A rollicking true-crime adventure about a rogue who trades in rare birds and their eggs—and the wildlife detective determined to stop him.
On May 3, 2010, an Irish national named Jeffrey Lendrum was apprehended at Britain’s Birmingham International Airport with a suspicious parcel strapped to his stomach. Inside were fourteen rare peregrine falcon eggs snatched from a remote cliffside in Wales.
So begins a tale almost too bizarre to believe, following the parallel lives of a globe-trotting smuggler who spent two decades capturing endangered raptors worth millions of dollars as race champions—and Detective Andy McWilliam of the United Kingdom’s National Wildlife Crime Unit, who’s hell bent on protecting the world’s birds of prey.
The Falcon Thief whisks readers from the volcanoes of Patagonia to Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park, and from the frigid tundra near the Arctic Circle to luxurious aviaries in the deserts of Dubai, all in pursuit of a man who is reckless, arrogant, and gripped by a destructive compulsion to make the most beautiful creatures in nature his own. It’s a story that’s part true-crime narrative, part epic adventure—and wholly unputdownable until the very last page.
Hammer (The Badass-Librarians of Timbuktu), a contributing writer to Smithsonian magazine, delivers a vivid tale of obsession and international derring-do. The book opens in 2010 at the U.K.'s Birmingham International Airport, where Jeffrey Lendrum was discovered with 14 bird eggs hidden in socks tied around his abdomen. Airport security alerted the National Wildlife Crime Unit, whose dedicated senior investigator, Andy McWilliam, suspected Lendrum of involvement with the black market for birds of prey, one driven by demand on the Arabian Peninsula. There Hammer pauses the modern-day narrative and takes readers back in time for a digressive, bird-centric journey, from falconry's millennia-old roots in the Middle East, to Lendrum's 2001 bird egg hunt across the frozen tundra of northern Quebec, a key moment in his long smuggling career. Hammer also checks in on the ill-gotten collections of several other underground egg collectors, before weaving all the narrative strands back to Birmingham. Lendrum's penchant for filming his exploits meant building a case against him wasn't difficult, and by the conclusion, it's almost beside the point. The book's ultimate concern isn't with the legal case, but with understanding the roots of Lendrum's fixation on falcons, and it's here where Hammer arguably falls short. Nonetheless, this swashbuckling account should hold its audience rapt until the very end.
Interesting True Crime Read
A well told story of a world never explained in the mass media. A few slow chapters particularly those of the policeman’s background but I found the storytelling vivid and page turning.