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Birdman    by Mo Hayder order for
by Mo Hayder
Order:  USA  Can
Seal, 2000 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Police detective Jack Caffery lives in the family home in North Greenwich. This is a morbid setting deserted by Jack's parents who could not live with its associations after his older brother Ewan disappeared. Police suspected a known sex offender (who lives across the railway cutting) but found no evidence. Caffery's choice of career was motivated by his brother's death and he is obsessed with watching the probable killer.

Jack is newly assigned to the Area Major Investigation Pool, when the mutilated bodies of five prostitutes are uncovered at a local landfill. Police nickname the serial killer the Birdman for his puzzling habit of sewing live birds into the victims' chests. Caffery and his partner Essex work to track down a medical connection, while a racist colleague targets a young black man who supplied the women with drugs.

Caffery is an unusual hero. In addition to his bizarre obsession, he wants to rid himself of a relationship with a clinging and manipulative young woman, anxious to change every aspect of his life. He starts to develop an interest in Rebecca, an attractive ex-prostitute and artist, whose room-mate worked with the victims. He is a skilled detective and works steadily closer to the killer's orbit.

Birdman is a masterful piece of writing and Hayder has invented yet another new and gruesome type of monster in her serial killer. At one point she seems to reveal the mystery too easily, only to trump that with a new surprise, and new peril for the investigators. The bookcover compares Hayder to Cornwell and Reichs, but I would not put her writing in the same league ... yet.

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