I am a stalker: I pursue my favourite authors on their websites as I anxiously await news of their latest literary creations. I enjoy stand-alone novels but there is a special place in my heart for books that come in a series – especially mystery series. A reader can become invested in the lives of the characters by sharing their joy, misfortune, triumphs and disappointments. This reader is thrilled when a new volume is released in a series – it’s like visiting with old friends. And it is always a joy to find a new series that I plan to follow for as long as the author is willing to put pen to paper.
In 2014, I came across A SIEGE OF BITTERNS by Steve Burrows and I knew I had a new series to follow. Mr. Burrows has been very accommodating: a new installment every year – just what I like to see. Bonus— if he continues to write these novels, I will know the collective noun for every bird species in the world.
The novels feature a newly appointed Detective Chief Inspector Dominic Jejeune in a Norfolk England police department. Jejeune earned his position by being responsible for a successful mission, involving great daring and danger, that saved the life of someone of importance. The reader is aware that Dominic’s passion is with the birds but he still manages to be a brilliant detective. Not everybody is on board with his appointment; he is young, Canadian, and low-key. He also has a shady brother who is considered disreputable in the birder world and his misdeeds are slowly fed to us in spoonfuls. Even if it seems like a stretch to build a murder series around the birding world, it absolutely is not. Think about it. The birders are generally ecologists without funds – they want to see the salt marshes and wetlands untouched for the birds, but other interests (big business, government, developers) are always intruding on the bird habitats. We’re talking big money here so conflict is not uncommon.
In A SHIMMER OF HUMMINGBIRDS – the fourth book in the series – DCI Jejeune travels to Columbia in an attempt to assist his brother, while back in Norfolk a former nemesis has eyes on his job. Jejeune’s girlfriend, Lindy, may be in trouble but she is oblivious to the danger, and it might have something to do with someone in Dominic’s past.
At this point I would like to include a quote from the second book, A PITYING OF DOVES, because I think it accurately defines Jejeune’s character. The following is an observation made by Sergeant Danny Maik (a main character) as Jejeune arrives at a crime scene. *THE BEAST is what Dominic has named his SUV.
“He had seen Jejeune arrive, watched him park the *Beast some way off and walk along the lane to where everyone was gathered. He had seen him pause suddenly, freeze, not once, but twice, each time straining to listen to a sound coming from the marsh that stretched beyond the bridge. Even at a time like this, thought Maik, with a suspect’s car precariously balanced between the lane and the marsh ten feet below, and the suspect himself who knew where, even now Inspector Jejeune takes the time to listen to a bird call.” p.170
I have made this text more about the series than about a single book but that’s okay. It is a splendid series and all the entries are good.
A SHIMMER OF HUMMINGBIRDS by Steve Burrows (2017) Dundurn 368 pages
See also — A SIEGE OF BITTERNS (2014) A PITYING OF DOVES (2015) A CAST OF FALCONS (2016)
P.S. The grey jay was mistakenly claimed as Canada’s national bird. It is not. Canada doesn’t have a national bird (yet)