The Birdwatcher


By William Shaw

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Police Sergeant William South has a good reason to shy away from murder investigations: he is a murderer himself.

A methodical, diligent, and exceptionally bright detective, South is an avid birdwatcher and trusted figure in his small town on the rugged Kentish coast. He also lives with the deeply buried secret that, as a child in Northern Ireland, he may have killed a man. When a fellow birdwatcher is found murdered in his remote home, South’s world flips.

The culprit seems to be a drifter from South’s childhood; the victim was the only person connecting South to his early crime; and a troubled, vivacious new female sergeant has been relocated from London and assigned to work with South. As our hero investigates, he must work ever-harder to keep his own connections to the victim, and his past, a secret.

The Birdwatcher is British crime fiction at its finest; a stirring portrait of flawed, vulnerable investigators; a meticulously constructed mystery; and a primal story of fear, loyalty and vengeance.

**Longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year



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.

These were not the reasons he gave to the shift sergeant. Instead, standing in front of his desk, he said, 'God's sake. I've got a pile of witness statements this deep to get through before Thursday, not to mention the Neighbourhood Panel meeting coming up. I haven't the time.'

'Tell me about it,' said the shift sergeant quietly.

'I don't understand why it has to be me anyway. The constable can do it.'

The shift sergeant was a soft-faced man who blinked as he spoke. He said, 'Ask DI McAdam on the Serious Crime Directorate. He's the one who said it should be you. Sorry, mate.'

When South didn't move, he looked to the left and right, to see if anyone was listening, and lowered his voice. 'Look, mate. The new DS is not from round here. She needs her hand holding. You're the Local District lead, ergo, McAdam says you're on the team to support her and manage local impact. Not my fault.'

It was still early morning. It took South a second. 'Local impact? It's in my area?'

'Why else would you be on the team? She's outside now in the CID car, waiting.'

'I don't understand. What's the incident?'

'They didn't say, yet. It's just come in. Fuck off now, Bill. Be a pal and get on with your job and let me get on with mine.'

It was an ordinary office in an ordinary provincial police station; white paint a little scuffed on the walls, grey carpet worn in front of the sergeant's tidy desk from where others had come to haggle about the duties they'd been allocated. The poster behind his desk: Listen. Learn. Improve. Kent Police.

'Could you delegate it to someone else?'

'It was you he asked for.'

'So if I show her round today, will you get someone else on it for the rest of the week?'

'Give me a break, Bill,' said the shift sergeant, blinking again between words as he turned to his computer screen.

Over twenty years a policeman; a reputation as a diligent copper: but South had always avoided murder.

Maybe it would only be for a day or two. Once the new DS had found her feet, he'd go back to normal duties, back to the reassuring bureaucracy of modern police work, and back to getting things done in his patch. He was a good copper. What could go wrong?

William South paused before walking through the glass door at the front of the station. Outside, the blue Ford Focus was parked in the street, engine running. Behind the wheel sat the new woman, and right away the sight of her made him nervous.

Late thirties, he guessed, straight brownish hair, recently cut; a woman starting a new job. Her fingers tapped on the steering wheel impatiently. She would be running outside inquiries for the murder investigation; a new arrival, first case on a new force, keen to get on, to make a go of it. Lots to prove.

A good copper? There was a part of him already hoping she wouldn't be.

He sighed, pushed open the door. 'Alexandra Cupidi?' he called.

'And what should I call you? Bill? Will?' she answered.

'William,' he said.

'William?' Was she smirking at him? 'Well, then, William…' She stretched his name to three syllables and nodded to the empty seat beside her. 'I'm Alexandra, then.'

He opened the passenger door and looked in. She wore a beige linen suit that was probably new too, like her haircut, but it was already crumpled and shapeless. And the car? It was only Tuesday, so she could barely have had it for a day so far, and already it was a tip. There were empty crisp and cigarette packets in the footwell and wrappers and crumbs all over the passenger seat.

'Sorry,' she said. 'Bit of a late one last night.'

He sat down in the mess, buckling the seat belt around his stab vest. She'd been with the Met, he'd heard, which was enough to put anyone on their guard.

DS Cupidi reached out, took a gulp from the coffee cup in the cup holder, then said, 'So. You're Neighbourhood Officer for Kilo 3, yes?'

South nodded warily. 'That's right.'

'Good.' She switched on the engine.

'And there's been a murder there? Shouldn't I have been informed?'

'You're being informed now. What's the quickest way?'

'To where exactly? It's a large area.'

