Title: Birdman (Jack Caffery #1)
Author: Mo Hayder
Publication date: November 8, 2008
Publisher: Bantam (Transworld Publishers)
Length: 397 pages
Age group: Adult
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | Awesome Books | The Book Depository
Greenwich, south-east London. Detective Inspector Jack Caffery – young, driven, unshockable – is called to one of the most gruesome crime scenes he has ever seen. Five young women have been ritualistically murdered and dumped on wasteland near the Dome. Subsequent post-mortems reveal a singular, horrific signature linking the victims.
Soon Caffery realises that he is on the trail of that most dangerous offender: a serial killer. Beset by animosity within the police force, haunted by the memory of a very personal death long ago, Caffery employs every weapon forensic science can offer to hunt him down. Because he knows that it is only a matter of time before this sadistic killer strikes again…
I should probably start this review with a warning and say that this book is not for the faint-hearted. I read quite a lot of crime fiction so I like to think I’ve had some time to get used to these kind of things and I’m pretty unshockable but some of Hayder’s descriptions of mutilated victims still made me shudder. This is not a book you should read at night or when you’re on your own either. Having said that, I still liked it. I should probably add that this is definitely not among the best handful of crime novels I’ve read and it didn’t exactly live up to my expectations but I will no doubt read the rest of the series. And I’ll tell you why.
So, the reason why I think this book didn’t really work for me or live up to my initial expectations is the fact that it didn’t keep me guessing. I like to read thrillers and/or mysteries where it’s all down to the detective – and the reader, of course – to figure out what happened, what type of a person the killer was and what motivation he had and piece all the clues together. In the case of Birdman, however, some of these are given. Beside the ongoing investigation, there are little bits of flashback episodes told from the killer’s perspective included in the book and we get a sense of what type of a guy he must be. Therefore, based on some of his stories from his childhood and his teens, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the police is looking for a sadistic sexual killer. The police may not be aware of that yet but we readers do know and it ruined it a bit for me. Another thing I didn’t particularly like is that most of the victims turn up all at once. There is a logical explanation for this in the story, of course, but this meant that it was not (or if it was, it didn’t work for me) the race-against-the-clock sort of thriller I was expecting, more of a ‘let’s figure out who dumped these five bodies here and why’ thing.
However, and one of the main reasons why I’m still determined to read the next couple of books in the series is that Jack Caffery’s character is brilliant. Imagine a typical tough and attractive guy with a shady past no one knows about, someone who lives for his work and whose private life is in pieces. It may sound a bit cliché if I put it like this but it’s still believable and it still works. Or at least it worked for me and I really liked Jack’s own personal storyline. Also, despite not being the biggest fan of the plot itself, I found Hayder’s style enjoyable and very engaging. So, even though it wasn’t my favourite thrillers and think it was quite mediocre, I will still continue reading this series and see where Jack’s story goes.
“North Greenwich. Late May. Three hours before sun-up and the river was deserted. Dark barges strained upstream on their moorings and a spring tide gently nosed small sloops free of the sludge they slept in. A mist lifted from the water, rolling inland, past unlit chandlers, over the deserted Millennium Dome and on across lonely wastelands, strange, lunar landscapes – until it settled, a quarter of a mile inland amongst the ghostly machinery of a half-derelict aggregate yard. “