Cover Love: part 31 – Ferris Wheels

The covers of novels entice the reader to enter a different world. Covers are, after all, the way the publisher hooks the reader into choosing one book over countless others.

In this, my thirty-first installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature ferris wheels on their covers. Another summery topic that might add some summer reads to your TBR.

If you’re interested, here is a brief history of the Ferris Wheel

Some of the following books I’ve already read, some are on my ‘to read’ list,
and some I chose only for their covers.

Some, perhaps, will now be on your TBR!

Just click on the cover to read the book’s synopsis from  Goodreads.

You might just find your next favorite book!

Stay tuned for Cover Love Part 32:

or… revisit any of the previous installments of

Cover Love – some of which I’ve updated recently

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 8 Comments

Throwback Thursday (an old favorite recommended)

The Throwback Thursday meme was created by Renee over at It’s Book Talk. She made this meme to share some of her old favorites. Although all bookbloggers have an endless TBR pile, we seldom take the time to reflect back and post about some of the great reads from a few years ago. I decided to join in because sharing book recommendations is one of my most favorite things to do!

My pick for Thursday, July 27, 2017

“The forgotten garden” by Kate Morton

The experience of reading is vastly different for an adolescent as opposed to an adult. For one thing an adult is interrupted more. The interruptions may be from spouses or children demanding your attention, or, they might just be your own stresses and worries encroaching on your thoughts…. Whatever, the reading experience of the adolescent is somehow undiluted. When I was a teenager I would read voraciously and completely. I was IN the book for the duration only to emerge when the last page was consumed.

I recently once again had that type of reading experience with Kate Morton‘s “The forgotten garden”. An historical novel with gothic overtones, it is also a family saga which spans a century. Complete with a family secret, a mysterious disappearance, an unexpected inheritance, fairy tales, and a brooding English mansion perched on the cliffs of Cornwall, it was everything I used to love in a novel.

The novel opens with a small girl put on a ship to Australia by a person known to the reader as “the authoress”. This tiny girl makes the vast journey alone, only to be claimed by the harbour master to be brought up as his own child. He names her ‘Nell’. After a happy childhood with this family, she is told her true story by her ‘father’ at her coming-of-age party. This life changing revelation is what spurs her to try to discover who her birth family is and why she ended up where she did. She embarks upon a search for the truth that leads her to the windswept Cornish coast and Blackhurst Manor, once owned by the wealthy Mountrachet family.

On Nell’s death, her grand-daughter, Cassandra, comes into an unexpected inheritance. Cliff Cottage and its forgotten garden. The inheritance leads her to discover secrets about the doomed Mountrachet family and their ward Eliza Makepeace, a writer of dark Victorian fairy tales. Here Cassandra finally uncovers the truth about the family, and solves the century-old mystery of a little girl lost…

Anyone who was ever a fan of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “The secret garden” (who by the way is mentioned in the novel), Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre”, or Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca” is certain to love the writing of Kate Morton. I am not saying that her writing is literary genius, only that she transports the reader to her world seemingly effortlessly. For anyone who wants their fiction to provide an escape, I highly recommend “The forgotten garden“.

from the author’s website:

Kate Morton was born in a tiny town in South Australia and moved with her family many times before they settled finally on Tamborine Mountain. There she attended a small country school and spent much of her childhood inventing and playing games of make-believe with her two sisters.

Kate fell avidly in love with books very early. Her favourites were those by Enid Blyton, and she escaped many times up The Faraway Tree or with the Famous Five into Smugglers Cove. It was a love deeply felt, for it is still mysteries and secrets that dance around the edges of Kate’s mind, keeping her awake deep into the night, turning or typing pages.

After an ill-fated attempt to Do Something Sensible and obtain an Arts/Law degree, Kate went on to complete a summer Shakespeare course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and studied for and earned a Licentiate in Speech and Drama from Trinity College London. For some time Kate believed her future lay in theatre, and she continued to act in community productions while completing her Honours and Masters degrees in English Literature. She still finds the lure of the theatre almost irresistible.

