The Birdwatcher: A dark, intelligent novel from a modern crime master

The Birdwatcher: A dark, intelligent novel from a modern crime master by William Shaw

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By William Shaw

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3 reviews

Dark, intelligent crime novel about a policeman with a secret past, and an emotive exploration of violence within the family


29 Aug 2017


This book was well received by the majority of our readers. They felt the writing conveyed the bleakness and atmosphere of the area, Dungeness, very well and it was easy to read. The story of the investigation of a murder by a community policeman, William South, in conjunction with Cupidi a police woman new to the area was interesting and well written. South’s relationship with Cupidi’s daughter as they shared his passion for birdwatching was particularly well drawn. The murder investigation uncovered links to the murder of South’s father in Northern Ireland during the troubles. However we were unsure how Cupidi was led to connect the two murders and to determine how South was involved.
The overall feeling was that the first two thirds of the book were interesting and believable but that the final third felt rushed with too many bodies and conclusions reached with what appeared to be no real evidence. Having said that most said they would like to read more by this author and would recommend the book to others. We gave it an overall score of 6.5 out of 10.

25 May 2017

Dornoch Academy Reading Group

This book was pretty much unanimously enjoyed by our group. Reviews below:

Really enjoyed this book - a bit of a different take on the normal whodunnit with a main protagonist who is himself a murderer so prefers to just be a community officer - however when his neighbour is killed he gets sucked into the investigation through the brilliantly portrayed Alex Cupidi.
South's hobby, even a bit of an obsession is birdwatching, again a little different from the norm.
A great written atmospheric thriller. Wonderfully clever use of the past/present vibe as we learn how South became to murder in the 1st place and how that follows him through life.

Sergeant William South is a believeable realistic local policeman who is unwillingly involved in a murder case. Told with flashbacks to his traumatic days as a young boy in Northern Ireland and slowly secrets are revealed in a gripping read.The setting is the alien stormy landscape of Dungeness and creates the atmosphere for this haunting thriller.
I was hooked at the first paragraph.

Hugely enjoyable crime thriller. Two inter-linked stories told side by side, each with interesting characters who develop throughout the book.
Interesting backdrop of troubles in Northern Ireland with main story tackling modern day crime issues - drugs, homelessness, domestic violence. Great read.
Surprising error on pages 3 and 4: Cupidi sits in her car with "engine running" on p3, but then "she switched on the engine" on p4! Seems that got past the proofreaders.

A good read. Enjoyed the Zoe/South friendship. I thought the Alexandra Cupidi character a bit formulaic.

Enjoyed 'flashback' concept, this nicely built up the suspense. End of book a little wordy and drawn out. I expected more twists and turns of the plot.

The setting was particularly good - nuclear power station, flat lands, weather blowing in.
Flashbacks and the N. Ireland connection also very good.
Character - William South was a convincing character - the other characters in the book were less convincing, esp. Sleight and Cupidi.
Too many bodies!
D J Fraser link was contrived.
Motive and crime felt mismatched.
Climax scene overdone.

This book had me gripped from the start. I enjoyed the way that the flashbacks to South's earlier life in Northern Ireland increased the tension and intrigue as the book went on. I enjoyed all characters in the book, particularly South and Zoe, and enjoyed how South was able to relate to the troubled teenager. Great read, would be keen to read more William Shaw books now.

Really enjoyed this book and disappointed to reach the end!

30 Mar 2017

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, it had me gripped from the start. The threading of Sergeant William South’s past within the main story is very cleverly done and adds to the intrigue. The climax of the story suddenly explodes from the pages at a rapid pace. Surely a definite contender for a TV series? I can’t wait to read the next book!

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