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Monday 20 December 2021

The Aviculturist by Ann Smythe


I enjoyed this debut novel very much. The blurb calls it atmospheric, compelling, gripping. All true but not in a hold-your-breath, edge-of-your-seat way. It's the characters that drive this: Smythe's talent certainly lies in character portrayal and the mellowness of her writing. There is a little predictability in the plot…I was way ahead on several occasions, but I was totally immersed in the unfurling.

The inheritance of a neglected country mansion rakes up some sad memories for Lily Sanders, along with a dilemma about what to do with it. A handsome, eligible farmer does help make a few decisions (yes, there's a little bit of romance in this). There's a parallel plot to this thread: a father seeking vengeance for the tragic death of his teenage daughter. Smythe very adeptly overlaps and links the two.

I was smitten by the skill in this first novel: the style of writing, a well-structured plot, characters that are credible and well developed. Actors' mantra, I'm sure everyone knows, is 'never work with children or animals'. Book characters beware: dogs like Flynn and Horace can really steal the show!

Well done, Ann Smythe. I glimpsed a hint of a sequel on the final pages…that pleased me as much as the very satisfying ending.

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