A Pitying of Doves: A Birder Murder Mystery by Steve Burrow

A Pitying of Doves

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Chief Inspector Domenic Jejeune is one of the most interesting protagonists I’ve run across in crime fiction. Though he has an excellent “solve” rate in his department, his methods are unorthodox to say the least. Sure, I know there are plenty of detectives in crime fiction that regularly run afoul of their superiors, but while Jejeune does do that, the thing that puts him in his own little category is that it is abundantly clear to everyone around him that he really does not enjoy his job. His mind, and especially his heart is out birding most of the time. Instead of being a copper, he would much prefer to be in bird research as a career. So with his overwhelming interest in the field one would think the murder of just such a person in her aviary would hold his interest. But in this case, the problem as his superiors see it, is that he can’t get past the birds.

Phoebe Hunter was the director of a bird sanctuary and was also collecting data on the Turtledove population for her thesis. When she was found murdered, the first thing that caused a stir was that a Mexican diplomat was found dead along with her. Why was he at the sanctuary? Was he involved in birding or did he have a connection to Phoebe? The second oddity was that while many valuables were left behind, two, and just two, of the birds were taken.

Domenic JeJeune is an extremely complex man. Although this is the second book in the series, there is still quite a bit about his background readers do not know. This puts a bit of a damper on the book as he is often pondering things-what could have been, what can’t be-things along that line, that slow the pacing down a lot. I found some of the “deep thoughts” a bit tedious. I would hope more of his background would come out in the next installment.

A Pitying of Doves is a very well written book with a tightly woven plot. The twists are well done and keep the reader guessing until quite near the end. The book is heavy on bird information so the reader cannot help but learn a good deal about doves. This is given out to readers as part of the story and it never felt like an information dump. There is enough bird and birding information in the book that perhaps someone who is not necessarily a mystery reader but interested in birds might well enjoy this book. Conversely, if an avid mystery reader is not particularly into birds, this might not be the best selection.

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