Release date: July 30, 2016
Publisher: Orenda Books
Genre: Psychological Thriller/Suspense
TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44-year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough. Haunting, consuming and powerful, The Bird Tribunal is a taut, exquisitely written psychological thriller that builds to a shocking, dramatic crescendo that will leave you breathless.
I had heard amazing things about The Bird Tribunal for awhile now and while I was very eager to read it myself, I was also a bit apprehensive. I’m sure we’ve all read heavily hyped books and been disappointed by them, but I can happily say that this one deserves all of the hype and more. I’ve never read a book quite like this before, it’s hard to even put my finger on what genre I would classify this under, but I think that only adds to the intensity and mystery of the story.
The world in this story is small, the majority takes place in a very secluded house inhabited by a man named Sigurd Bagge. Allis is the woman he hires to be his housekeeper/gardner and she is desperate to escape her current life, so the opportunity to live in such an inaccessible location is perfect for her. It’s clear from the get go that Bagge is hiding something, there is a very apparent feeling of uneasiness and dread throughout. He reveales very little about himself to Allis, he is shrouded in mystery and any slight details he does share are hauntingly vague.
I was so wrapped up in their odd, desolated existence, Ratavan’s writing pulled me right into the house with Bagge and Allis. There were no dialogue/speech markings and instead of alienating me, it only served to draw me deeper into the story. I found it odd that it didn’t bother me as I think it would have if this were any other book, but it worked brilliantly here. She created such a confining and vivid atmosphere that was eerily beautiful, yet unsettling. I worried for Allis living in such a remote location with such a moody and sometimes volatile man such as Bagge. I found myself very anxious and paranoid about the entire situation, but not in an unnerving way, in a protective manner and one where I was yearning to find out what Bagge was hiding from Allis.
This book is on the short side but it sure packs one hell of a punch. The ending left me with a sense of peace that I didn’t even realize I was craving. I don’t recall ever being quite so absorbed by a book before and I believe this is due in part by never being exactly sure where things were heading. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys dark, mysterious settings, fascinating characters with secrets and obsessions, and writing that enraptures you and transports you to a chilling and intriguing location.
Overall rating: 5/5
Huge thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for my review copy.