It will probably not come as a surprise to you, but being a worm, I am not terribly fond of birds. So a psychological thriller revolving around a small group of birdwatchers didn’t exactly fire me up with much enthusiasm and you would be forgiven for hurriedly dropping this book back on the shelf in the bookshop. The only trouble is – I actually liked it. Not all of it and certainly not at once. No, this took time and patience before yielding its reward.
The opening pages reveal a death. A man has fallen or been pushed off a cliff and a woman called Manda appears to be to blame, but to what extent we can only guess for now. Unfortunately, I managed to guess pretty early on – almost immediately in fact, which left me feeling deflated and mildly irked. I did however, decide to push on and see if there was a twist later on.
Manda (short for Amanda, though God only knows why) is a messed up young woman. Not only has she lost her mother at a tragically young age, but her father too, her boyfriend of some ten years (Gareth) has dumped her for some giggling youngster called Ruth and now, it seems, she is irrevocably caught up in the possible murder of a man. It really couldn’t get any worse. But we go back in time, to just after the breakup with Gareth, back to when the stalking started. Everything clicks into place just so – but with a lot of bird talk shovelled in.
There is a slight twist, but I saw it coming. What surprised me is that in spite of knowing what was coming, the last few chapters drove me on, with the pace almost becoming a feeding frenzy of words, emotions and startling realisations (by Manda)... and in a peculiar way, this book managed to salvage what it had lost through the abundance of and not necessarily interesting enough birder lust.
You cannot escape that this book is about bird watching and perhaps psychological thriller and bird watching shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence, but I appreciate the fluency of writing and I think there is definite promise in Hinchcliffe.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012