Kate’s books are published in 42 countries and in 34 languages. She currently lives in London with her family and continues to write the sorts of books she can disappear inside.


More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere 

Renee at Its Book Talk

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Nicki at Secret Library

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Stephanie at Stephanie’s Novel Fiction

Cathy at Between the Lines

P Turners at The PTurnersbookblog

Julie at Novel Thrills and Chills

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Danielle at Books,Vertigo and Tea

Cathy at What Cathy Read Next

Posted in Favorite books, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , | 39 Comments

Book covers unique? I don’t think so…

Many of you have been following my Cover Love series of blog posts for some time. Some of my newer followers might not have seen my “Seeing Double” post in the series. As I am constantly updating this post, I thought I’d give you an example of what can be found on it.

Example:  the same derelict building can be found in all FIVE of these covers!

If you think you’ve seen that cover art before – chances are – you HAVE!

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this or any of my blog posts.

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 22 Comments

“Lost for Words” by Stephanie Butland


What bibliophile can resist a novel about a charming used bookshop, with even more charming and quirky protagonists? I can’t.  To further my interest, I’ve read some great reviews of this novel that were written by some of favorite fellow bookbloggers (see list below my review). And… did I mention it is set in York, England?  What a package!

how I imagined “Lost for Words” would look

This delightful novel features a  memorable protagonist, Loveday Cardew. She has worked for “Lost for Words” for the past ten years, is twenty-five years old, has a nose ring, and several tattoos which depict lines from her favorite novels. She’ll be the first to admit that she likes books much better than she likes people.  An introvert, she avoids confrontation at all costs. I confess that in the first chapter or so I wasn’t Loveday’s biggest fan, though over the course of the novel I came to love her like a daughter.  The author cleverly put forth her bristly and sarcastic character so as to show how Loveday put up walls against the people she meets.

“I word hard, but I know that I’m also hard work.”

Loveday’s poem explaining why she loves books:

“I like books cause they don’t care if your knickers match your bra. If you’ve washed your hair. I like books cause they don’t invade your space. They sit on your shelf and don’t get in your face. I like books cause they don’t mind what your heart contains, who you’ve left behind. I like books cause they don’t give a shit when you get to the end – what you think of it. Books don’t care if you’ve got a degree or what you watch on TV. Books don’t judge if you’ve got tattoos, if your friends are few. I like books cause they don’t care.”

Loveday’s one true friend is the owner of “Lost for Words”. More like family than he is a boss, Archie is a portly, gregarious gentleman. Generous in size and generous in nature. Archie wears a lot of tweed, smokes a pipe, and has a luxuriant moustache. He adores Loveday like a father and calls her his little ‘stray waif’.

“Archie says I keep all my interesting bits well hidden and getting to know me is an exercise in faith rewarded.”

One day Loveday finds a poetry book on the pavement. As any true bibliophile would, she rescues the book from the elements and takes it back to the bookshop. She posts a sign in the window “Found” with the books details.  This small, seemingly inconsequential event will profoundly impact the lives of three people.

Nathan Avebury, a poet and magician, notices her sign in the window and comes in to claim his book. Nathan seems to see beyond Loveday’s off-putting demeanor to the person she is underneath.

“When you’re a child you don’t always know the right questions, and you don’t know that you don’t have forever to ask them.”

Though part of this novel are flashbacks to Loveday’s childhood days in Whitby, her past is a well guarded secret that is not divulged until near the end of the book. We know that she suffered a great trauma in her childhood and that when she was ten years old she was put into the foster system.

“Small memories come from the kind of tiny reminders that you simply can’t predict, and so can’t protect yourself from, and they catch you, paper cuts across the heart.”

All of the characters in this novel are so genuine and so very ‘human’.  Villains and angels are both represented – showing that no one is completely one or the other.  This is a book that will steal the heart of ardent bibliophiles and those who carry emotional baggage from their youth. “Lost for Words” is laced with moments that will alternately make you laugh and make you weep. If you were expecting a ‘cutesy’ chick lit book, you will soon discover that “Lost for Words” has hidden depths with some very serious themes. In a nutshell – I loved it!

