Thursday, July 22, 2010

Trying to out-Slaughter Karin Slaughter

Let's get one thing straight here: Karin Slaughter is the queen of disturbed killer fiction. No matter how bizarre you make your killer, you just cannot compete with the lineup of weirdos and wackos that populate Grant County, GA. So don't even try. Unfortunately, no one gave this advice to Mo Hayder. Her novel Birdman is an attempt to "out-Slaughter" the reigning mistress of crime by having her victims dispatched in creatively gruesome (if not very believable) ways.

Oh please. While Karin Slaughter can make me squirm in my chair, this book just made me roll my eyes. Not only are the victims killed in a totally illogical and ridiculous manner, but the events take place largely in the lovely area of Greenwich. Call me Pollyanna, but I really don't want to hear about that beautiful site being overrun with strip clubs, junkies and mangled, dumped bodies. OK, so maybe Hayder's vision of Greenwich is closer to reality than mine. I'd prefer to keep my illusions intact, thanks very much!

The book opens with a whole pile of bodies being discovered in a wasteland area in Greenwich. When they are autopsied, many strange things are found. Some of the bodies are quickly identified as strippers and junkies, but some of the victims remain unidentified. Trying to sort out the mess is Detective Jack Caffery. Jack is something of a mess himself. He still lives in his boyhood home, which has many disturbing memories for him. When he was a child, his older brother disappeared after an argument. Jack is convinced that the next door neighbor (who still lives there) is responsible. The neighbor seems to delight in tormenting Jack in whatever way he can. Because Jack is obsessed with proving the neighbor's guilt, he really doesn't have much energy left over for personal relationships. His current girlfriend, Veronica, is pushing to make their relationship permanent, while Jack is looking for a way out. At the same time, he becomes somewhat chummy with one of the former strippers he interviews about the case.

The book does have a somewhat exciting ending, but 3 good pages out of a whole book don't amount to much. There is one huge illogical point in the murders, which I won't give away, but it was enough to ruin the story for me.
Final Verdict for Birdman: Two Gherkins, for a thrilling ending, but an unbelievable buildup to that point

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