Not long ago, I reviewed Mo Hayder's book "Poppet", which I found out after the fact was installment #6 in the Jack Caffrey murder mystery series. The novel was so rich and dark and complex that I felt I was seriously missing out if I didn't go back and read the five installments that preceded it. As I am print-challenged, I luckily was able to get the first two books on audio. Enter "Birdman".
Synopsis: An informal burial ground has been discovered in an abandoned area in Greenwich, England, where lie the bodies of five prostitutes in varied states of decomposition. This news is disturbing enough, but when it is learned that the bodies have been surgically altered, and once-live birds had been sewn inside their chests, the police know this is no standard investigation.
Enter one Detective Inspector Jack Caffrey, a young up-and-coming investigator with great potential, but suppressed demons (as all great investigators have). When Jack was a boy, his little brother disappeared and was never found. Although everyone suspected the pedophile neighbor, no evidence was found. Jack's parents ultimately alienated themselves from their only son, leaving him to live out his adult life in the cursed home that overlooks the suspected killer. The obsession to find his little brother, after all these years, is what drives Jack as a murder squad investigator, has imploded every personal relationship he has ever had, and threatens to pull him under completely.
Hayder unflinchingly travels deep into the psychological muck of the mind of a serial killer and the mind of tormented Caffrey, exploring the dark world of mental illness in its most taboo form.
My thoughts: Hey, I knew Hayder was dark. And I read murder mysteries as a form of brain candy, and have grown a little inured to crazies, body parts, and damaged investigators. But this was something else. Hayder doesn't hold back, and possibly she has cojones the size of Texas.
I always go into a murder mystery series asking myself the question "what makes this different from the hundreds of others vying for my attention?". In this case, there are two answers. First, it is the depth of the murk to which Hayder dives. It isn't pleasant, and is cringe-worthy. Most authors just won't go there, but Hayder does, without hesitation. Second, I'm starting to see a trend with Hayder's writing. There is always...more. More than meets the eye. More than one mystery. The mysteries at hand are not one-dimensional, there are layers and more than one right answer.
Another thing that I liked in this particular novel is the fact that we are allowed inside the mind of the psycho. You don't necessary know WHO the psycho is, but you hear their thoughts. Which makes it all the more disturbing.
This deal with Caffrey's missing brother. It is raw, and is an issue that you know will HAVE to be resolved in future installments. Otherwise Caffrey will crash and burn. This as well will keep me coming back for more.
To a lover of this genre, what more can you ask for?
A few words about the audio production: The narrator for this powerful listen is Damien Goodwin (who also appears to have narrated the second installment as well). Not only does he employ a wonderful British accent for the voice of Jack, but throws in Irish, Cockney and other fun derivations as well. I almost feel sorry for the guy, who has to pull off everything from a busybody old lady to a depraved killer and sexual predator. But he does it, and he does it well. Listening to him was a pleasure.
Listening length: 11 hours and 23 minutes (336 pages)
4.5 out of 5 stars