My sincere gratitude to Bonnier Zaffre Books via NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy of this novel. I was only too happy to write this review.

“Lost for Words” is the 12th book of my #20BooksOfSummer challenge

Check out some other great reviews of “Lost for Words”!

Jill’s Book Cafe

My Reading Corner

Portobello Book Blog

The Book Whisperer


Stephanie Butland is a writer, who is thriving after breast cancer. (She used to say she was a survivor, but that was a bit lacking in joie de vivre.)
Although she’d never have chosen it, her dance with cancer has changed her life in many positive ways. Now she is happier, healthier, and more careful with her precious life and the precious people and things in it.
Her writing career began with her dance with cancer, and now she is  a novelist.
Aside from writing, she works as a speaker and trainer, and she works with charities to help raise awareness and money in the hope that cancer will soon be about as scary as a wart.

Stephanie Butland lives in Northumberland.  She likes words and tea.

And since I love words, here is one that is particularly apt for this novel:

And, a final quote from “Lost for Words” to sum up how I feel about the book:

“A bookshop is not magic, but it can slowly heal your heart”.

Posted in book reviews, books about books, Bookstores, Favorite books, Love stories, NetGalley title | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

“Two days gone” by Randall Silvis

Five years ago I read  a great book by Randall Silvis called “The boy who shoots crows“.  I was very impressed by the plot and the writing so was therefore happy to see another book by this author offered on Edelweiss.

Set in late autumn, “Two Days Gone” features two admirable and likable protagonists.

Sergeant Ryan DeMarco is a man with little hope in his life.  His wife has left him. It would seem she found life with him intolerable after the traffic accident that killed their baby son. DeMarco was driving. Now, the only things left in his life are his work as a policeman, and a love of literature and the written word.  He is an avid fan of the local author Thomas Huston and was Huston’s police adviser on his latest novel.  The two become friends of a sort. Huston gave him an autographed, hardcover copy of his novel as a thank-you. The book was personally inscribed for DeMarco.

“DeMarco, on the other hand, had no center. He ventured out to other relationships from emptiness, and to emptiness he returned. Every action synchronized with nothing. Emptiness first, emptiness last, emptiness always.”

Author/Professor Thomas Huston is a bestselling novelist. He is happily married to a woman he adores and has three lovely children. When he is not writing he teaches a creative writing class at the town’s university. He has a perfect life – until – his entire family are found dead in their beautiful home. His wife and all three children slaughtered.

“Huston still had his wallet, his debit and credit cards and probably a little cash, but all of that belonged to another life, a life eradicated, an eviscerated life.”

Now DeMarco is tasked with finding Huston who has disappeared.  Could it be possible that this man who had everything actually committed this atrocious act? DeMarco deploys officers to search the woods near Huston’s home.

Meanwhile, the reader enters the mind of Thomas Huston.  On the run and reeling from the devastation he witnessed in his home, he is barely functioning.  He reverts to his most base and animalistic form. He sleeps in a cave overnight, he wades through freezing water to deter the dogs who he knows must be on his trail… His mind wanders. He is disturbed and beyond distraught. Recent events have left him alternating between suicidal thoughts and thinking that he is a character in one of his own books.

“…a man in a cave in a situation that could only be fictional, was too horrific to be believed.”

While reading you wonder… Could this learned man with the perfect life be guilty?  If he is what would make him turn to committing this heinous act? If he isn’t guilty, then what is there left in life for him?

A pivotal scene takes place in an old decommissioned lighthouse. A scene in which two men with little to live for make some profound decisions.

The book contains insight into the writer’s mind. Thomas Huston was a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe and in the few phone calls he makes while on the run he recites the poems “Annabel Lee” and “Lenore“.

Equal parts literary fiction and psychological thriller, “Two Days Gone” is the very opposite of ‘uplifting’.  Although the writing is superb, I cannot quite give it the 5 stars it no doubt deserves.  The reason? The entire time I was reading it I felt down. The hopelessness of the protagonist’s situation didn’t leave room for a satisfactory or in any way positive turn to their lives.  I liked both Thomas Huston and Ryan DeMarco, so I felt ‘bummed out’ while reading as I couldn’t imagine how their situations could improve, regardless of the outcome of the story. A ‘dark’ read with themes of loss and revenge, it is nonetheless very well written.