'Sorry.' She dug into the pocket of her linen jacket for a notebook, opened the clip and flicked through until she had found the most recently scribbled page. 'Lighthouse Road, Dungeness,' she said.

He turned to her; examined her face. 'You sure?'

She repeated it.

Right now, he thought, he should just get out of the car and walk back inside the police station. Say he wasn't feeling well. 'This is the address of where it's supposed to have happened?'

'What's wrong?' she asked.

'They're not pulling your leg or anything? First week on the job?'

'What are you on about?'

'That's my road. That's where I live.'

She shrugged. 'I suppose that's why the DI said it was so important you should be on my team.'

South thought for a second. 'Who is it?'

She indicated and pulled out into the traffic, glancing quickly down at the open notebook and trying to read her own notes. 'No name. Address is… I can't make it out. Arm Cottage?'

'Arum Cottage.'

'That's it.'

'Robert Rayner,' said South.

She raised her eyebrows. 'That must be it. The woman who reported the crime is a Gill Rayner.'

'Bob Rayner is dead?' William blinked. They pulled up at a zebra crossing where a woman in a burqa pushed an old-fashioned black pram very slowly across the road.

She turned and looked. 'I'm sorry. You knew him?'

'A neighbour. A friend.' South looked out of the side window. 'Arum Cottage is about a hundred yards away from where I live.'

'Good,' she said. 'I mean. Not good, obviously, sorry.'

South said, 'So I shouldn't be part of the investigation. Because I know the deceased.'

Cupidi pursed her lips. 'Shit,' she said. The woman with the pram finally made it across to the other side of the road. DS Cupidi drove over the crossing, then pulled the car up on the zigzag lines on the other side, hazards flashing.

'Give me a minute,' she said, pulling out her mobile phone. She dialled and then held the device to her ear. 'DI McAdam? Something's come up.' He heard the DI's voice.

Amongst the noise of the traffic, he couldn't make out what the DI was saying. Cupidi paused, turned to South. 'He wants to know, were you a close friend?' she said.

'Close? I suppose,' said South. 'I saw quite a lot of him.'

'Hear that, sir?…' She looked at her watch. 'Do I have to go and drop him back at the station?' She listened some more, said, 'I understand,' a couple of times, then hung up.

When she'd replaced the phone, she reached out, put the blue light on and swung back into the traffic, cars ahead scattering in panic, mounting pavements and braking, not knowing which way to move.

'Well?' said South.

'He said you can stick with me, strictly on an advice basis. For today at least, while we find our bearings. Just don't do anything unless I say, OK?'

Unfamiliar with the local roads, she was cautious at junctions and the town's many roundabouts. Only on the outskirts was she able to build speed, heading out towards the coast.

'What happened?' he asked when the road opened out in front of them.

'I don't know, yet. Call came in from a distressed woman about an hour ago. Scene of Crime are there doing their thing.'

He remembered. Bob had said his sister was coming to visit. She arrived there once a fortnight; it was an arrangement the two of them had.

'God. I'm sorry. Are you going to be OK to do this? I mean, if he was a friend…?'

'I shouldn't be involved,' he said.

'But you are, though, aren't you?'

The flats on their right-hand side gave way to council houses, then to semis and bungalows and caravan parks, the flashing blue light reflecting off their windows. The further they travelled, the more open the land became.

On the left, occasional gaps in the breakwater gave glimpses of shingle running down to the sea. The traffic thinned and Cupidi gunned the engine. Overtaking, she flashed her lights at an oncoming car.

'You actually like it here?' she asked.

'I've lived here almost all my life,' he said.

'Not that there's anything wrong with that.'

'But what?'

She was concentrating on the road ahead. 'But nothing. I just can't imagine it, really. It's very… flat, isn't it?'

They were passing through the marshland, its grass burnt brown by the wind. 'So why did you move here?'

'Oh, you know. Just fancied a change,' she said, but a little too lightly, he thought.

'Slow down,' he said. 'The turning's any minute.' He shifted in the seat. Something was poking into his behind. 'Left,' he said.

The thinner road was pitted. At the shoreline, loose stones crackled under the tyres. Flat land to the north; flat sea to the south. Weather-beaten houses with rotting windows and satellite dishes dribbling rust-marks down the paintwork. An oversize purple-and-yellow UKIP flag flapping in the wind.

'Must be bitter in winter,' she said.

'Bitter all year round.' It was a wide low headland extending south from the marshes, exposed to winds from every quarter.

As they drove towards the point, South noticed some people sitting round a fire on the shingle.

