Birdman (Jack Caffery Series #1)

Birdman (Jack Caffery Series #1)

3.6 424
by Mo Hayder

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Now in Grove Press paperback for the first time, Birdman showcases Hayder at her spine-tingling best as beloved series character Jack Caffery tracks down a terrifying serial killer.

In his first case as lead investigator with London’s crack murder squad, Detective Inspector Jack Caffery is called on to investigate the murder of a young woman…  See more details below


Now in Grove Press paperback for the first time, Birdman showcases Hayder at her spine-tingling best as beloved series character Jack Caffery tracks down a terrifying serial killer.

In his first case as lead investigator with London’s crack murder squad, Detective Inspector Jack Caffery is called on to investigate the murder of a young woman whose body has been discovered near the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, south-east London. Brutalized, mutilated beyond recognition, the victim is soon joined by four others discovered in the same area—all female and all ritualistically murdered. And when the post-mortem examination reveals a gruesome signature connecting the victims, Caffery realizes exactly what he’s dealing with—a dangerous serial killer.

Editorial Reviews
Serial killers, like vampires, now occupy their own subgenre, the roots of which can be traced back to such modern classics as Robert Bloch's Psycho and Shane Stevens's By Reason of Insanity. The current glut of serial killer novels, however, stems from the success of two books by Thomas Harris: Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs. Together, these books constitute a bridge between groundbreaking work like Psycho and the surfeit of serial killer novels published in the wake of Harris's unprecedented success.

Thus, it is not surprising that many writers have adopted Harris's basic formula, the most recent example being Birdman, penned by first-time novelist Mo Hayder. Like Harris's "pre-Hannibal" works, Birdman is essentially a police procedural, featuring a gifted yet troubled investigator who confronts the depths of human evil. What distinguishes Hayder's book from the rest of the pack is that she, like Harris, uses the investigation as a metaphor for the investigator's personal journey into the heart of darkness, one that manages to illuminate the minds of both hunter and prey. Hayder performs this task admirably, allowing readers an intimate glimpse of the policeman's personal hell.

Birdman opens as Detective Inspector Jack Caffery arrives at a murder scene in North Greenwich, near the Millennium Dome. Recently roused from a sound sleep, Caffery can think of several other places he'd rather be, options that, given the grisly crime scene, come to seem more attractive by the minute. Called there to investigate a body wrapped in garbage bags, Caffery is told that the burial site contains not one but five corpses, each apparently the victim of the same killer.

Autopsies reveal that the corpses have several things in common. The victims were all dispatched by an injection of heroin directly into the brain stem. After their deaths, the bodies were preserved for a time, apparently serving as entertainment for a necrophiliac. Besides being horribly mutilated, each victim's heart has been removed and replaced by a small bird.

Although Caffery welcomes this new challenge, it arises at a particularly inopportune time. Recently appointed to his position, he is embroiled in an interoffice political situation that could cost him his job. He's also trying to break up with his clinging, cloying girlfriend, who refuses to accept that their relationship is over. Finally, he's still dealing with the central tragedy of his life, the disappearance of his brother Ewan some two decades before. Although only a child at the time, Caffery suspected his neighbor, an odd little man named Penderecki, was involved. Obsessed with the man, Caffery bought his childhood home from his parents, hoping his mere presence would unsettle the man into confessing. Bizarrely, Mr. Penderecki instead appears to be taking Caffery's presence as a challenge, taunting him every chance he gets, a practice that escalates just as Caffery takes the "Birdman" case.

Caffery persists despite these problems, quickly concluding that the killer must be associated with a hospital near a bar the victims frequented. Narrowing his investigation, he focuses on a likely suspect, who commits suicide when confronted by the police. Caffery can't rest however, as another body surfaces soon thereafter. Forced to question his assumptions, the detective eventually realizes he's been dancing around the answer all along. The only question remaining is whether he has uncovered the truth in time to prevent another killing.

