Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

THE FALCON THIEF: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird by Joshua Hammer book review

  • Written by  Harriet Constable
  • Published in Books
THE FALCON THIEF: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird by Joshua Hammer book review
30 Jul
2020
by Joshua Hammer • Simon & Schuster • £11.99 (hardback)

Do you remember what you were doing on 3 May 2010? Jeffrey Lendrum does. He was wandering around Birmingham International Airport with the eggs of 14 rare peregrine falcons strapped to his stomach, which he’d recently pinched from a cliff in Wales, about to be apprehended by the police.

So begins Joshua Hammer’s new book The Falcon Thief, a thrilling and alarming story of the lengths Lendrum is willing to go to supply his wealthy clients in the Middle East with eggs, and the man out to stop him: Detective Andy McWilliam of the United Kingdom’s National Wildlife Crime Unit.

Hammer is a journalist by trade, and the book feels like an expertly crafted long-form article – one that you never want to stop reading. We jump around the world from Patagonia to Zimbabwe to the Welsh countryside, hanging out of helicopters and sneaking illegal eggs through multiple international borders alongside Lendrum, all the while driven by the same question that drives Hammer – why does he do it?

To understand this we venture back to 1970s Zimbabwe, then known as Rhodesia, when Lendrum was just a boy out with his father, hoodwinking the Rhodesian Ornithological Society into considering them trusted members of the bird-protecting community. It is the most extraordinary betrayal. Lendrum and his father learn the guarded secrets of rare raptor species’ breeding sites, only to go and pinch the eggs for themselves.

The level of Lendrum’s arrogance, combined with his blasé attitude toward risk (at one point the smuggled eggs hidden within his in-flight bag hatch and begin chirping, which he finds very amusing) is as baffling to read about as it is gripping to wait and see when he will be stopped by Detective McWilliam.

We also get important context into where the demand is coming from: the industry is driven by a surge in the sport of falcon racing in the Middle East. Though frustratingly, Lendrum never gives up the names of his buyers.

While Lendrum may be cultishly referred to as ‘the Pablo Escobar of the falcon egg trade’, this book is about much more than one man’s appalling sense of entitlement when it comes to the natural world. It holds a mirror up to our actions as a species and in Lendrum, disturbingly, you might just end up seeing yourself.

Get Geographical delivered to your door!
signup buttonGeographical has been in print since 1935, during which time we have reported on many thousands of global issues, allowing readers to look past the boundaries and borders of their world. Our monthly print magazine costs £9.50 for three months, or £38 for a year. We hope you will conisder joining us. 

Julysub 2020

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

DurhamBath Spa600x200 Greenwich Aberystwythherts

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Films

The Ocean Film Festival World Tour 2020 brings the water…

Films

2020 has, for many of us, been a dramatic year.…

Films

One woman’s determined plot to tackle multi-national industry through activism…

Films

Acclaimed documentarian Ron Howard brings an intimate depiction of the…

Books

September’s top non-fiction reads

Books

• by Andri Snær Magnason • Serpent’s Tail

Books

August’s top non-fiction reads

Books

By Dawn Bébe and Juliet Coombe • £25 (hardback)

Books

by David Farrier • Fourth Estate • £11.96 (hardback) 

Books

by Jini Reddy • Bloomsbury • £11.89 (hardback)

Books

by James Boyce • Icon Books • £12.99 (hardback)

Books

 by Peter Wilson • £38.99 (hardback)