'Go slowly,' he said to DS Cupidi.


South looked out of the passenger window. The low light was behind them and they were too far away to see their faces clearly; he didn't think he recognised any of them, anyway. Fires on the shingle were always a risk. The flints exploded sometimes in the heat, shooting hot stone splinters out at the drunks.

'Rough sleepers?' she said.

'They come down here, break into the old fishing huts and burn the wood. They haven't been around for a while though,' he said. The vagrants were huddled close to the fire, trying to warm themselves in its dying heat.

'Can't stop now,' said Cupidi. South pulled his notebook from his vest and wrote '3 men, 2 women?', then replaced the elastic band around it and put it back in his pocket.

They were nearing the end of the promontory. The road veered suddenly to the right, away from the sea.

'Now left,' he said, and she turned again.

'God, it's bleak.'

'It's how we like it.'

A track led away from the main road. DS Cupidi looked ahead, at the massive buildings in front of her. 'Jesus. What the hell is that?'

'Nuclear power station,' said South.

'Wow. I mean… I didn't realise it was here.'

Behind the black tower of the old lighthouse, the metal and concrete blocks that surrounded the two reactors rose, unnaturally massive in the flat land. These colossal shapes were surrounded by rows of tall razor-wire fences. As Cupidi and South approached, the buildings seemed to grow still larger. Their presence made this landscape even more Martian. To their north, lines of pylons marched inland across the wide shingle beds.

'Aren't you worried it'll blow up?'

This was where he had lived since he was fourteen. A freakish, three-mile promontory of loose stones built by the English Channel's counter-currents.

The single track road led to Bob Rayner's house and, beyond, to the Coastguard Cottages. Under the looming geometry of the power station, small shacks were dotted around untidily, as if they'd dropped accidentally from the back of a lorry. In recent years, the millionaires had arrived. Some huts had been rebuilt as luxury houses, with big glass doors and shiny flues. Others still looked like they were made from scraps pilfered from a tip.

'People live in those?' said DS Cupidi.

'Why not?'

South pointed to the row of houses, an oddly conventional-looking terrace a little further away from the reactors. 'My house is over there,' he said.

The car slowed. A dog was lying in the road. Alex Cupidi honked the horn at it. The dog got up slowly and sauntered off into the clumps of mint-green vegetation.

William South felt something vibrate as they bumped over the potholed road. His phone? But when he pulled it out of his pocket, the screen was blank; no one had called or texted. He was just putting it back when DS Cupidi said, 'That must be the place, then.'

He looked and saw Bob Rayner's bungalow. A small wooden construction, with two small gables, like a letter M, facing the track. A couple of chimneys stuck out of a tiled roof. The wood had been painted recently in red preservative, but it was already starting to flake. It sat on its own on the shingle, sea-kale and thin grass struggling to take hold around it. Like most of the shacks here, it would have been built originally almost a century ago as a poor man's getaway, long before the nuclear power station had arrived.

Today, there were police cars and vans parked outside the small building. Half a dozen, crammed on every available piece of the narrow track.

'Shit,' he said, quietly.

Bob; his friend.

'Are you going to be all right?' said Cupidi, peering at him as she pulled up the handbrake. Not sure if he was, he looked away towards the sea, avoiding her gaze.

A memory. Police cars outside the house…

He was thirteen years old, late for his tea and running hard up the hill. He should have been home half an hour ago. Usually his mum wouldn't have been bothered, but after everything that had happened, she'd have been going mental.

It was all Miss McCrocodile's fault. She had spotted him lurking in the Spar and been all over him. 'Ye poor wee snipe, Billy McGowan. The people who did this terrible thing will not escape the wrath of the Lord. For God shall bring every secret thing into judgement, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.'

She bought him a packet of Smith's Crisps, at least.

Now he ran, past the hum of the electricity substation, past the playground where the climbing frame there had been recently painted in red, white and blue (and not by the council either), past the bored squaddies on the checkpoint, rifles pointed towards the tarmac, and finally on to the estate: NO POPE HERE, touched up only a few days earlier. The black ring on the grass of the field where the bonfire had been.

The McGowans' house was at the top, where the town ends and the fields begin.

When he reached the start of the cul-de-sac, he stopped dead, panting.

There were two police cars outside his house. One of those big new Ford Granada Mk IIs with the orange stripe down the side, and an old Cortina that had seen better days. They were back again. He ducked behind the Creedys' chip van.

He was getting his breath back now. But he stayed there, peeking out from behind the chipper, waiting for the police cars to drive off.