Even though Hayder is following a formula, there are enough personal touches to ensure that this novel stands on its own. One example is her seemingly intimate knowledge of forensics and British police procedures; another is the book's colorful cast of characters and sense of place. Caffery is a well drawn, vital character, sure to evoke readers' interest and sympathy -- his relationship with Mr. Penderecki, while improbable, nevertheless makes for some genuinely creepy, almost operatic moments. I'd say Hayder's only mistake was in not clinging to the Harris formula more closely, as she fails to humanize her killer, a practice that catapulted Harris into bestsellerdom. This is a minor criticism, however, and I recommend the book highly. Well-plotted and brutally honest, Birdman is a powerful, disturbing thriller, one of the more memorable debuts of 1999.

--Hank Wagner

Hank Wagner is a book reviewer for Cemetery Dance magazine and The Overlook Connection.

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Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
Jack Caffery Series , #1
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Barnes & Noble
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470 KB

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NORTH GREENWICH. Late May. Three hours before sunup 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 construction yard.

A sudden sweep of headlights—a police vehicle swung into the service route, blue lights flashing silently. It was joined moments later by a second and a third. Over the next twenty minutes more police converged on the yard—eight marked area cars, two plain Ford Sierras and the white transit van of the forensic camera team. A roadblock was placed at the head of the service route and local uniform were detailed to seal off riverside access. The first attending CID officer got onto Croydon exchange, asking for pager numbers for the Area Major Investigation Pool and, five miles away, Detective Inspector Jack Caffery, AMIP team B, was woken in his bed.

He lay blinking in the dark, collecting his thoughts, fighting the impulse to tilt back into sleep. Then, taking a deep breath, he made the effort—rolled out of bed and went into the bathroom, splashing water onto his face—no more Glenmorangies in standby week, Jack, swear it now, swear it—and dressed—not too hurried, better to arrive fully awake and composed—now the tie, something understated—CID don't like us looking flashier than them. The pager, and coffee, lots of instant coffee—with sugar but not milk, no milk—and above all, don't eat, you just never know what you're going to have to look at—drank two cups, found car keys in the pocket of his jeans and, bolted awake now on caffeine, a roll-up between his teeth, drove through the deserted streets of Greenwich to the crime scene, where his superior, Detective Superintendent Steve Maddox, a small, prematurely gray man, immaculate as always in a stone-brown suit, waited for him outside the construction yard—pacing under a solitary streetlight, spinning car keys and chewing his lip.

He saw Jack's car pull up, crossed to him, put an elbow on the roof, leaned through the open window and said: "I hope you haven't just eaten."

Caffery dragged on the handbrake. He pulled cigarettes and tobacco from the dashboard. "Great. Just what I was hoping to hear."

"This one's well past its sell-by." He stepped back as Jack climbed out of the car. "Female, partly buried. Bang in the middle of the wasteland."

"Been in, have you?"

"No, no. Divisional CID briefed me. And, um—" He glanced over his shoulder to where the local CID officers stood in a huddle. When he turned back his voice was low. "There's been an autopsy on her. The old Y zipper."

Jack paused, his hand on the car door. "An autopsy?"


"Then it's probably gone walkabout from a path lab."

"I know—"

"A med student prank—"

"I know, I know." Maddox held hands up, stalling him. "It's not really our territory, but look—" He checked over his shoulder again and leaned in closer. "Look, they're pretty good with us usually, Greenwich CID. Let's humor them. It won't kill us to have a quick look. Okay?"


"Good. Now." He straightened up. "Now you. How about you? Reckon you're ready?"

"Shit, no." Caffery slammed the door, pulled his warrant card from his pocket and shrugged. "Of course I'm not ready. When would I ever be?"

They headed for the entrance, moving along the perimeter fence. The only light was the weak sodium yellow of the scattered streetlamps, the occasional white flash of the forensic camera crew floods sweeping across the wasteland. A mile beyond, dominating the northern skyline, the luminous Millennium Dome, its red aircraft lights blinking against the stars.

"She's been stuck in a bin-liner or something," Maddox said. "But it's so dark out there, the first attending couldn't be sure—his first suspicious circumstances and it's put the wind up him." He jerked his head toward a group of cars. "The Merc. See the Merc?"

"Yeah." Caffery didn't break step. A heavy-backed man in a camel overcoat hunched over in the front seat, speaking intently to a CID officer.

