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.
The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn
Publication Date: January 1, 2017 by Orenda Books
This is such a unique read and entirely different from a lot of the crime fiction I’ve been reading lately. Rather than focusing on the “why” behind Allis’ need to take a job in the middle of nowhere as a married man’s housekeeper/gardener, or answering the questions regarding Bagge’s personal story and his missing wife, Ravatn instead focuses on the here and now of the story. While in other formats, this could have been frustrating, it was the building tension and sense of foreboding that really drove this novel along.
The relationship between Bagge and Allis is obsessive and dangerous and kept me on edge as I read The Bird Tribunal. For such a short novel, Ravatn does a stunning job of keeping a slow and believable pace as the reader cringes in watching the inevitable unravelling of both Allis and Bagge. Although it’s easy to see things won’t end well, I also didn’t find myself rushing to finish the novel in order to find out exactly how events would unfold. This novel is definitely more about the atmosphere and the psychological suspense than it is about getting answers to all one’s questions.
This was one of my first experiences with Norwegian crime fiction and it definitely won’t be my last. This is definitely a must-read for those who want more psychological suspense than criminal procedures in their crime fiction. An absolutely haunting read!