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The Birds That Stay by Ann Lambert

Finalist for Concordia University First Book Prize in 2019


In a small village in the Laurentians north of Montreal, a reclusive older woman is found strangled and frozen outside her home. Roméo Leduc, the enigmatic Chief Inspector for Homicide, is one day away from his first vacation in years, and reluctantly answers the call on the case. Roméo suspects a local biker gang is involved in what appears to be a robbery gone awry—or was the old woman a victim of a violent hate crime?

Marie Russell, a writer and divorced mother of two, lives next door to the victim. Marie becomes an inadvertent detective when her mother, suffering from dementia, offers a startling clue that links the woman’s murder to a terrible incident that happened on Marie’s suburban Montreal street in the 1970’s. Together, Marie and Roméo discover that the murder goes even further back, to another crime during the darkest days in Hungary at the end of WWII. As they combine wits to find the killer, they are forced to face demons from their own pasts as they confront a cast of characters from the Quebec of yesterday and today; where no one and nothing is really as it seems.


It was late October, so most of the leaves had given up and fallen. There were still a few aspen leaves trembling nervously on nearly bare branches. Her mother always said that you could see a tree’s real character when its leaves were gone. The bird feeders were swaying with the weight of squabbling birds that stay—chickadees, nuthatches, juncos— stuffing themselves before the long, long winter. The sun which had been so unseasonably hot that morning, was now smudged by clouds roiling in from the northeast. The wind was gusty, snapping off dessicated larch needles which fell in showers around her. It was like the weather had decided to make itself a symbol of what lay ahead.

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Second Story Press