"The owner. A lot of tarting-up going around here, what with the Millennium thing. Says last week he took on a team to clear the place up. They probably disturbed the grave without knowing it, a lot of heavy machinery, and then at oh one hundred hours—"

He paused at the gate and they showed warrant cards, logged on with the PC and ducked under the crime scene tape.

"And then at oh one hundred hours this A.M., three lads were out here doing something dodgy with a can of Evostick and they stumbled on her. They're down at the station now. The CSC'll tell us more. She's been in."

Detective Sergeant Fiona Quinn, the crime scene coordinator, down from the Yard, waited for them in a floodlit clearing next to a Portakabin, ghostly in her white Tyvek overalls, solemnly pulling back the hood as they approached.

Maddox did the introductions.

"Jack, meet DS Quinn. Fiona—my new DI, Jack Caffery."

Caffery approached, hand extended. "Good to meet you."

"You too, sir." The CSC snapped off latex gloves and shook Caffery's hand. "Your first. Isn't it?"

"With AMIP, yes."

"Well, I wish I had a nicer one for you. Things are not very lovely in there. Not very lovely at all. Something's split the skull open—machinery, probably. She's on her back." She leaned back to demonstrate, her arms out, her mouth open. In the half-light Caffery could see the glint of amalgam fillings. "From waist down is buried under precast concrete, the side of a pavement or something."

"Been there long?"

"No, no. A rough guess"—she pulled the glove back on and handed Maddox a cotton face mask—"less than a week; but too long to be worth rushing a "special.' I think you should wait until daylight to drag the pathologist out of bed. He'll give you more when he's got her in the pit and seen about insect activity. She's semi-interred, half wrapped in a dustbin liner: that'll've made a difference."

"The pathologist," Caffery said. "You sure we need a pathologist? CID think there's been an autopsy."

"That's right."

"And you still want us to see her?"

"Yes." Quinn's face didn't change. "Yes, I still think you need to see her. We're not talking about a professional autopsy."

Maddox and Caffery exchanged glances. A moment's silence and Jack nodded.

"Right. Right, then." He cleared his throat, took the gloves and face mask Quinn offered and quickly tucked his tie inside his shirt. "Come on, then. Let's have a look."

Even with the protective gloves, old CID habit made Caffery walk with hands in pockets. From time to time he lost sight of DS Quinn's flagged forensics torch, giving him moments of unease—this far into the yard it was dark: the camera crew had finished and were shut in their white van, copying the master tape. Now the only light source was the dim, chemical glow of the fluorescent tape the CSC had used to outline objects either side of the path, protecting them until AMIP's exhibits officer arrived to label and bag. They hovered in the mist like inquisitive ghosts, faint green outlines of bottles, crumpled cans, something shapeless which might have been a T-shirt or a towel. Conveyor belts and bridge cranes rose eighty feet and more into the night sky around them, gray and silent as an out-of-season roller coaster.

Quinn held a hand up to stop them.

"There," she told Caffery. "See her? Just lying on her back."


"See the oil drum?" She let the torch slide over it.


"And the two reinforcing rods to its right?"


"Follow that down."


"See it?"

"Yes." He steadied himself. "Okay. I see it."

That? That's a body? He'd thought it was a piece of expanding foam, the type fired from an aerosol, so distended and yellow and shiny it was. Then he saw hair and teeth and recognized an arm. And at last, by tilting his head on one side, he understood what he was looking at.

"Oh, for Christ's sake," Maddox said wearily. "Come on, then. Someone stick an Inci over her."

