This debut novel, Out of a Clear Sky, is ... clever. And I say that in full knowledge of what the word `clever' means to most readers, and that it's a turn-off. But this is the other kind of clever; the kind that leaves a little hole of worry or doubt or expectation in your head as you read and then knits up that gap with perfect timing and economy so that you, the reader, feel satisfied (a) that you were clever enough to spot the thing in the first place and (b) that the writer was only playing with you and knew exactly where and when to answer the question that you'd been asking yourself. As an example (and not to play with spoilers here) my heart did sink the tiniest bit when I found the protagonist was called Manda and her sister Zannah - such outlandish names, I thought, and wondered why. And then I found out why, and the solution was so clever, and so apposite to plot development, that I grinned to myself as I read on.
And I'm not a big birder. The truth is that I have a negative thing about birds. But Sally Hinchcliffe reconciled me to the joys of waiting and watching, and Manda's observations of native species are so perfectly slotted into the main storyline that even a non-birder like me will learn and enjoy. More than that though, the way the birding experiences foreshadow or amplify the human narrative is excellently handled. As I say, clever, in all the best senses of the word. If you enjoy Dibden and du Maurier, I recommend this book to you