Book Review: The Birdwatcher by William Shaw

THE BIRDWATCHER

Author: William Shaw

Publisher: RiverRun

Release Date: May 2016

Sergeant William South is a quiet, unassuming man. A solid local policeman and a committed birdwatcher, he appreciates routine and has no interest in working on headline-grabbing cases, such as murders. However, when a neighbour – one of his few friends – is found dead, he is paired with ambitious outsider DS Alexandra Cupidi, who leans on South’s local knowledge. As the case unfolds, and an unexpected lead sucks him deeper into the mystery, South finds himself increasingly unable to outrun his troubled past. Can he track down the killer before the body-count rises, or will his demons swallow him whole?

The Birdwatcher is a fascinating police procedural set on the rain-lashed Kent coast. Reluctant protagonist William South is an unusual central figure, and his grim investigation forces him into a similarly grim personal reckoning – which is teased out via regular flashbacks.

The striking spectre of Dungeness Nuclear Power Station looms over the proceedings in much the same way as South’s murky past continues to cast a long shadow over his life. The blistered-looking otherness of the area is extremely well-rendered, and I particularly enjoyed the depiction of a decrepit caravan park now ruled by an overweight local drug dealer and her vicious dogs.

Interestingly, despite being billed as a standalone, The Birdwatcher has spawned a spin-off series focusing on supporting player DS Cupidi (Salt Lane, Deadland). I look forward to reading more!

Review by Tom Leins

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