Cut with our Own Dust: A Cynthia Robinson Book Review

Jesca Ashton is a detective in upstate New York, where her mother Beatrice lives just across town. The same town where Beatrice stumbles over the dead body of one of her students, Amber Inglin. The clock is ticking to find her killer, and the suspects get guiltier by the second.

In Cynthia Robinson’s novel, Birds of Wonder, she combines plotlines of murder, inner demons, infidelity, abuse and neglect into the stories of six characters – Jes, Beatrice and the four potential suspects in Amber’s murder.

Liam Walsh owns the vineyard in town and has made a name for himself as an advocate of children that are in custody of Child Services. When Amber turns up in the field on his property, suspicion arises as she was part of his foster care system crusade and was working at his vineyard.

Edward Friis and his sister Sara were staying at the cottage their sister Cate and her husband owned, directly across from the crime scene. Amber was Cate’s babysitter, who was driven home by Edward the night she was killed. As the last one to see her alive, Edward’s secret addiction is brought to the attention of the police and incriminating evidence doesn’t help his case.

Connor and Megan Sorensen are also products of the foster care system, living under the same roof as Amber. When both of them skip town after her death, and Megan returns on her own, the police scramble to find a connection.

Waldo was rescued from an adult assisted-living program by Liam, who brought him to work at the vineyard. Diagnosed schizophrenic with an obsession in birds, his behavior and non-verbal body language begs the question of what he may or may not have seen that night he was out in the field.

Robinson’s web of connecting each character is intricate and speaks beyond what is expected of a novel with multiple points of view. She takes the small-town, “things-like-this-don’t-happen-here” backdrop and adds a multitude of secrets each character is keeping. She expands on self-destructive tendencies and their consequences, which each character possesses in their own way. It adds to their personalities, placing them at a more relatable level.

“A number of the characters and situations in Birds of Wonder are drawn from real-life experiences, either mine or those of people to whom I am close,” Robinson said in a press release.

Birds of Wonder speaks of unsettling yet timely themes, combining true crime with distinct characteristics that make for a non-stop page turner.