The Birdwatcher. 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. South knows it.
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.
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.
This beautifully written book tells the story of Billy McGowan, the boy raised amidst "The Troubles" of Northern Ireland who then becomes William South, Police Sergeant and Neighbourhood Officer for the Kent Police. He lives his life alone and he lives quietly, he is also a birdwatcher. He and his birding companion Bob Rayner spend hours together, yet neither man has any clue of the secrets held by the other.
Until Bob Rayner is found dead, murdered in a most horrible and brutal way.
For Detective Inspector Alexandra Cupidi who has transferred from the Metropolitan Police, this is her first case in her new post. Despite knowing that Bob was a friend of Souths, she wants him to accompany her to the grisly crime scene. South is deeply affected by the sight of his murdered friend, there appears to be no explanation, no possible reason why someone should do this, yet South recognises the effects of rage when he sees it.
Despite having a murder to investigate, Cupidi is distracted, her teenaged daughter, Zoe, is having problems settling in to her new home and school. Zoe and South develop a friendship of sorts, they discover something in common, each ones mother had moved them to a place they thought safer, yet both mothers had their own troubles to leave behind.
The body count rises, one of the dead is a name from Souths distant past, Donnie Fraser, who as a young man had admired Souths violent father, what possible connection could there be between Fraser and the other deaths? Why does Cupidi order South to keep away from the investigation?
I enjoyed how the author skilfully wove in the stories of both the young Billy and the adult William, separately yet somehow seamlessly, the reader isn't jarred when moving between the two ages and countries. The ending of a book is, of course important! For me, this book has two endings, difficult to explain without spoilers so I won't attempt it, just to say that one of them came as a real surprise to me.
I do hold the faint hope of a William South series.
This is a book to buy in hardback, to keep and savour, to take out now and again to re-read. It's a keeper.
Thanks to NetGalley and Quercus Riverrun for providing an Advanced Reader Copy of this book