 2017 |
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A methodical, diligent, and exceptionally bright detective, South is an avid birdwatcher and trusted figure in his small town on the rugged Kentish coast. He also lives with the deeply buried secret that, as a child in Northern Ireland, he may have killed a man. When a fellow birdwatcher is found murdered in his remote home, South's world flips.
The culprit seems to be a drifter from South's childhood; the victim was the only person connecting South to his early crime; and a troubled, vivacious new female sergeant has been relocated from London and assigned to work with South. As our hero investigates, he must work ever-harder to keep his own connections to the victim, and his past, a secret.
The Birdwatcher is British crime fiction at its finest; a stirring portrait of flawed, vulnerable investigators; a meticulously constructed mystery; and a primal story of fear, loyalty and vengeance
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Police Sergeant William South has a reason for not wanting to be on a murder investigation. He may be a murderer himself. He is 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. Their suspect, Donnie Fraser, is 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.… (more)

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