Birdwatching in the lower Chesapeake Bay can lead to some wondrous discoveries. Fritz Tullis, a defrocked college history professor, lost his tenured position with a Texas university due to his own recklessness and lack of restraint and has retreated to an abandoned sharecropper's shack on his family's large Maryland estate to lick his wounds. He is spending his enforced sabbatical rebuilding the shambles of the shack, while he contemplates his self indulgent past and his uncertain future. With his life in a tailspin, he vows to curb his reckless behavior and never again become involved in something he cannot control.
He spends his days drifting in a small boat in a cypress swamp, photographing birds, sipping beer and nursing daily hangovers. He soon discovers a rare sight –-- an endangered young Whooping Crane amongst a flock of Sandhill Cranes, all completely out of their range. He covets his secret find even while fully intending to turn the Whooping Crane, whom he has dubbed Ollie, over to wildlife authorities. He is reluctant, however, to allow the world to encroach on his solitude, so geared with the only things of value he has left --- his state of the art cameras, video equipment, and computers --- he is amassing a log of rare photos and allowing himself the small pleasure of keeping his harmless secret.
One early dawn, while photographing his flock, he sees a plane touch down on the remote private landing strip of an adjacent property. Curious, he focuses his camera's long lens on the plane and witnesses a shocking point blank assassination. Far enough away to remain hidden under cover of swamp growth, he clicks furiously as the drama unfolds. He soon finds himself exactly where he doesn't want to be –-- a central figure in a dangerous situation with everyone but himself in control.
BIRD'S EYE VIEW moves deftly from a tale of a man in search of himself to superbly crafted meditations in the wilds of Maryland to growing suspense as he finds himself reluctantly ensnared in an international scandal. The many multifaceted characters unfold in an interesting and engaging manner; you find yourself caring about what happens to them and cheering when the bad guys meet their fate. Just when I thought the plot was becoming predictable, it took a pleasantly surprising turn.
This is Freedman's seventh novel. His first, AGAINST THE WIND, was a New York Times bestseller.
Reviewed by Roz Shea (HOST BKPG ROZ) on January 21, 2011