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Birdman (Jack Caffery Series #1) 3.6 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 424 reviews.
AngelGirlCG More than 1 year ago
I would recommend not eating or being in your house alone at night when reading this book. The book was very graphic but very well written. The author got into the head of most of the characters and kept me guessing who done it through most of the book. It had so many twist and turns and I kept wanting to read the book dispite the graphic descriptions. I normally wouldn't choose this kind of book to read but since it was picked for a book club I was in I did and was pleasantly surprised. I would like to read further books in this series to see how Jack turns out.
Ian_Fitzgerald More than 1 year ago
I think the Free Friday selections are good in their own right, and they give you a good indication of how a book will read based on the author's recommendations. For instance, this author recommends "Red Dragon" by Tom Harris, so of course "Birdman" is going to be a graphic murder mystery! I have gotten to the halfway point of the book this morning, and while disturbing, it has some fantastic characterizations and it is exactly what I expected it to be. Sure, the free friday books will not always please everyone EVERY week! A few weeks ago, I was disappointed in the free friday selection of an "uplifting" Amish love story, which I found to be bland and predictable. After reaching this conclusion, however, I simply deleted the story and told myself that there was always next Friday. B&N does a good job of switching between genres and styles. Sometimes they choose uplifting and "clean" books; sometimes they have gritty, suspenseful novels. Just come to terms with the fact that Free Friday will not cater to your desires every week (we have become a culture of individuals who expect companies to bow to our every wish, despite the fact that businesses must consider the needs of a diverse reading community). We should be content with the possibility of one free ebook a month that speaks to our personal taste for literature. Personally, I would hate it if Free Friday always released an "uplifting" novel every week, and I'm sure other users on this board would hate having a "Birdman" every week. Give B&N a break. They're doing a fine job of catering to all of us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was great! I read it back when it first came out. I don't understand the negative reviews from people who haven't actually read the book! Not to mention people complaining about what's being given to them for free. There's lots of books out there, if this one's not for you try something else. But don't say it's bad just because it's not to your taste!
EclecticReaderWR More than 1 year ago
I wasn't much interested in crime fiction and serial killers until I happened upon David Valentino's mind-meld of a probing psychological thriller about a disintegrating serial killer called I, KILLER. After that experience, I wanted to see how other writers handled these vicious killers, with particular interest in first-person counts. I've discovered a handful of good reads in a pile of dung, and here's another, the debut novel by a writer who has proven herself to be a cut above others in the crime drama. I can't say I would recommend this for readers interested in a novel focused squarely on the serial killer. I do recommend it for Mo Hayder's skillful writing that is always clear, descriptive, and often literary in the best way. BIRDMAN introduces us to British Detective Inspector Jack Caffery. He's a complex fellow, Jack is. He wants to split from his girlfriend Veronica but he can't bring himself to because of her medical condition. He can't put the memory of his missing brother, probably murdered by a pedophiliac killer who lives on the other side of the railroad tracks and who taunts him, to rest. He can't stomach the new addition to the special squad organized to find a serial killer. And he finds himself falling for a young woman who is part of his investigation. The story is twofold: the hunt for Birdman, the killer carving up young woman in an attempt to reform them into the image of his ideal woman; surprises await you as the killer proves himself more than expected. Hayder provides almost a handbook on British investigative procedures, which don't vary significantly from the U.S., except in the careful attitude of the investigators and the almost extreme sensitivity to race (you'll learn, for example, about the British Identity Code system). The other involves Jack's struggle to resolve the issue of his brother and how the crime investigation, his problems with Veronica, and his passion for Rebecca lead him to a resolution. The book is very strong for the first three-quarters. But after the detectives crack the case, it takes an inordinate amount of time to capture the Birdman. The novel could have lost around 20 pages without diminishing the story in the least. Caution to those who find torture of any kind, even fictional, off putting: plenty of grim details here, so you might find yourself reading between your fingers.
Sapph0 More than 1 year ago
I managed to pick this book up out of the whole DI Jack Caffery series by a stroke of luck, and since reading it, have managed to order up the rest of the books that are currently released. Mo Hayder writes a fast-paced thriller full of surprises that are going to leave you on the edge of your seat, waiting for more. The book has a good deal of very strong scenes that might not be for the faint of heart, and it takes a good deal of risks for a first published work by this author. In the end though, Hayder has managed to not only pull off a great piece of writing, but pave the way for the rest of Caffery's career.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Though this book is classified as a thriller, it might just as well be classified as horror. The desciptions of the actions of the perpetrator and the state of the victims leaves nothing to the imagination. I actually felt queasy a few times, and this type of reading is old school for me. The plot, though predictable in the end, does have a few twists that might leave you wondering as you move on through the book. Overall, it is a good book for those who enjoy police drama and investigation novels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From start to finish, this book had me engrossed. No book has ever kept me in such suspense. Enthralling and eerie, this is a must-read for anyone who wants to get spooked.