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Monday 16 January 2017

‘The Bird Tribunal’ by Agnes Ravatn

Published by Orenda Books,
30 September 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-910633-35-9

Set against the backdrop of an isolated house on a Norwegian fjord, The Bird Tribunal promises intrigue and danger and has a strong sense of foreboding from the start. Listed as a psychological thriller the book is really a domestic suspense, exploring the interaction and secrets of two guilt-ridden individuals.

Thirty-something Allis Hagtorn replies to an advert and takes a job as housekeeper/gardener in this lonely spot. As the story unfolds we gradually learn of the scandal that has made her leave husband and a good job in television to run away from society and hide. Her new employer, 44 year old Sigurd Bagg, is not what she is expecting. He does not appear to work and his wife is absent. Reclusive, moody and with flashes of anger, Sigurd Bagg is a Heathcliff type of character who teases Allis, and therefore the reader, with the possibility that he is something other than what he seems to be. Allis, hurt from her experiences in the media, cannot bear his silences and feels he is in some way rejecting her. She has a crush on him and just like the narrator in Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, Allis obsessively tries to get close to him and discover more about him and his absent wife.

Beautifully written and packed with atmospheric descriptions of the changing seasons on the fjord, this is one for those readers that find the twists and turns of many crime novels confusing. The linear plot of the book is set at the start and does not deviate from its predictable conclusion as the unreliable narrator draws the reader into her world of uncertainty and fear. With a very limited stage and cast, the book is dark and claustrophobic as the reader waits expectantly for the danger to unfold.
Reviewer Christine Hammacott

Agnes Ravatn was born 1983. She is an author and columnist. Since her first novel in 2007, Ravatn has published several critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections, and is known for her unique, witty voice and sharp eye for human fallibility. Ravatn’s second novel, The Bird Tribunal, is a strange and captivating story about shame, guilt and atonement. Ravatn received «The cultural radio P2’s listener’s prize» for this novel, a popular and important prize in Norway.

Christine Hammacott lives near Southampton and runs her own design consultancy. She started her career working in publishing as a book designer and now creates covers for indie-authors. She writes page-turning fiction that deals with the psychological effects of crime. Her debut novel The Taste of Ash was published in 2015.

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