Monday, February 18, 2019
For fans of Louise Penny, a new series set in Quebec
THE BIRDS THAT STAY
A Russell and Leduc Mystery #1
Second Story Books
February 19, 2019
This excellent debut novel takes place in the Laurentian Mountains, north of Montreal. Marie Russell is a divorced nature writer and mother of two grown children. She lives quietly in a cottage with no close neighbors. One of her neighbors, however, is Madame Newman, a woman in her eighties living a spartan and reclusive life. The semi-retired handyman, Louis Lachance, is perhaps the closest person to being a friend, but even he knows nothing about her past. When he finds her outside her cottage, strangled and frozen, he is the only one to mourn her. Chief homicide investigator, Roméo Leduc is just days away from his first vacation in two years, but this investigation will put an end to that. Leduc at first thinks that it might be a botched break-in by a local biker gang but quickly realizes there is more to this crime than meets the eye. Finding out just who Madame Newman was is the key. Marie and Leduc cross paths when Marie's mother, who suffers from dementia, identifies the dead woman from a photo in the paper as a Mrs. Kovak, who lived in the same suburban neighborhood that Marie grew up with. Marie is not at all sure that her mother is correct, but does remember the Kovak family, They were refugees from the Hungarian uprising in the 1950s. Her remembrances are spurred in part by the sale and closing of her childhood home and moving her mother into a care facility make her do a little detective work of her own.
The Birds That Stay takes us from post-WWII Hungary to Canada in the 70s and 80s, not all that different to the US of the same era. Many women of the time lived stifled by the mores of the day. Marie's mother and Mrs. Kovak were no different. Mr. and Mrs. Kovak had secrets of a more severe kind and those secrets led to not only her death but others. There are multiple overlapping stories told but all the characters are beautifully realized and memorable. Along the way, Roméo and Marie form the tentative beginnings of a relationship, one that I am looking forward to watching in the future.
I highly recommend The Birds That Stay for its characterization, sense of place and well-plotted mystery. I am already looking forward to the next in the series. Thanks to NetGalley and Second Story Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.
RATING- 4 Stars