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Book Review: “The Falcon Thief”

The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird

Joshua Hammer

Hardcover, 336 pages

Publication Date:  February 11, 2020

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Genre: True crime, nature

“The falcon thief’s calculations had to be perfect.”

I will admit right from the start I have no particular interest in birds or bird studies. What pulled me into “The Falcon Thief” was its description as “bloodless true crime.” I have read some great true crime books in the past, like Michelle McNamara’s “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.” However, true accounts of how serial killers and other criminals can so easily harm people tend to keep me up at night. I certainly prefer my horror to be fictional.

I was happy to discover a “bloodless” subgenre of true crime, where the crimes in question do not involve bodily harm to humans. “The Falcon Thief” is a great example of this, and a wonderful introduction into bloodless true crime. Joshua Hammer meticulously researches and tells the story of Jeffrey Lendrum, a thief with a track record decades long. The only thing Lendrum steals, however, are raptor eggs and occasionally chicks: falcons, eagles and other birds of prey.

Hammer recognizes many of his readers are probably not familiar with the world of bird studies and egg thievery. As a result, several stories are told as Hammer puts the pieces of Lendrum’s life together. He covers birding, oology, ornithology, African history in the 60s through the 80s, international wildlife laws, Brazilian prisons, British police departments and Middle Eastern bird racing.

This may sound like a lot to handle, and at times I felt like the deluge of information was nearly overwhelming. Lendrum led a varied and fantastical life, and I think Hammer does an admirable job considering all the subjects he had to explain to his readers. I knew little about birds, their eggs and the people drawn to stealing them, but I was able to retain a lot of the information Hammer presented.

Lendrum was wanted internationally by Interpol, banned from multiple countries and jailed more than once, all for stealing raptor eggs. Hammer illuminates Lendrum’s often shadowy past as a child living in Africa and already being drawn into the illegal world of stealing, collecting or selling rare and protected bird eggs. Hammer interviews several people who knew Lendrum at various stages in his life and talks to the falcon thief himself multiple times. Hammer’s dedication to telling the truest story possible shines through his attention to detail and research.

Even now, the future of Lendrum’s prison sentence is still being determined. “The Falcon Thief” is the perfect place to begin learning about Lendrum and his crimes as his story still develops. Very few people are aware of the lucrative and environmentally-damaging wildlife crime of egg stealing, but Hammer does an excellent job of bringing it into the light.

Paige Holmes is a senior journalism major from Topeka, KS. Reading is her favorite thing to do because it teaches one how to think, imagine and live. Paige believes there is no better way to learn something or be entertained than by reading a book. Her favorite genre of books is fantasy/thriller and her favorite book is ‘Opening Moves’ by Steven James.

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