The Bird Boys
By Lisa Sandlin
Four To-Be-Read Piles =
Totally Worthy of Your To-Be-Read Pile!
Reviewer: Liz Merton
If you liked Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling’s The Silkworm, give Lisa Sandlin’s The Bird Boys from Cinco Puntos Press (2019 release) a try. Using 1970s Beaumont, Texas, as her backdrop, Sandlin plays with tropes (flawed/“morally ambiguous” protagonists, anyone?), colloquial dialogue, and great local knowledge to plop readers into the middle of a private investigator’s search for a mysterious client’s brother. As our investigator and his new secretary work through the case, we get to work through these two interesting, layered characters’ checkered pasts (oh, yeah, the secretary’s killed a couple people and done some hard time, so there’s that!). A well-crafted little attraction subplot weaves in and out, with our two intriguing heroes dallying together ever so slightly as they work cases.
The book received finalist status in the International Thriller Writers Thriller Awards this year (Best Paperback Original Novel). It offers an original feel, memorable characters, and an intimate ending that sets us up for the next book. Sure, the trajectory and climax feel a bit predictable, with the final confrontation even bordering on contrived, and I was bummed the supernatural element that pops in and out goes underdeveloped (though I expect Sandlin will build on it in coming books), but overall, the book delivers a fun crime read, set in an era that stands out from the thriller crowd as a little different right now. Sandlin uses to great advantage the local twists and turns of the Texas Gulf Coast (did I mention the plot even features a nice birding backstory for all the birders out there . . . with High Island and Anahuac featured?!), and she throws in enough surprises to keep things crisp.