A Pitying of Doves: A Birder Murder Mystery, by Steve Burrows, (Dundurn), 352 pages, release date 16 June, 2016
Last year, I reviewed the first book in Steve Burrows’ Birder Murder mystery series, A Siege of Bitterns. Since then, I’ve been waiting eagerly for the next novel in this series. Seriously—I wrote the publisher last summer to say, “You are going to publish more in this series, aren’t you? Please tell me you wouldn’t let this novel be a one-off.” That’s how much I liked the first volume.
A Pitying of Doves, the second novel featuring Chief Inspector Domenic Jejeune, is as absorbing and intelligent as its predecessor. Inspector Jejeune, originally from Canada, now lives in a small coastal town in England. He is oddly cursed in his brilliance as a detective: he’d much prefer to be bird-watching. However, having earned national recognition on an earlier case, he faces a steady demand for his services.
A Pitying of Doves has a multi-layered plot. It begins with the murder of an odd pair: a grad student who runs a small bird sanctuary and a senior attaché with the Mexican Consulate. This immediately sends the investigation in several directions. There’s the grad student’s untrustworthy PhD adviser; the campaign run out of the sanctuary to convince local farmers to set aside land for bird habitat, reducing their production and profits; the widow and son of the reclusive collector of doves, originally from Mexico; more members of the Mexican Consulate; British politicians more concerned with avoiding international slights than with uncovering the murderer; a small-time thief; the former superior officer of one of the sergeants on the case, who severed time in Afghanistan; and the unsteady local woman who insists the sanctuary has stolen birds given to her by her husband.
Jejeune, as always, is tight-lipped and highly rational. There’s good reason for any course his investigation takes, but that reason is almost always a complete unknown for those who work with him. The reader, who has slightly more information than Jejeune’s investigative team, still is faced with a multitude of questions as the book progresses.
The novel also offers an interesting secondary plot. The grad student had been doing field work in northern Africa studying doves. Now that she’s been killed the position is open—and Jejeune would love nothing more than to leave police work for a chance to work as a field biologist.
If you’re a fan of mystery novels with rich characterization and complex plots, put A Pitying of Doves at the top of your summer reading list.