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by Joanna Hines
Simon and Schuster, March 2006
384 pages
ISBN: 0743248015

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Kirsten Waller is a famous American poet, now living in the UK. When she's found dead in the bath in a remote Cornish cottage, the verdict is suicide. But her daughter Sam has other ideas.

THE MURDER BIRD has a holding the breath beginning as daredevil Sam sets out to prove that her mother was murdered. And she wants to track down her mother's missing journal, along with the poem she was working on at the time of her death -- it's entitled the Murder Bird.

Sam can't understand what her stepfather Raph (no, that's not a typing mistake, although I spent most of the book reading it as Ralph!) is hiding. He's separated from Kirsten and is now shacked up with super-bimbo Lola who certainly has no intention of making Sam feel welcome.

Raph's been a good stepdad to Sam in the past, but his obstructive behaviour when she tries to find the missing journal immediately makes her suspicious.

After the electric beginning the book sags a bit and then picks up again with a vengeance. Sam, a prickly difficult to warm to musician, finds herself entangled with the extended family from hell as she sets out on her quest. They're certainly not the kind of people you'd want to spend the weekend with, particularly when you get invited to the really very creepy Wardley, an 18th century house built on to a medieval tower.

Hines provides a sharp and focussed cast of characters. Young barrister Mick provides an entertaining foil for Sam. There's jovial, larger-than-life Johnny, Raph's brother-in-law, and his ice-maiden wife Miriam. Johnny's the owner of Wardley, and it turns out the house has an uncomfortable history. And there's Raph and Miriam's mother Diana, who will rush to smooth over the slightest sign of conflict.

Hines is a skilled writer when it comes to psychological suspense and unravelling the darkness behind long-buried family secrets. THE MURDER BIRD isn't the creepiest book I've ever read, but it's well-written and engrossing, and one that kept me turning the pages late into the night.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, March 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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