I received a complimentary digital copy of “Two Days Gone” from Sourcebooks Landmark via Edelweiss.

“Two days gone” is the 11th book of my #20BooksOfSummer challenge


Randall Silvis was born in Clarion County, Pennsylvania. He is a novelist, a playwright, a screenwriter, and a teacher. He has been published and produced in virtually every field and genre of creative writing. His numerous essays, articles, poems and short stories have appeared in several magazines, both in print and online. His work has been translated into ten languages.

Silvis’s many literary awards include two writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the prestigious Drue Heinz Literature Prize, a Fulbright Senior Scholar Research Award, six fellowships for his fiction, drama, and screenwriting from the Pennsylvania Council On the Arts, and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree awarded for “distinguished literary achievement.”

Posted in book reviews, Edelweiss title, Literary fiction, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Throwback Thursday – (an old favorite recommended)

The Throwback Thursday meme was created by Rene over at It’s Book Talk. She made this meme to share some of her old favorites. Although all bookbloggers have an endless TBR pile, we seldom take the time to reflect back and post about some of the great reads from a few years ago. I decided to join in for the first time as sharing recommendations is one of my most favorite things to do!

My pick for Thursday, July 20, 2017

“The day she died” by Catriona McPherson

The cover is what first attracted me to this novel.  This time ‘choosing by dust jacket’ paid off in spades.

A remote,  dark, and ominous Scottish locale, an emotionally damaged protagonist, a psychopath, two sweet little children….what more could you want in a thriller?


“The day she died” by Catriona MacPherson

Our protagonist, Jessie is a needy single woman in her thirties who carries a lot of emotional baggage from her childhood thanks to her delusional (and borderline evil) mother.  Jessie longs for what other folk take for granted.  A home of her own, a man of her own and maybe children.

One day as she is shopping for her supper in Marks & Spencer she encounters Gus, a good looking man with a wee girl in tow.  She has seen him around before and found him both intriguing and attractive.  He is pleading with someone (his wife) on the phone. At the end of the conversation he smashes his phone and is completely distraught.  So distraught that Jessie feels she has no choice but to step in and help.  He tells her that his wife has left him…. and asks her if she will drive him and the little girl home.  Jessie agrees and finds that he lives over an hour from town in a cottage by the sea.  When they get there – Jessie finds that there is a baby wailing from his crib.  He has been left completely alone for hours!   Faced with this dire predicament, Gus pleads with Jessie to stay and help him with the children.   She does….  But of course nothing is as it seems.  The wife who left him has had a car accident and her body has been found over a cliff.  Gus identifies her body and asks if Jessie will stay just a bit longer until the funeral is over….  What follows is a life-altering experience for her as she comes to love both Gus and the children.

The cottage is near a holiday caravan park where mysterious goings on seem to be taking place.  There is a Polish man who tries to approach Jessie on several occasions.  He seems to have only one change of clothes and is homeless.  However he does have a bag full of thousands of pounds in cash…  He and other secondary characters add depth and intrigue to the plot and eventually tie-in with the story of Gus’s family.

On the home front there seem to be inconsistencies in what Gus says about his wife.  It transpires that the marriage was not a happy one.  Gus is a sculptor who works from a shed at the end of the garden.  He doesn’t allow people to enter the shed…  Doubts begin to niggle Jessie and she starts to question what really happened ‘the day she died‘…  Nothing is as it seems – and the reader will frantically turn the pages to discover just what truths the ending will reveal.

The day she died was the first novel I have read by Catriona McPherson. It is a creepily foreboding psychological thriller that had me spellbound!  I can honestly say I enjoyed it as much as some early Ruth Rendell novels.  High praise from me – as Ruth Rendell is one of my favorite novelists.  The title chosen was perfect for the novel and actually had double relevance as readers will discover.