He started shivering, even though it was summer. He closed his eyes tightly, wishing he had never even existed.

He should just kill himself now. They must have known. He was in such trouble.


The boxes of blue paper overshoes and latex gloves sat by Bob's shiny white fibreglass fishing dinghy. It was a good boat, a 16-foot Orkney, light enough to launch off the beach; South had helped him buy it and showed him how to use it. South dug his nails into the palm of his hand.

Cupidi didn't look any keener about getting out of the car. She chewed the inside of her cheek. 'Right then,' she said eventually. 'Here we go.' But instead of reaching for a handle, she stretched across him for a packet of cigarettes.

'You done a lot of this?' asked South.

'Quite a bit,' said Cupidi. 'It's what I did in London. You?'

'Not really. Never, in fact. Not like this, anyway.'


South opened his door first, and as he did so, something fell onto the tarmac. All through the car journey he had been sitting on a mobile phone, he realised. He musn't have seen it when he got in. It was pink and decorated in nail-varnish hearts and diamanté stickers. That's what must have vibrated. He reached down, picked it up and held it out to DS Cupidi who was standing by the car, trying to light her cigarette.

'Christ,' she said.

'Is this yours?' he asked.

'My daughter's. She must have bloody left it behind.' Cupidi's eyes flickered.

'In the car?'

The detective sergeant looked away. Was she blushing? 'I know what you're thinking,' she was saying. 'Personal use of a police car. It was an emergency. I worked late last night so took the car home. Then we were late this morning and I didn't have time to go and swap the car for mine. She was going to be late for school. It's her first week. In a new town. New school. I've only ever done it once. Cross my heart.'

'I didn't say anything,' said South, holding his palms up.

'I think she leaves it behind on purpose.'

'Why would she do that?' asked South.

'You not got kids, William?'

'No.' He shook his head and handed the mobile to her. She put it in her handbag. 'Right,' she said. 'Let's get started.'

A constable South knew was keeping the site secure, standing just outside the cordon of blue tape, rubbing his gloves together to keep himself warm. Standing next to him, a couple of beach fishermen were chatting with him, rods in hand. One had a damp terrier circling around his feet. People always wanted to find out what had happened. It was understandable. The men tutted, looked concerned, tried to peer into the open front door of the house.

'Shall I wait out here?' South asked.

'Have you ever been inside Mr Rayner's house? Do you know your way around it?' Cupidi said.

South nodded. He'd been here many times.

'Would you come in with me, then?' She stubbed out her half-smoked cigarette by the car. 'I want your eyes.'

Through the windows, South could see silhouetted men at work inside the dead man's house.

'Hi, Bill,' called the copper at the perimeter.

'Hi, Jigger. You been in?' asked South. The constable's first name was James, but no one called him that.

The copper nodded. 'I was the first responder. Been here all morning, waiting for you lot.'

'What's it like?'

The constable shook his head. 'Fuckin' horrendous. Go see for yourself.'

'Is it Bob Rayner? Definitely?'

'Yep. That's what she said, the woman who called us.'

'Was she still here when you arrived?' asked Cupidi.

'Yes. She's at Ashford now. For the DNA and stuff.'

They would need to compare her traces to any others they found in the house, thought South. 'Was she OK?' South asked.

Jigger exhaled loudly. 'Not exactly. Stands to reason. When we found him in the box, she just ran out the house screaming.'

'The box?'

'Where they'd hidden his body. She was halfway to the beach, wailing like a wounded animal before I caught up with her, poor cow.'

Cupidi chewed her lip. 'What did they use?'

'Blunt instrument, they're saying.'

'Any idea why?' she said.

'Don't ask me.'

'I am asking you,' said Cupidi. 'You were first on the scene.'

The copper looked stung. 'B and E, isn't it, I reckon.'

Breaking and entering. Cupidi nodded. She was zipping up a white coverall. 'It's what we're all wearing this year,' she said. 'Get yours on, William.'

'He had told me his sister was coming to visit.'

'You knew the poor cunt?' said the constable. 'Christ. Sorry, mate.'

South nodded. When he had his suit, gloves and shoes on, he followed Cupidi to the door. 'How come he gets to call you Bill?' she asked.

'He never asked me which I preferred.'

Black-headed gulls dove and wheeled. Shrubs shivered in the wind. Police radios chattered to themselves.

'Are you going to be OK, William?' This time she spoke quietly, out of earshot of the other man.

This was his last chance to duck out of it. He could plead mitigating circumstances and go and sit in the car and have nothing further to do with the investigation.

