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by Steve Burrows
Dundurn, June 2018
384 pages
$15.99 CAD
ISBN: 145973761X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

DCI Jejeune is confronted with a trio of cases to work through in A TIDING OF MAGPIES. The body of a young man is found burned in a pit at a constriction site, though it is not clear if burning was the cause of death. In the meantime, Jejeune's first case, the case that rocketed him to his lofty position in the department, is under review. People within the department seem divided on whether Jejeune's work will stand up to renewed scrutiny or not and readers must wait until nearly the end of the book to find out the truth. If that is not enough on the DCI's plate, an old foe from the past is out of prison posing a threat for Lindy, Jejeune's girlfriend. And of course, birding plays a major role in the book with two different birds taking center stage. The Magpie is the star as the bird most involved, but the Ruddy Duck also comes into play to expose a barbaric practice done with the best of conservation intentions.

There are some problems with A TIDING OF MAGPIES. First, it is the fifth book in Burrows' Bird Murder Mystery series and Burrows relies heavily on the plots of at least two previous books for story lines in MAGPIES. Right from the beginning, this creates a problem for those who have not read the previous books as they will have no idea about those characters and plots. Even me, who has faithfully read each and every book, it was a struggle at times to remember the details of the previous cases. Plus, with three very different story lines going, having two of them from the past creates a good bit of confusion for readers trying just to keep it all straight.

The second issue is the pacing of this book. These books are "think about" plots with a lot of character development, but in the previous books the plot moved ahead reasonably straight forwardly. This book? Not so much. The pace was slow - very slow at points - and meandered back and forth across the stories. This was a very easy book to set down for long periods of time. However, near the end, the pace rockets forward with a good deal of activity and then comes screeching to a halt leaving readers to wonder exactly what happened. Or didn't happen. Or will happen.

In conclusion, this is a difficult book to enjoy without having read the previous books in the series as many of the characters and two plots are tied to previous books. And along those lines, if you like tidy endings, this is not a good choice for you as it appears that DCI Jejeune and readers won't have closure until book six of the series.

Caryn St.Clair resides in University City, Missouri and is a former elementary school media specialist, President of the Parks Commission and a docent at the St.Louis Zoo.

Reviewed by Caryn St Clair, May 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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