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There's a sadistic killer on the loose in Greenwich, London. At first, one young woman has been found murdered and dumped on wasteland, but she's not the only one. Another four are found shortly afterwards. They are all found to have been ritualistically murdered, raped and mutilated, each with a disturbing signature, revealed during post-mortem, linking them. It's up to Detective Inspector Jack Caffrey to investigate and catch the killer before any more women come to harm, but it's not going to be easy.
Birdman is Mo Hayder's first novel and the first in her Jack Caffrey series of books. The Gardian newspaper called it a "first class shocker" and I have to agree! Birdman isn't for the faint-hearted, it's shocking and gruesome, and deals with some sickening subjects.
I first came across Jack Caffrey later in his life in 'Gone' (the 5th book in Mo Hayder's Jack Caffrey series), so it was interesting to go back and learn more about his character in this book. His private life kind of becomes a side-story in Birdman. We learn about the disappearance of his brother when they were kids and the effect it has on him in his adult life and relationships.
Birdman has its twists and turns and leads you up the garden path, so to speak. The story is quite fast paced and is very much a page-turner. I got through half of it in one sitting, not wanting to put it down. As I read in the evening, that left me very tired the next day!
I found this book so gripping that the back cover of the book is now creased from me gripping it so tightly while reading! I've found it to be one of those books that you think about even when you're not reading it. Mind you, that's probably because some of its content is quite disturbing!
Highly recommended, just not if you've got a weak stomach!
Please note: This review is also posted on my blog.
The use of shock and awe can be a powerful tool. The American's use it in war; be it dropping a nuclear bomb on Japan or subduing Iraq in days. In film shock and awe is used to make events have increased impact from Vader telling Luke 'I am your Father', to the revealing scene in 'The Crying Game'. Neither of these films would have worked quite as well without these memorable elements. Well shock and awe it seems can also be used in novel form and Mo Hayder's 'Birdman' is one of the first books that I have seen it used well. The dark crime novel is a genre packed full of grisly murders and depressing scenes. Most of them contain death after death after death until the reader become numb. Wouldn't it be more effective to bombard the mind at the start and use this as impact for the rest of the book - Hayder seems to think so.
Serial killers come in all shapes and sizes, but overall there is a pattern that most follow. Jack Caffery is a detective working on a team trying to uncover the killer of five women whose corpses have been found. He believes in a profiling technique and suggests that the killer must be educated in medical techniques in some way. This does not go down too well with all the squad as others want to look at the easier option of a local man who happens to look suspicious. Caffery will need to work on his own ideas parallel to the general consensus. Whoever is right they need to find the killer quick as they are speeding up and are deranged - why else would they leave a dead bird in each corpse?
I had this book suggested to me from an online book group. I was looking for some new crime authors who would be dark, but not gruesome. I was given the name of Mo Hayder and sent 'Birdman' in the post. If this does not account to a gruesome book, I hate to see what they read when they are in the mood for something with a dark slant. Hayder creates in 'Birdman's opening chapters a scary crime. The bodies of five young women are found mutilated. Rather than skimming over the details Hayder takes the reader deep into the intricate elements from the way the corpses were found to the autopsies. Too be honest I found it all a little too much to begin with, but Hayder's quality writing style made me choose to carry on. This is a good thing as the book settles down eventually and you realise that Hayder was trying to impact the reader at the start to increase their investment in the story later on.
I have written before about the differences that some male and female authors have when writing about crime. Men seemed to be more interested in action and often skim over the more daring details. I prefer this, but I cannot always choose. Female authors such as Hayder and Karin Slaughter seemed to go into far more detail into the character's demise. Often these are young women and as females they have the right to describe crimes that men could not hope to write about as vividly. I find it all a little uncomfortable, but luckily Hayder just managed to keep to the right side of exploitation fiction. I would certainly say that this was not for anyone who did not like gore or uncomfortable reading.
What makes the book good is that after the initial impact we are given a solid crime story. Central character Jack Caffery is not the most inspiring man, but I enjoyed the fact that he investigated his own case whilst the other police looked elsewhere. Hayder did not shy away from describing the corrupt nature of some British Police officers and I found these parts acted as a good foil to Caffery. I look forward to reading more about him as the book ends with him making some choices that could change the direction the later books go in.
'Birdman' will not be a book that appeals to everyone. Fans of authors such as John Connolly or Karin Slaughter will find in Mo Hayder an author who can write in a similar style. However, having read books by all three of these authors I actually find Hayder to be the better writer. In gory crime fiction there is a penchant to sensationalise and lose the central story. Hayder never lets this happen and if you are willing to persevere through the initial dark chapters you will find a very entertaining crime novel underneath.
