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A Bird In Winter by Louise Dougherty


I’m always excited to begin a new novel by Louise Dougherty, one of my very favourite writers of crime fiction. Ten great novels and I very much enjoy the overriding theme she uses of women in stressful situations and taking them to the edge.

 

In the first pages of A Bird In Winter, Bird, the main protagonist, dramatically walks out of her job, ‘it’s no more than thirty paces to the lifts’.  Is she having a panic attack or some sort of nervous breakdown, or is she quite simply fed up with life in a corporate world?  The narrative moves to the past, giving glimpses of her childhood from which we can begin to guess about her present situation. At the same time, a growing sense of danger begins to erupt.

 

We discover as Bird heads north, using various disguises and strategies to ensure that she is not discovered, that she has not only left her job but also her family and, in fact, her life. Not only has she left, but she has always been prepared for a sudden escape. The remainder of the narrative focuses on her being on the run and hiding, although we are not aware of the reason until almost the end of the novel. We discover more of her past, that she loved her father though she was aware that he had many secrets, that she couldn’t entirely trust him and we gradually figure out how his life and hers are connected.

 

The pace of the novel is brilliantly managed with tension gradually building along with a strong sense of danger; there is the constant fear of pursuit, of being watched and followed.  We enter the world of spying and espionage wherein who can be trusted and those who wish her harm is never clear. When Bird’s past and her reasons for running are revealed, the threads which have been skilfully drawn, weave together to form a complex and intricate whole.

 

The writing is vivid, the plot filled with twists and surprises and the characters captivating. A Bird in Winter is the perfect read for a long summer holiday.

 

Reviewer: Paddy Richardson

Faber&Faber

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