RARA-AVIS: A hard-boiled dame

Frederick Zackel (fzackel@wcnet.org)
Thu, 23 Dec 1999 08:55:43 -0500

I just finished reading Mo Hayder's Birdman (Doubleday), a debut novel from England. It's a police procedural that I really recommend for its hard-boiled aspects. A Greenwich cop has to find the murderer of five young women whose corpses have been mutilated. At first the book seemed like a remake of Jack the Ripper's work. Cause of death -- a spike of heroin in the brain stem. But in the chest cavity, the victim's heart has been replaced by a small bird. Unlike Hannibal, the book doesn't get goofy and the characters never act out of character. Gruesome, but not battlefield-gruesome. Some homefront "surgery" is included. I don't think a guy could have written the book. Yes, the author is a very attractive blonde. What she puts these female corpses through -- whew! I did figure out a clue, but it was a minor one and not a setback.

Speaking of curious "city" phrases, the word "environment" comes from the Latin "environs" which refers to the winding back streets of Rome and not the countryside. That of course is boring. But "Istanbul" is modern Greek and means "into the city." For a thousand years it was the only city within a thousand mile radius.
    "Where you going, Chuck?"
    "Into the city. Istanbul."

Frederick Zackel

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