The Birder Murder Strut of Fame

The Birder Murder Strut of Fame

Posted on June 19 by Steve Burrows in Fiction, Mystery, Recent Releases
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Watching the birds at my bird feeder the other day, it was quite clear from the way they puffed out their chests and strutted around that they were auditioning for a title role in some future Birder Murder Mystery. For the benefit of these avian aspirants, I’d thought I would run through the characteristics I look for in a leading bird.

First, the bird’s name has to have a nice resonance as a book title. The importance of this cannot be overstated. I’d venture to suggest Harper Lee’s literary reputation would not be what it is today if she had called her book To Kill a Canada Goose. And even if it Donna Tartt’s book was just as beautifully written, it’s hard to believe the Pulitzer committee would have looked as favorably on it if it was titled The Duck, instead of The Goldfinch. This being said, the name should also be manageable. I’m not sure my publishers would appreciate the extra cost associated with printing the repeated references to an American Three-toed Woodpecker.

The successful bird has to bring a new angle, too; something we haven’t seen before in the Birder Murder Mysteries. Owls operate at night – an enticing possibility for a future plot. Weaverbirds construct intricate nests, as complex and intertwined as the plot of any Birder Murder Mystery. Surely there could be some connection there to be explored. Albatrosses can stay aloft for weeks at a time, soaring on a wing span up to three metres across. Okay, it’s hard to see at the moment how that would play into a birder murder, but I like a challenge, so I wouldn’t rule it out entirely.

These criteria will no doubt leave many birds crestfallen – not to mention crown-fallen and tuft-fallen – at their prospects of starring in a Birder Murder Mystery. However, their hopes can be kept alive if they possess that one indefinable star quality: charisma. Two books ago, the Gyrfalcon’s imperious bearing and menacing demeanour catapulted it to stardom in A Cast of Falcons. Next time around it was the hummingbird’s scintillating, glittering plumage that sealed the lead role in A Shimmer of Hummingbirds. And, in the most recent Birder Murder Mystery, it was the magpie’s place as a villain in the folklore of various cultures around the world that made the bird worthy of center stage in A Tiding of Magpies. Ego, looks, and a bad-boy reputation: it’s worked for Hollywood A-Listers for a long time, and it might just be the ticket to success that guarantees some future bird a star on the Birder Murder Strut of Fame.

Steve Burrows

Posted by KathrynB on October 30, 2014
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Steve Burrows

Steve Burrows has pursued his birdwatching hobby on six continents. The first Birder Murder Mystery, A Siege of Bitterns, won the 2015 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. The other books in the series are A Pitying of Doves, A Cast of Falcons, and A Shimmer of Hummingbirds. Steve lives with his wife, Resa, in Oshawa, Ontario.