But the front door was wide open. Cupidi went through it. South took a breath and followed her inside.

The interior of the little house was unrecognisable. Books had been yanked from the shelves, drawers spilled onto the floor, cupboards emptied.

Like most of the buildings here, it was not much more than a chalet that sat on the shingle; a living room and kitchen, a bathroom and two small bedrooms. The forensics team were busy in each of the rooms, but South's eyes were drawn to the photographer who was leaning over a blanket box under the living-room window. A flash lit up the room. Others were kneeling examining the walls. For spatters, he guessed. Another man was methodically spraying the floor with some chemical that would reveal where blood had been. Oh Christ.

South stepped forward. Something cracked under his feet; startled, he looked down. Just dried pasta; jars from the kitchen had been spilled.

Cupidi was introducing herself to the Scene of Crime Officer standing next to the open box. 'You're new round here, aren't you?' the man said.

'First week. I moved down on Saturday,' said Cupidi.

'Welcome to the job, then.' He waved his arms around the room.

'Thanks a billion.'

South watched her as she approached the open box; he noticed the small jerk of her head as she saw what was inside. The Crime Scene Officer had paused in his work too and was scrutinising her, as if checking she was up to the job. She looked at the dead man for a while, then beckoned. 'William. Do you recognise him?'

South hung back.

'It's OK. His sister already identified him,' said the forensics man. 'His name is Robert Rayner.'

'All the same, can you come and take a look?' said Cupidi quietly, looking up. South had been in this room many times and thought of himself as an observant man, but he had never really noticed the blanket box before. From where it was positioned, in the small window bay, the pine chest must have been used as a seat. There would have been a cushion on top of it, he supposed, or a rug. He tried to remember.

Bob Rayner had been a nice man, a good man who cooked badly but dressed well. He did sponsored bike rides for cancer and had volunteered at the local lifeboat station. Last summer he saved a tourist girl from drowning on the beach, though he hated anyone talking about it and refused to allow the papers take photographs of him afterwards. He wasn't one of the rich ones who were moving in around the headland, who employed fashionable architects to remodel their fishing huts, but who only used them a few weeks a year, blocking the narrow roads with their wide cars. He was one who had come to stay here all year round. It took a sort of person. Apart from a few weekends, this was a quiet place. Most who lived permanently on the headland were private people like South who relished the isolation.

South approached the open box slowly.

'You've seen dead people before?' said Cupidi.

The first thing he saw was Bob's head. At first it puzzled him. He thought there must have been a mistake. It didn't look like Bob at all. It was the wrong shape. Too big, for a start.

It took him a second to realise that the head was swollen to almost half its size again, and dark with crusted blood that had filled the eye sockets, covering them. Every inch of skin was discoloured. An ear seemed to be missing; in its place just scab, gristle and clot.

South walked closer. The naked body was every colour imaginable. The whole of Bob's skin above the waist seemed to be bruised. It was like he was wearing a suit of orange, red, purple, black, brown and yellow. His groin was dark from bruising.

Whoever had killed him had beaten him repeatedly, brutally. He had become meat. The violence was written all over his body.

It seemed absurd. Such a peaceable, gentle, quiet-spoken man. Now this thing–it wasn't even Bob–was being measured and photographed, picked over with tweezers and evidence bags.

'What kind of weapon?' Cupidi asked.

'Too early to say. Something heavy though.'

'Nothing found at the scene?'


There was no blood on the wood of the box. He had been dumped inside after he was dead, South thought, looking in horror at his friend. Poor Bob. Poor, poor Bob.

'I'm sorry,' said Cupidi.


Even if he was still looking at the dead man, he could feel Cupidi's eyes on him, scrutinising him. 'It's a shock to you, isn't it? You're upset. Do you need a minute to yourself?'

Why did he resent that consideration, right now? Probably because it wasn't really kindness at all. She would be thinking how she had lucked out; if he knew the dead man that well, he'd be even more useful. She couldn't help it, though. It was the job. She was protecting an asset. He shook his head. 'No. I'm OK.'

He backed away, but even from where he was standing, he could see one hand. The other was somewhere underneath the rest of the body. The fingers on the hand he could see were broken, lying at unlikely angles, as if he had been trying to protect himself with it at some point during the beating.

'Repeated blows,' said the forensics man, as if he could hear what South was thinking.

'How many would you say?' asked South.

'Not my department, really. Hundreds, easy.'

Cupidi said, 'Either somebody really had it in for him, or we're looking for someone mental. Or both.'