F 5 star


More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere 

Renee at Its Book Talk

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Nicki at Secret Library

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Stephanie at Stephanie’s Novel Fiction

Cathy at Between the Lines

P Turners at The PTurnersbookblog

Julie at Novel Thrills and Chills

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Danielle at Books,Vertigo and Tea

Cathy at What Cathy Read Next

Noriko at Book Fiend

Posted in book reviews, Favorite books, Psychological thrillers, Throwback Thursday | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Cover Love: part 30 – Bare feet dangling over water

The covers of novels entice the reader to enter a different world. Covers are, after all, the way the publisher hooks the reader into choosing one book over countless others.

In this, my thirtieth installment of ‘Cover Love‘, I’d like to show you books that feature bare feet dangling over water on their covers. A summery topic that might add some summer reads to your TBR.

Some of the following books I’ve already read, some are on my ‘to read’ list,
and some I chose only for their covers.

Some, perhaps, will now be on your TBR!

Just click on the cover to read the book’s synopsis from  Goodreads.

You might just find your next favorite book!

Stay tuned for Cover Love Part 31:
“Ferris Wheels”

or… revisit any of the previous installments of

Cover Love – some of which I’ve updated recently

Posted in Cover Love series, Dustjackets | Tagged | 30 Comments

“What she knew” by Gilly MacMillan

Despite my hearing wonderful things about this novel, for one reason or another it has sat on my TBR for far longer than I would have liked.  Now, finally, I’ve had a chance to read it – only to find that all the praise it received was very well deserved. WOW! What an outstanding debut!

Rachel Jenner, recently divorced from pediatrician husband John Finch, is still smarting from her marriage break-up.  She is now the single Mum to her eight-year-old son, Ben. Ben is the much loved centre of her life.  Since her divorce she and Ben live in a small house in Bristol.

One Sunday in October, Rachel, Ben, and their cocker spaniel go for their usual walk in a woodland park. Ben is, as usual, full of childish energy and wants to run ahead to reach a swing. Rachel allows him this small bit of independence.  A decision she will come to regret deeply – for when Rachel reaches the swing, Ben is nowhere to be found. Panicked and increasingly desperate, Rachel looks for Ben, eventually enlisting the help of strangers and then the police.

“I frightened people because I was someone to whom the worst was happening, and they turned on me like a pack of dogs.

The policeman in charge of the case to find Ben is Detective Inspector James Clemo.  We know he is ardent in his search for Ben because we meet him through his interaction with a psychologist after the case’s resolution.  We know that the case has left him emotionally unstable. He no longer feels in control of his career or of his personal life. He suffers from debilitating insomnia and panic attacks. His meetings with Dr. Francesca Manelli were a condition set forth in order for him to maintain his police career in CID.

Rachel is distraught. She has lost her anchor and finds her life meaningless without Ben – her intelligent and sensitive little boy. She sleeps in his bed at night, breathing in his scent via his sheets and stuffed toys. The writing is magnificent making Rachel’s loss palpable.  To further worsen her plight, she is vilified in the press and on social media.  A blog is published with the sole purpose of blaming her for her dereliction of duty as a mother by letting him run ahead unattended. Journalists are parked outside her house, hounding her as she leaves and enters. Under extreme duress she behaves badly at a press conference, adding fuel to the fire that seems to want to consume her…

The police are looking into everyone in her life – and Ben’s life. All her family, friends, and acquaintances. All Ben’s friends and the staff of his school.  No one is free from their purview and Rachel is aware that even the police see her as a suspect. During the course of the investigation, family secrets are revealed that forever change Rachel’s life and her view of what she has ever known to be true is now under question.

“Trust is like that. Once you lose it, you begin to adjust your attitudes toward people, you put up guards, and filter the information you want them to know.”

Not only did I immensely enjoy the story of “What she knew“, I also very much relished the many beautiful sentences scattered throughout the narrative.
“Dawn crept in in fits and starts, the pall of total darkness reluctant to retreat.”

This book is a cautionary tale of what happens when we judge another person and find them wanting. Of what can happen if our trust is misplaced. It reinforces the motto “Carpe Diem” and reminds us to cherish the little things in life.

