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

de Joshua Hammer

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1058208,792 (3.92)18
"A rollicking true-crime adventure about a rogue who trades in rare birds and their eggs--and the wildlife detective determined to stop him"--
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> Ribbons of white surgical tape were wrapped around his abdomen. Tucked snugly beneath the tape were one green, one black, and one blue woolen sock. Plastic zip ties divided each sock into five segments, and inside each segment was an oval-shaped object.

> Lendrum would find a suitable tree, carry up “tons of sticks, and build a rudimentary nest there,” Tarr says. “The next year the crowned eagles moved in.” Lendrum would wait until the female laid her eggs in the aerie he had built, and then would climb into her nest and snatch them.

> he had a real competitive streak. Waller remembers clambering into nests as an adolescent to take the live eggs of the common sparrow hawk. “I’d climb a tree and there would be a chicken egg in the nest with a sign on it saying, ‘Too late sucker,’” he recalls.

> In 1911, three members of Robert Scott’s doomed Antarctica expedition trekked seventy miles through blizzards and minus-eighty-degree-Fahrenheit temperatures to collect eggs from an emperor penguin colony. The explorers were out to prove a theory advanced by the nineteenth-century biologist Ernst Haeckel, that the development of an embryo from fertilization to gestation or hatching replicates the evolutionary stages of the same species ( )
  breic | Nov 10, 2021 |
A thrilling book about bird conservation is almost as rare as the pallid peregrine, but Hammer has definitely hatched one. You don't have to be an avian enthusiast to enjoy this adventure--definitely worth seeking out. ( )
  dele2451 | Jul 28, 2021 |
The Falcon Thief by Joshua Hammer contains many of the elements that I enjoy in nonfiction: a riveting subject that interests me, a strong narrative to follow, and more than passable writing. Hammer follows the unbelievable story of Jeffrey Lendrum--the falcon thief--from his childhood in Rhodesia through five decades of illegal exploits in the trade of rare bird eggs. Hammer clearly did meticulous research not only into Lendrum, but the world of falconry, ornithology, and oology and he is not shy about sharing that knowledge. Like many nonfiction books, The Falcon Thief bogs down in the details at times, but balanced against the fascinating details of the crimes it still works. One misstep for me was Hammer suddenly inserting himself into the tale more than halfway through the book--at that point, it felt awkward. I cannot help but compare this to The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson, where Johnson successfully wrote his own storyline into the narrative from the beginning and was the better book for it. Still a high recommendation for nonfiction readers. ( )
  Hccpsk | Nov 11, 2020 |
I really can’t blame Hammer for getting so fascinated by a news article that he wound up writing a book, because wow. This criminal. This story. The twists. The context. The crime itself. You can’t make this stuff up. It should be a movie.

I love long-form journalism like this, that uses a hooky main story—in this case, a guy caught in an airport with falcon eggs taped to his chest “for health reasons”—to explore a much larger topic, and that’s well-written to boot. Hammer reeled me in right away, kept me turning pages, tossed in all kinds of facts and characters, threw the wildest jags into the narrative, and basically wove a compelling tale that’s equal parts fascinating and horrifying.

Hammer has a really light, readable style that brings the scenes and characters to life while also conveying the seriousness of the subject matter and Hammer’s own personality. He’s pretty even-handed but also damning where damning is due (see: justice systems, cracks therein), and his research is very thorough and wide-ranging. He does play up some of the weirder and more cinematic elements, but I get the impression that’s more from his own crogglement than a desire to sensationalise, and also, like, I’d have as much fun with a covert helicopter mission to northern Quebec as he does.

Other things he touches on, beyond the life of a career criminal who’s either pretty dumb or really smart (or maybe both):

African conservation efforts of the 1960s
Saudi Arabian racing falcon breeding programs
the Victorian passion for egg collecting
the breeding habits of various raptors
the career trajectory of a classic British policeman turned national wildlife cop
the history of medieval falconry
the role of egg collecting in species endangerment
the global black market for live birds
marital infidelity
African gift shops
a very observant Argentinian hotel clerk
that one guy with an egg fetish

Really, the only way this could’ve been a better read for me is if there’d been a small, illustrated field guide somewhere. I’d like to have known what some of the rarer birds looked like beyond Hammer’s descriptions, and maybe some of the scenery too. (But that’s small beans; I have Google.)

If you’re looking for a compelling non-fiction read on an unusual subject, interested in environmentalism, or bored with the usual sorts of true crime, I don’t hesitate to recommend this!

To bear in mind: contains cruelty to animals and the complete disregard for the environment
9/10 ( )
  NinjaMuse | Sep 5, 2020 |
Standard true-crime fare, leaning much more heavily toward caper than violence, which was a nice change of pace. I learned a lot about birds in this one. Audiobook was nice, very British. ( )
  Aaron.Cohen | May 28, 2020 |
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"A rollicking true-crime adventure about a rogue who trades in rare birds and their eggs--and the wildlife detective determined to stop him"--

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Mitjana: (3.92)
2.5 1
3 8
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4 9
4.5 3
5 7

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