Review – The Birdwatcher by William Shaw

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I’ve got to be honest with you – bird watching is up there with train spotting, golf and snooker for me. Not my thing at all. So a book called The Birdwatcher isn’t necessarily going to grab my attention. But when the opening paragraph is this:

‘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.’

then, you have me hooked!

Alternating between his life now in Dungeness, and as a child growing up in Northern Ireland, we learn a great deal about William South. He just wants a quiet life, watching birds and being a Neighbourhood police officer. But then he’s asked to help the new DS in town (Alexandra Cupidi) with a murder case. She’s hoping that his local knowledge will come in use. William South has more to offer than just his knowledge; he can identify the victim as his friend and neighbour, Bob Rayner.

Back in the 70s in Northern Ireland, Billy McGowan’s father is dead, shot in his own home. The Troubles have claimed another victim. Or have they?

Reading The Birdwatcher is a bit like actual bird watching. William Shaw releases the plot slowly but gives you enough each time to keep you going, like seeing some of the more common birds first before waiting longer for the rarer ones to add to your list. But what comes across so well in the book, is the setting – stark, desolate and very flat, with the nuclear power plant lit up day and night. It adds to the sense that William South is more than just a quiet man; he’s a man in hiding, his past haunting him.

It’s not often that you can say that a crime book is beautiful but The Birdwatcher is just that. There is a pervading sense of calm and patience that emanates from the pages – two qualities essential for bird watching. This may seem contradictory in a crime novel but the pace and tension is there throughout and is racked up brilliantly at the end. Although this is a standalone novel, William South is a character I could so easily read more about. And if an author has left you wanting more, then it’s a job well done! Five stars.


So, do you fancy adding it to your summer reading list? Well, I have one copy to give away! All you have to do is either pop over to my Facebook author page or my Twitter account (look for the pinned tweet of this review) and tell me what county Dungeness is in. The competition will end at 8pm (BST) on Wednesday 27th July and is only open to UK residents this time (sorry!).

FB –

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