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Story Time Harry Shannon Review by
Harry Shannon
Birdman
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BIRDMAN - 2000
Mo Hayder
Doubleday
ISBN 0-385-49694-X

This is a good one, folks.

Jack Caffery is a young, ambitious homicide detective who has finally landed a plump assignment with London's top homicide squad. His first case out of the gate is one of the most horrifying in the history of the department. A young woman is found, half buried in a garbage dump. She has been carefully and ritualistically murdered. Her body is clumsily stitched, as if by an amateur performing an autopsy. When the chest cavity is opened, tiny dead birds are found within it.

Caffery is himself haunted by childhood memories of the abduction and presumed murder of his brother after a silly, boyhood argument. He lives in his deceased parent's house, next door to the same man he secretly suspects of having killed his sibling. His obsession with that situation, too, is gradually straining his mind.

As more bodies are discovered (and the horrific signature of the killer repeats again and again) the department starts to look pretty foolish in the press. And no one ever files a missing person's report on any of the poor girls found slaughtered! Caffery suspects someone with serious money is involved in the murders. How else does Birdman know to choose them, and that they all can so safely disappear?

Perhaps two-thirds of the way into the book Caffery and his squad close in on Birdman and the reader comes to know the killer's private sickness, motivation and even his true identity. But although a novice, author Mo Hayder is far too shifty to be pinned down that easily, and the plot slickly twists and turns again.

On the negative side, the police vernacular sounds odd to the American ear; the slang on the streets of London often requires a second (or even third) glance, but then I'm not exactly an Anglophile. But the plot is clever and well-constructed and contains enough shifts and twists to engage our current American master of the police procedural, Michael Connelly.

Also standout: The forensics in the brutal, dark and wonderfully-penned novel are scientific and well delineated. We feel as if we were there in the autopsy room as the cuts are made. Look, this novel dares to venture very deliberately into Thomas Harris (THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) territory, thus assumes the serious risk of turning cliché. But Hayden pulls it all off quite well. And this book was written by an English lady who looks like a model for Vogue, rather than a crime writer.

You know what? She kicks some serious butt.

BIRDMAN can be safely recommended for both horror and mystery fans. I really enjoyed the novel, once I got past the English references and jargon. Four bookwyrms.

BookWyrmBookWyrmBookWyrmBookWyrm

This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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