DI Jim Clemo was very likable, but I found him to have almost too much empathy to be a policeman.  I wanted him to suffer less.

“What she knew” takes place over a nine day period.  The anguish Rachel Jenner suffers during this brief period is intense. As a reader, you find yourself flipping the pages manically in order to find out how her plight will unfold and if Ben will be found…

Highly recommended to all who enjoy a well written police procedural/psychological thriller.

“What she knew” is the first novel in the police procedural mystery series featuring Detective Jim Clemo of the Bristol Police.  The second novel in the series is Odd Child Out which is a new addition to my TBR.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from William Morrow/HarperCollins via Edelweiss and was only too happy to write this review.

“What she knew” is the 10th book of my #20BooksOfSummer challenge

FYI: “What she knew” was also published under the title “Burnt Paper Sky”

If you are interested in finding more books that were published under completely different titles see my blog post: Same Book, Different Title


Gilly Macmillan is the New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew and The Perfect Girl. She trained as an art historian and worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she’s worked as a lecturer in photography, and now writes full-time. She resides in Bristol, England.

Posted in 1st in series, book reviews, Debut novels, Edelweiss title, Favorite books, Psychological thrillers | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

Remembering novelist Margaret Yorke

Recently, while trying to purge my overcrowded bookshelves, I came across a  “Winter’s Crimes 18” anthology.  Since it was an ex-library book, and not in very good shape, I decided it was one of the books I would be purging. Being the bookworm that I am though, I had to take a quick glimpse through it to refresh my memory of what it contained.  Lo and behold, it contained one of my favorite Margaret Yorke short stories!

“Gifts from the bridegroom” was less than ten pages long, yet packed the punch of a much longer work.  The protagonist is a twenty-three year old young man who is getting married in the very near future. A chance remark from a friend causes him to get ‘cold feet’ and he goes to elaborate extremes to evade his impending nuptials.  The end has a quirky and bizarre twist that makes you smile and grimace at the same time.

Margaret Yorke obituary

from the Guardian (Tim Heald – Monday 3 December 2012

Margaret Yorke 1924-2012

Author of robust and uncompromising crime novels

Margaret Yorke was something of a Miss Marple figure in her Buckinghamshire village, her comfortable appearance belying a steely personality. Photograph: Martin Edwards

Margaret Yorke, who died at age 88, wrote more than forty crime novels, was chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and in 1999 won the CWA’s Cartier Diamond Dagger for an outstanding lifetime contribution to the genre. Yet, despite the fact that she was prolific and had achieved relative success, she was never as well known to the public as some of her peers.

She was born Margaret Beda Larminie in the village of Compton, Surrey, and spent her childhood in Dublin, where her Irish father had been posted by his employer, Guinness. Margaret worked as a hospital librarian during the second world war, before transferring to the Royal Navy as a driver.

Throughout her working life, she produced at least one full-length novel a year, as well as a number of short stories for a variety of anthologies and for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. One of her novels, The Scent of Fear (1980), won the Martin Beck award, presented by the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy, in 1982. Awards otherwise eluded her, though this was something about which she seldom, if ever, complained.

I first began reading Margaret Yorke in the 1980s.  Since then I have collected over a dozen of her novels in hardcover. I enjoyed every one.  She had an uncanny understanding of the human psyche – both the good traits, and the very bad…

I was especially fond of her stand-alone thrillers. I was less enamored with her Patrick Grant mystery series.

Margaret Yorke was awarded the 1999 CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger.

I guess you could call Margaret Yorke a ‘hidden gem’.  One of those authors that never really came to the forefront of popularity, but one that readers of crime fiction really should not miss out on.

Posted in Authors, Mystery fiction, Short stories | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

“The Birdwatcher” by William Shaw

This novel has probably one of the best first paragraphs I’ve read in quite a while:

“There were two reasons why William South did not want to be on the murder team. The first was that it was October. The migrating birds had begun arriving on the coast. The second was that, though nobody knew, he was a murderer himself.”

Wow! Doesn’t this just make you want to keep reading?  Well done William Shaw!

