Caged Little Birds by Lucy Banks is the first-person account of Ava, who murdered a child, and her life after release from jail.
Her sentence complete, she is living in the community under a new identity and all she wants is to return to a remote Scottish island to observe the birdlife, as she did in her childhood. Instead, the terms of her probation require her to live in the town, receive weekly visits from her over-worked probation officer, attend regular sessions with her psychiatrist, and try to find a job. Ava has too much spare time and spends much of it dwelling on her ex-lover whose son she accidentally killed (they say ‘murdered’, she says it was an accident), the boy’s cold-hearted, jealous mother, and an ex-cellmate whom she may have encouarged to commit suicide.
Ava becomes friends with her neighbour, an ex-homeless man who asks too many questions about her earlier life. When this neighbour’s adult daughter comes to stay with him Ava’s world starts to unravel. A letter arrives indicating at least one person out there knows her true identity and Ava is convinced it’s from the neighbour’s daughter. Ava sees her acting suspicioulsy when out on walks along the river and is further convinced when a brick is thrown through her window. Around this point in the plot, the pace quickens, the tension in Ava’s mind increases rapidly, she knows she must act soon before her identity and crime is revealed to everyone, and so she makes the necessary preparations…
This a real psychology novel; the author captures Ava’s anxieties remarkably well. The plot is well-crafted and the essential characters are thoroughly developed and feel like they could be people we already know. I like the use of tension and pace, rising and falling as the book progresses. The ending is neatly crafted and satisfying.