Monday, February 15, 2016

A Cast of Falcons- Steve Burrows

A Cast of Falcons- Steve Burrows
Advanced Reader Copy: Release Date: May 7, 2016

Synopsis: A man falls to his death from a cliff face in western Scotland. From a distance, another man watches. He approaches the body, tucks a book into the dead man’s pocket, and leaves.  When the Scottish police show visiting Detective Chief Inspector Domenic Jejeune the book, he recognizes it as a call for help. But he also knows that answering that call could destroy the life he and his girlfriend Lindy have built for themselves in the village of Saltmarsh, in north Norfolk.  Back in Saltmarsh, the brutal murder of a researcher involved in a local climate change project has everyone looking at the man’s controversial studies as a motive. But Sergeant Danny Maik, heading the investigation in Jejeune’s absence, believes a huge cash incentive being offered for the research may play a crucial role.  With their beleaguered Chief Superintendent blocking every attempt to interview the project’s uber-wealthy owners, Jejeune and Maik must work together to find their answers. But will the men’s partnership survive when the danger from above begins to cast its dark shadow?

This is the third book in the "Birder Murder Mystery" series that began with A Siege of Bitterns, but was the first in the series that I read.  Probably this is a series where you would get more out of the characters if you read the books in order.  Coming late to the series, I think I missed some of the back stories and development of the main characters.  There are many references to events that probably happened in the other two books, and the dark times and troubles the characters have had.  None of these problems are really recapped in this book however, leaving a first time reader without much sympathy or empathy for anyone.  I found the characters mostly one dimensional, with attempts to make them unique lying in things like a love of Motown, or birding.  Some instances, like DCI Jejuene's conflicts with his brother or Sergeant Maik's loyalty to Jejeune, suggest that they may be more deeply written in the earlier books and you are already supposed to know everything important about them by the time you read this.

Like the other books in the series, the title refers to the collective noun of birds- the always popular "what do you call a group of . . ." question.  Like the author, the main character, Detective Chief Inspector Jejeune is a bird-watcher, and there are lovely descriptions of the countrysides of Scotland and north Norfolk where the story takes place that give the reader a wonderful image of the area, while seeming completely natural to the story.  The mystery is an excellent blend of what starts out as two seemingly unrelated deaths- one accidental and one most definitely murder.  The murdered scientist is connected to a research institute owned by a Middle Eastern prince.  Does the motive surround his research on carbon capture and climate change, the prize money for successful research, or his desertion of the institute for a university?  And what does it have to do with an accidental death of a stranger is Scotland or the Prince's cast of gyrfalcons?  

Although there was a slightly slow start to the book, with plenty of red herrings and an excellent twist at the end A Cast of Falcons was a good murder mystery- made better (for me) by the fact that I couldn't solve the mystery before the characters did.  I have to admit that despite enjoying the ending, I probably didn't enjoy the book enough to go back and read the others in the series.   

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley for an honest review.

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