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a very engrossing book. Professional reviewers may compare this book to ones written by Thomas Harris. This is probably a fair comparison, but takes nothing away from the quality of the story. I found it hard to believe that this is a debut novel from Mo Hayder as it is so well written, a tight and exciting read. I will be eagerly awaiting her next book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Usually 14 years olds read books more to their liking ...more to deal with teen problems than murders and personal problems but not me ...growing up reading Stephan King books that were confusing at such a younge age was hard, but when a family member found my need for disturbing books she knew which one would be perfect for me. Mo Hayder's 'Birdman' is an amazing book and a non-stop thrill ride, Mo puts detail into every scene..for some people a little more detail than nessecary but perfect for strong stomache individuals. I request this book to anyone looking for more than just a homicide novel but a mystery where rooting for the good guy and wanting him to find this killer then putting him in his place is the objective. The killer is smart which shows much more about this author from others...Movies like 'I know what you did last summer' based on a novel are what most people are used to...knowing who the killer is before the book ends because the killer is so dumb and doesnt clean up after himself, but this book could definately put people on edge till the end, like it did for me. make this book into a movie it'll make millions!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it once, read it twice and still not getting old.
Guest More than 1 year ago
birdman is an exeptional book,keeping you gripped page after page.what a gory imaginaton from such an attractive woman.i look forward to book no.3.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book isn't for everyone... but if you liked Silence of the Lambs and book in that genera, you will love this book. It is pretty graphic but so well written. I highly recommend
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had a hard time getting into this book, but was not disappointed. There were lots of twists in the plot which kept me wondering almost til the end! I agree with the person who compared this author to Thomas Harris...very graphic imagery which is not for the faint of heart. Overall good murder mystery!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
People need to stop complaining about the FREE BOOK FRIDAYS.... the other books this author wrote is recieving between 3 to 4 stars and tey are not free. So the author must be a semi/ to good one. And its Free!! Stop being so anal about it. You dont like it, go to the library.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A bit gross in places but it went to the story. Do recomend and will look for the next
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Graphic & disturbing but still held my attention. Not for the faint of heart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this novel, though some might find the crime disturbing. Luckily i am one of those people who only find cannibalism really disturbing. So i did not find this one to be too bad until the last two chapters. Then things turned really graphic, as the author describes in detail the victims treatment at the hands of the birdman. What i really loved about this book was its well developed characters. Especially the evolution of DI Caffery's character as he solves his first case and look forward to reading more of his novels. The only character I found to be annoying, was DI Diamond, I kniw his presence help to further the novel, but I hope his character either changes in the series or is gotten rid of rather quickly.
RCFisher More than 1 year ago
Good but gruesome.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hated to have to put this one down jumped around a little but nit to hard to follow!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gripping, scary, fast-paced whodunit. Glad to have discovered this author via Free Friday. I'll definitely be reading more of this series.
rather_read_than_eat More than 1 year ago
I love Free Friday books, especially thrillers and mysteries in general - thank you Barnes and Noble. I wasn't thrilled with the language or gore - but it was free and I did read it all the way through. The twist was not so unexpected -the end seemed a bit too quick and thin - and I agree with others readers that the Caffery character's past was irrelevant and too often used as a unnecessary filler.
MIJul More than 1 year ago
One of the best free Friday's books offered by B&N. Well written, engaging, excellent plot and descriptions of characters. Good twists and turns. Quite often I start reading the free books and then delete them after 2 or 3 chapters. Not this one - I read every page and quite often long past when I should have been sleeping because I just had to see what would happen next. I would have liked a different "closure" for the sub plot of the missing brother, but that's just personal opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had me riveted. While some excerpts were very disturbing, they attest to the skill and imagination of the author. Very smart to offer this as a free selection, I'm now hooked.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written (4 stars), but extremely graphic content goes way over the top. Fair warning, read at your own risk.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just like the others have said, it is EXTREMELY graphic, so if you have a weak stomach this is NOT the read for you! But I loved it! I loved the plot twist, the medical info and all the grisly graphic bits. It made the book for me. I read it because of those reviews! I don't enjoy things like that in real life, but I enjoy many different things in my reading and in a serial killer/investigative book, what better than to have all the details!