Author: Mo Hayder
Price: amazon uk - £5.99
play.com - £5.99
The Metropolitan police’s murder squad is called out to find five young women ritually murdered and dumped near the Millennium Dome. DI Jack Caffery is leading the hunt for the serial killer, but faces problems within the team and from his own past. Can he stop the killer before the body count gets any higher? For a first novel, Mo Hayder has written a quite startling work. She does not shy away from putting in gore – indeed, she seems to relish it. The book is not for the faint-hearted, as the descriptions are graphic and the killer is certainly a very sick person. The author throws in numerous twists and turns and on more than one occasion, I was left scratching my head as to what would happen. Even at the ending, shocks were still coming. Her characters are interesting and I thought she deftly described the tortured Jack Caffery. The book could be called gruesome and certainly people who only like cosy mysteries will never be able to pick it up. However, if you like the darker side of crime writing, have a look at ‘Birdman’. Dark and nasty – I can imagine a film may soon be on the way.
I'm going to try to give as little about the plot away as I can :) I read this book in July whilst on holiday, by chance it was the most enticing read (in English) at the local "supermercado". I never expected to enjoy it so much. The great element this story contains is the suspense at telling moments in the plot, the twists and turns that the reader is taken on which cannot be foreseen. This ensures that the book is not left sitting for long until it is finished. The author goes into stomach wrenching detail at times, so if you are sensitive to gorey details this book is one to be missed. The main character is well developed and can be related to on different levels. The only criticism i have of the book is that itmaybe took on too many strings and left a few questions to be answered, although it could be argued that they were needed to allow full development of the insight into the main character. One of the best books I have read recently and definitley worth a read. especially if you like crime novels or messy details :
In the authors humble opinion there are generally two types of good book (not including the bible of course!), on the one hand, you have the carefully crafted story, painting characters in tiny detail and almost always having something fairly philosophical to say about life; on the other hand the tense thriller the book that gathers pace as it progresses towards climax and is usually aimed at pointing out how screwed up modern society can make people. This is Mo Hayder's debut novel and it is a good one, Birdman fits into the latter of the above, a thriller with pace, a clever plot line and scores of characters well and truly screwed up. Now, I am an avid reader of both these types of books and Birdman is the best thriller that I have read since Silence of the Lambs. The plot of what I can reveal is set in South-East London (oh yes, everyone is at it now, South-East London is hip to set your novels and films in). Five female bodies are uncovered near the Dome (yes more bad publicity for the upturned fruit bowl of a building!) They have all been brutally abused (in a most shocking way) and appear to be the work of the same killer. AMIP, the murder squad of the met are called out and take charge of the investigation, headed by Maddox and backed up by the star of the novel DI Jack Caffery. (Yes, another police character, destined to turn up in film or on the small screen.) The squad embark on the trail of the killer, with little evidence to go on, the bodies have been cleaned of almost all the evidence. Caffery himself is well and truly screwed up, his younger brother Ewan was abducted as a kid, he thinks he knows who did it and has been torturing himself ever since, collecting evidence from the suspected killer as he is one of his neighbours. Jack still lives in the same house, (both Jack and the house disowned by his parents), cannot forge lasting relationships with women and only loves his bottles of malt whisky. <
br><br> Now, you know I hate spoiling plot lines and I cannot here, so the above is all I can say, my lips are sealed, to discover more read the book. But, what about the novel, how good is it. Well, Hayder has produced a masterpiece in the thriller genre, the plot is carefully unwrapped for the reader, tiny piece by piece and oh when you think all is revealed there is more. The pace of the book increases as it progresses, until it reaches a crescendo at the end, much like the silence of the lambs. As with all books in this genre the prose is fast pace, by this I mean that there are no lingering sentences that wallow in their own descriptive beauty. There is no place for prose like that in a thriller, so I would say the writing is fairly standard of this type of book. This is a fast moving, wham, bam, thank you mam of a book. But of course as all books in the thriller genre have to do, it keeps you yearning to know what happens next, whilst keeping up the feeling of tension and suspense. The characters are well portrayed, but perhaps it would have been nice to have the policemen a little different from other novels, they are all hard workers, scruffy, good humoured but each has there little dark patch, just enough to let you know that the line between cop and killer is not that large at all. How many times have we seen this, are all cops really like this, even nice old Morse has his dark side. Most of all this is a horrific book, the real base side of humanity is examined, like a little boy turning over a nice looking rock in the garden, only to find it damp, dirty and crawling with insects on the underside. How damp and dirty everybody’s underside is, is different, with a couple of characters, probably needing more than a bath to wash it off. So, nothing that breaks the mould, just a well written and plotted thriller, with more twists than the monaco grand prix circuit; no literary prizes, standard g
ood guy, bad guy characters, but the formula, if executed well works, so why change it? Well worth a read, but a warning, you will be shocked and once you are over two-thirds of the way through you will not be able to put it down. (Except for when that creak hits the floorboards! Who was that?) Birdman is published by Bantam Books and is £5.99, although I got mine for half price from Amazon. © Nick Herrod 2001
Tense thriller in which DI Jack Cafferty tracks down the brutal killer of 5 prostitutes.