William South is an ordinary copper. A birdwatcher in his free time, he's patient and meticulous, keen to police everyday troubles folks find themselves in. With death in his past, what South wants most is to avoid the murder squad at all costs. When former London Detective Sergeant Alexandra Cupidi joins the Kent Police and draws a bludgeoning for her first case, South's boss puts him on her team to help with the "local impact" of the crime. The victim is South's neighbor and fellow birdwatcher Bob Raynor.
South initially fights the assignment, but can't help but be intrigued by both Cupidi and revelations about his dead friend. How much didn't he know about seemingly harmless Bob? Did Cupidi really leave London because of her troubled teen daughter? When more bodies start turning up, South is blindsided by a connection between the case and his childhood. And as he's preparing to go all-in, Cupidi mysteriously starts shutting him out.
William Shaw's The Birdwatcher is a gem of an addition to the stellar Mulholland line of crime fiction. Shaw's writing is true British procedural; lean and spectacle-free, it nevertheless grabs and doesn't let go. With minimal telling, Shaw paints full characters and relationships with seemingly preternatural ease. Particularly satisfying are South's relationship with Cupidi's daughter Zoe and emotional flashbacks to his childhood in Ireland during the Troubles. A well-plotted mystery with love and loyalty at its core, The Birdwatcher is a gratifying standalone that both satisfies and cries for more. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review