'That's the kind of brilliant insight they teach you at the Met, is it?' said the forensics man.

'William? What do you say? Had he pissed anyone off?'

'That's the point. He wasn't the sort to annoy anyone. He was the sweetest man you could meet. You barely noticed him, most of the time,' South said. 'He was just… just a lovely man. That's all.'

Cupidi turned to South and asked, 'What did he do for a living?'

South felt suddenly exhausted. He wanted to sit down, but you couldn't do that at a crime scene. He tried to think about what he knew. 'He was retired. Used to be a school teacher,' he said.


'Um. English, I think. I'm sorry. I can't remember exactly.'


South shook his head. 'Single,' he said, and realised he could not remember asking Bob about that. But he must have, surely? Was he divorced? Separated? He didn't know.

'What about a lover?'

'Look around,' he said. 'No photographs. There was no one in his life apart from his sister. No kids, either.'

He watched Cupidi do a complete methodical turn, looking around the room and the debris on the floor. Most people had family photos somewhere; a small gold-framed picture on the mantelpiece or sideboard. Rayner had nothing.

'I suppose I must have always assumed he was gay,' said South. 'You know, from that generation that didn't talk about it? Or just not interested. I thought it was a generational thing, you know? Not talking about your personal life. He was a few years older than me. I never saw anyone. He never talked about anyone either.'

'Was that odd?'

South shook his head.


  • One of "Summer's chilliest thrillers... Shaw's prose still sinks its hooks in."—Entertainment Weekly
  • "I liked its discreet, thoughtful prose. . . . By its theatrical but moving conclusion, The Birdwatcher has become an excellent read."—Charles Finch, USA Today
  • "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."—Shelf Awareness [starred review]
  • "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. . . . A well-plotted mystery with love and loyalty at its core, The Birdwatcher is a gratifying standalone that both satisfies and cries for more."—Shelf Awareness (starred review)
  • "Well told [and] affecting. The writing is beautifully understated, and the characters are vividly drawn and likable in their imperfections. Shaw makes the stony landscape an important element in the work; it becomes, by the end of the story, a place to which readers will feel a curiously strong attachment."—Booklist (starred review)
  • "A totally satisfying mystery from the first page to the last."—BookRiot
  • "There is a lot going on in this book which is artfully presented to the intelligent reader. I've read all of William Shaw's novels to date and consider him to be one of the top major talents to emerge in the last five years. Rating: A"—Deadly Pleasures Magazine
  • "Award-winning author Shaw ("Breen and Tozer" series) delivers an outstanding stand-alone novel; its gritty protagonist, intricate plot, and atmospheric description of the English countryside will please readers of Tana French's 'Dublin Murder Squad' series."—Library Journal
  • "Shaw crafts a delicious atmosphere."—Mystery Scene
  • "The Birdwatcher [is] exquisite in every way. A slow-burn book that begins with a violent crime and ends explosively... You won't want to put it down."—BookReporter
  • "Engaging . . . A fine procedural . . . The action builds to a thrilling ending."—Publishers Weekly
  • "The Birdwatcher is Shaw's most accomplished book yet, and a demonstration of why so many of his fellow writers have lined up to praise him."—The Independent [UK]
  • "A brilliantly constructed thriller . . . Utterly compulsive, written in sharp, unsentimental style, and with a wonderfully atmospheric storm-battered setting."—Sunday Mirror [UK]
  • "William Shaw is, quite simply, an outstanding storyteller. The Birdwatcher is the most gripping book I've read in years."—Peter May, Barry Award-winning author of The Lewis Trilogy
  • "The Birdwatcher is an astoundingly good crime novel. The characters and setting are brilliantly drawn--the descriptions spare but always telling--and the plot builds to an unforgettable resolution."—Elly Griffiths, author of The Woman in Blue
  • "A fine, atmospheric, emotionally compelling thriller." Thriller of the Week.—Mail on Sunday [UK]
  • "A gripping plot, atmospheric setting, highly believable characters, and dialogue you can imagine real people saying, make this a contender for thriller of the year. "—The Sun [UK]

On Sale
Jun 27, 2017
Page Count
336 pages
Mulholland Books

William Shaw

About the Author

William Shaw is an award-winning music journalist and the author of several non-fiction books including Westsiders: Stories of the Boys in the Hood. Prior to becoming a crime writer, he worked at the post-punk magazine ZigZag and a journalist for The Observer, The New York Times, Wired, Arena, and The Face. He lives in Sussex, England.

Learn more about this author