Bird Spotting In A Small Town
by Sophie Morton-Thomas
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Pub Date 8 Feb 2024 | Archive Date Not set
Oldcastle Books, Verve Books
You've always got to listen to the birds.
In a tiny town on the North Norfolk coast, Fran's life is unraveling.
As she fills her days cleaning the caravan park she owns, she is preoccupied by worry - about the behavior of her son, the absences of her husband and her strained relationship with her sister's family. Her one source of relief: early in the mornings, before the responsibilities and uncertainties take over, she slips out to the beach to watch the birds.
Small-town tension simmers all around her when a new teacher starts at the local school and a Romany community settle in the field adjoining her caravan park. Not to mention the beheaded birds that have started appearing across the town.
Then the schoolteacher and Fran's brother-in-law both go missing on the same night. But all Fran can seem to care about is the birds.
Meanwhile, Tad, a seventy-year-old Romany man, watches the townspeople from the distance of his caravan - and sees everything clearly.
Bird Spotting in a Small Town is an unsettling story of strange occurrences and buried secrets, perfectly evoking the eerie isolation of life in a small community when nothing feels quite right.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 23 members
What an absolute beauty of a book. I felt Fran’s claustrophobia I really enjoyed this book, especially learning about the birds.
I honestly did not see any of the twists coming and that’s what kept me interested. Five stars all around.,
Quite an unsettling book, the feeling of unease , of things not being quite right running right through it.
There's a feeling of claustrophobia too, such a small setting, and small cast of characters.
I also had a sense of dread, as the two narratives had to meet somewhere for a big part of the story, so for the first part of the book, I was just waiting on that.
Frans interest in thr birds feels more obsession than anything else.
Some surprising turns in the plot, all of it very good.
Unsettling, unease, dread, obsession... these really are key words that make me want yo read a story, and this one is a cracker.
Glad I picked it up.
What a corker of a book - I am not quite sure what I was expecting but the title and the setting of a holiday caravan site lead me to think I was in for a cozy summer read. Absolutely not! There are lots of early morning pacings, furtive meetings and red herrings. Just when I thought I had a grip on who had done what, there was another nugget of information which cast everything in a different light.
A very good read.
I was drawn to this book because of the title, though I had no real idea of what to expect, and was so surprised by what I found. This is a dark, haunting book, which tells the story not just of a crime but of a complicated family and set of individuals and their lives and relationships to each other. I found it hugely atmospheric and really compelling.
Written from a limited, alternating, first person points of view, with a small cast of characters, this character driven novel is tense, claustrophobic, and dark.
What worked: The setting added to the sense of ominous tension, with the gray, English sea coast as a back drop.The Romany characters added a layer of mystery, and provided the reader a glimpse into Romany life, their struggles, and the prejudice that they face. The author also did an excellent job of drawing us in to the character’s individual personalities. All of the characters were very well written. I especially was intrigued by the nice, Sahara (Sadie). The end was a bit of shocker, and unexpected, however it left me feeling satisfied.
What didn’t work: At times, the book dragged a bit, and the characters’ obsession with the birds was confusing at times. I know that the author was trying to make some sort of allegorical point, however it escaped me. Her use of the dead birds did add a sense of darkness, and a definite ick factor. The plot was slow to develop, however I did want to continue on to find out what was happening. I did not find any of the characters particularly endearing, however their flaws kept me engaged.
I am giving this book 4 out of 5 stars. If you are looking for a dark, literary work of fiction with some mystery thrown in then this is the book for you. If you are looking for acton packed thriller, this may not be the one for you.
A thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
This is an unusual and original story very cleverly told. Once I got used to it I enjoyed the style of writing. It’s a difficult one to put in a genre with elements of family life, a murder, infidelity and the innocence (and lack of innocence) of childhood. It is interesting to see the comparison of two different styles of ‘caravan’ life and the loyalties of these different lifestyles.
"Bird Spotting in a Small Town" by Sophie Morton-Thomas is a gripping psychological suspense novel that had me hooked from the very beginning. Set against the backdrop of a small, isolated town on the North Norfolk coast, the story revolves around Fran, the resilient owner of a caravan park. As she goes about her daily routine of cleaning the park, Fran's seemingly normal life starts to unravel. However, it's not just the mysterious disappearance of a new teacher at the local school and Fran's brother-in-law on the same night that adds tension to the narrative. What struck me the most was Fran's unwavering fascination with birds, as if there was a hidden significance behind her obsession. This personal touch adds depth and intrigue to the story, making it even more captivating.
Sophie Morton-Thomas masterfully constructs a small-town atmosphere filled with tension and secrets. As the unsettling events unfold, the sense of unease and mystery intensifies, leaving readers eager to uncover the truth behind the enigmatic occurrences in this tight-knit community. The narrative beautifully captures the essence of rural claustrophobia and the challenges of trust in such a setting, making it relatable and engaging.
In addition to the gripping plot, the novel delves into the complex dynamics of Fran's personal life and family relationships. This adds an emotional depth to the story, making the characters feel authentic and relatable. Fran's love for bird-watching on the shore becomes more than just a hobby; it becomes a metaphor for her own yearning to break free from the constraints of her life. This introspective element adds an extra layer to the narrative, making it both thought-provoking and captivating.
Overall, "Bird Spotting in a Small Town" is a dark and haunting novel that goes beyond being just a crime story. It explores the intricate lives and relationships of a complex family and a set of individuals, creating an intensely atmospheric read.
Sophie Morton-Thomas has crafted a truly compelling tale that will keep readers hooked until the very last page.
Fran loves to walk the shore watching the birds in a small town in North Norfolk, easily losing track of time, and her son Bruno it has to be said. She seems distant, at times appearing absent to her responsibilities as a mother, but the care she takes over a nest of pretty tern eggs is almost like a substitute for Bruno.
Fran owns a caravan park, but she’s consumed by worries - the behaviour of Bruno, her distant and increasingly absent husband, and the relationship with her sister who lives on the caravan park, which is strained to ever increasing levels.
A Romany community sets up in the field next to Fran’s caravan park, from where elderly Romany, Tad, watches the comings and goings in the caravan park with great interest.
When a new teacher goes missing on the same night as Fran’s brother in law, all sorts of rumours start circulating, but it’s a long time before the truth reveals itself. All this going on and yet Fran is still more concerned about her birds than her husband and son.
There was quite a dark and sinister feel about the story with the atmospheric Norfolk coast making the perfect backdrop. There’s uncertainty and unease about which way this family based journey will end, and we get to experience different lifestyles through the small cast of characters, both on the caravan park and within the Romany community, which provided added interest. Strained relationships, crime, infidelity and childhood lies and secrets lead to a surprising but satisfying conclusion. A definite winner.