William South lives alone in a tiny coastguard cottage in Dungeness, Kent near the nuclear power station. South has been a policeman for over twenty years. An ordinary copper, he is assigned to support the new Detective Sergeant as she is unfamiliar with the area. DS Alexandra Cupidi has just moved to Kent with her daughter. Her previous job was with the London Metropolitan Police.

“Birding had always been his one safe place.”

South, an avid birdwatcher, uses the skills he has learned as a birder in his police work. He writes all his observations down in his notebook, a discipline that all birders work to acquire.  Birding has made him patient. Birdwatching has been his passion ever since he was a child. It is an occupation for a solitary boy, and a solitary man.

“Birdwatching was like being a beat copper. You spent your days looking for anomalies. Things that were just a little different.”

The first case DS Cupidi is tasked with is a murder. When William South learns that the murder victim is his good friend, fellow birder, and close neighbor, he is deeply troubled. Bob Rayner had been a nice gentle man, a private man, much like South himself. His murder was brutally violent causing South to re-access his love of the place where he lives.

“It wasn’t just the threat of violence, the idea that the killer was out there still; something dark had been stirred up”.

Dungeness nuclear power station in Kent, England Photo copyright Simon Ingram 2014

South lives alone partly because he does not want to inflict his ‘baggage’ on another person.  He grew up in Armagh, Northern Ireland during a time when school children practiced running in a zigzag pattern so as to avoid being shot at. Back then his name was Billy McGowan and his father was in the paramilitaries.  His experiences in 1978 during “The Troubles” have indelibly colored his life and he lives with guilt on a daily basis.

DS Cupidi works all the hours God sends. As a result her teenage daughter Zoë is often left to her own devices.  Zoë harbours a lot of anger at her mother for taking her out of South London and away from all of her friends.  She is not getting along at her new school and fights with her classmates.  Cupidi enlists South to take Zoë out birdwatching to keep her out of trouble.  Much to South’s surprise he finds that Zoë is a natural birder who displays a real interest in the pursuit.

 a Dungeness, Kent beach (and the cover photo of the Quercus Books edition of “The Birdwatcher”)

The murder investigation spurs other crimes. Other murders. One of which is connected to South’s past in Northern Ireland.  DS Cupidi, at first very friendly toward South, turns distant and decidedly cool. Why? Will South’s career survive the secrets he carries?

This was a great read!  All of the characters were so real that you felt compassion for them and you become invested in their fate. The Dungeness, Kent setting was atmospheric and perfectly suited to the story.  Like many novels the action was divided between a past narrative (Billy’s boyhood in Northern Ireland), and a present narrative (his adult life as a policeman in Kent).  The author skillfully alternated between the two time periods and linked them up in a cohesive manner. The suspense-filled final pages will delight all those who relish crime thrillers and police procedurals.  All in all – reading time well spent!

In this novel William South was very much the protagonist and DS Cupidi a supportive character. When I finished reading the book I found myself wishing the characters would return in another novel – though “The Birdwatcher” was touted as being a stand-alone. I then discovered that DS Cupidi is returning in another book entitled “Salt Lane” which is #1 in the DS Alexandra Cupidi series.  I’ve already added “Salt Lane” to my TBR.

I received a digital copy of this book from Mulholland Books via NetGalley in consideration of my honest review.“The Birdwatcher” can be purchased at any of these online retailers:

“The Birdwatcher” is the 9th book of my #20BooksOfSummer challenge

from the author’s Goodreads bio:

William Shaw photo ©Ellen Shaw

William Shaw is the author of the Breen & Tozer series set in London in 1968-9 and has a new book in the series called “Sympathy for the Devil” which is soon to be published.
In 2016, he published a standalone called “The Birdwatcher” .
The non-fiction books he wrote include Westsiders , an account of several young would-be rappers struggling to establish themselves against a backdrop of poverty and violence in South Central Los Angeles, Superhero For Hire , a compilation and of the Small Ads columns he wrote for the Observer Magazine, and Spying In Guru Land , in which he joined several British religious cults to write about them.
William Shaw lives in Brighton and plays music with Brighton Ceilidh Collective.

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