Review of ‘For the Birds’ by Aaron Paul Lazar

In the world of literature nowadays, there is a vast array of competition, with new books arriving in stores every day. It’s virtually impossible to keep up. Among the authors, there are your one hit wonders, who publish one bestseller and then disappear off the map. There are also authors who do well with their first two or three books and then just seem to lose their touch or become repetitive. Then you have Aaron Paul Lazar, who time and time again digs down deep in his pool of resources and comes out with a compelling winner every time, and he has done it again with For the Birds.
When I write a book review, especially for a mystery novel, I try not to simply re-hash the plot because I don’t want to spoil the experience for the reader. Instead, I dive right in to how the book made me feel and what affect the author had on me in the telling of his tale. When I read For the Birds, my feelings and emotions bubbled to the surface right from page one. I clicked with the characters immediately and found myself relating to their lives, relationships and problems, and I was ready and willing to embark on their journey with them. I wasn’t observing them from afar or shaking my head in disbelief at their fictional circumstances. I was right there with them, experiencing the same things and feeling all of their emotions. This is because Lazar is a magician with words, and he can accomplish in a two sentence description what others take a whole page to do. His descriptions are like a beautiful picture unfolding under an artist’s brush.
In the opening pages of For the Birds, we join Quinn and Marcella Hollister and Marcella’s mother, Thelma, a very colourful trio of characters, after four hours driving along a rough dirt road through the Adirondacks of Northern New York, in an old van with no air conditioning, as they try to find their way to their hotel near Lake Placid, New York called For the Birds. The hotel is hosting a bird show where they hope Quinn’s pet parakeet, Ruby, will win Best New Breed Color. Now I challenge any reader to not remember an occasion where they were stuck in a hot car with conflicting personalities where everyone is tired and patience is wearing thin. I smiled at my own memories of numerous challenging roads trips I have been on, and I empathized with the characters. This brings you closer to the characters and allows you to form a bond with them as you read the story. They are normal people experiencing normal relationship and life challenges, and they each have their own unique personalities. Thelma is an ornery and overbearing old woman who says what she feels and can be quite judgmental, and Marcella is a penny pincher and persistent and stubborn to a fault. Quinn is obsessive compulsive, and needs everything done a certain way, but he is the strength that holds the family together, and he is a very loving man. Even with their sometimes challenging characteristics, this is a family bound by love so strong that they can get through anything.
I also found myself feeling their pain over the recent loss of Thelma’s husband and Marcella’s stepfather, Raoul Mendoza, who meant the world to all of them. It seems as if this trip should be the soothing balm this family needs to start the healing process with some rest, relaxation, and a little fun. Well, don’t be so sure because in typical Lazar style one event leads to another until the characters are wrapped up in a complex mystery of epic proportions. From a simple car breakdown to a bizarre accident resulting in a hospital stay, a sudden kidnapping, a ransacked hotel room, possible links to an old bank heist, and even a psychichuman/bird brain meld, you as the reader are only allowed very brief moments to catch your breath and try and assemble some facts in your head in order to try and solve the mystery before you arethrown another twist. The suspense constantly builds, and when the main part of the mystery was unveiled my jaw literally dropped to the floor. I didn’t see it coming at all.
There are so many qualities that make Aaron Lazar’s writing so appealing to me. Even though you could say he generally writes mysteries, he manages to include aspects of every other genre in his books as well, which makes for the most well-rounded and enjoyable reads and awakens every emotion while reading them. In For the Birds, you have a definite mystery that is the focal point of the story, but you also have humour when watching Thelma’s brash personality interact with the people around her, and you have the clearly loving relationship between Marcella and Quinn which adds some zesty interludes to the plot, and it is heart-warming to see the support they provide to each other.
I also love the way he makes the plot complex and interesting without making it a heavy read. There’s something about a heavy book, you know the kind, full of page long, overly detailed descriptions, complicated use of the English language, and complex concepts which make your brain hurt to try and follow. Sometimes, you as the reader are so wrapped up in understanding what is going on that you lose the flow of the story and fall out of the character’s world while you try and decipher a passage’s meaning. Not so in For the Birds, where I was mesmerized by the story from beginning to end and could not put it down.
Finally, Lazar’s use of similes and metaphors is magical. Phrases like, “the bravado I’d worn like a Kevlar vest” and “the elevator doors finally kissed shut” and “my heart flipped like a Mexican jumping bean immobilized for a hundred years and suddenly released” never fail to make me stop and smile because they just fit so well.
In a nutshell, this is an author who puts his heart and soul into everything he writes, and it definitely shows. If I imagine in my head the perfect reading scenario, like sitting in a comfy chair on a cold winter’s night in front of a fire with a hot chocolate, or sitting outside on a warm summer day with the birds singing and the wind whispering through the trees, neither picture would be complete without a book like Lazar’sFor the Birds in my hand.

Aaron Paul Lazar resides in Upstate New York with his wife, daughter, son-in-law, four grandchildren, mother-in-law, two dogs, and three cats. Besides being an accomplished author, he is also an engineer by profession. He also enjoys gardening, cooking, photography, cross-country skiing, music and art, interests which he passes on to the characters of his novels. Aaron has also authored the LeGarde Mysteries and the Moore Mysteries which should also be part of every mystery lover’s collection.
Reviewer: Cindy Taylor,

Title: For the Birds
Author: Aaron Paul Lazar
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
December, 2011


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