The Birdwatcher


This week, it’s been a trip to the bleak shingle wastes of the Kent coast, the landscape made famous by Derek Jarman and his garden close to Dungeness nuclear power station. In this police procedural, a middle-aged constable who has devoted his life to community safety meetings and dull meetings with local councillors finds himself drawn into a murder enquiry when one of his neighbours on an isolated coastal road is brutally killed.

William South’s job is further complicated by his new boss, a woman who has recently moved down from London with her trouble-prone teenage daughter. She suggests that his home becomes the operational centre for the enquiry, and he quickly learns that his bird-watching neighbour had a number of secrets.

The story is intercut with South’s early history, in Troubles-era Northern Ireland. His father was involved with the paramilitaries, and it becomes clear early on that South has grown up with a sense of guilt as well as loss.

I found the Northern Irish element predictable, and by the end, it was slowing the pace of the present-day narrative. All the same, this is a highly readable and well-crafted novel, that breathes new life into familiar fictional territory. Thumbs up.


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