Book Review: Birdman

After reading The Devil of Nanking last year, I sought out Mo Hayder’s entire collection because I knew she was a writer whose works I wanted to consume. I learned that she had an entire detective series to devour, so I found Birdman at Book Depository and ordered it right away.

Just as I’d hoped, it was as gruesome and edgy as Nanking.

Detective Jack Caffery must investigate the grisly murders of several women – with more to come – after their mangled bodies are discovered near the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, England. The killer’s method of mutilation is vexing, especially when one lead goes dry and no one in the department can agree on motive or means of technique.

On top of the murders, DI Caffery must deal with a girlfriend he wants to dump and a pedophile neighbor whom Caffery suspects killed his little brother many years ago. He is walking on a tight wire of high anxiety. DI Caffery’s life reaches fever pitch when he knows two more murders are about to happen, so he risks his own life, as well as his career, to find the Birdman.

Unlike other police procedurals, which can be short on detail but high on drama, Mo Hayder has a way of making readers feel like they are seeing everything with their own eyes. She is meticulous with her details, and her graphic imagination is limitless.

If you like cozy mysteries, Mo Hayder is not for you. If you were a Dexter fan, then you can handle it.

Buy Birdman here.

Book Review: The Devil of Nanking

Devil of NankingI get book recommendations from myriad places – friends, acquaintances, online reviews, etc. It was from BookTube (the small literary corner of YouTube) that I heard about The Devil of Nanking, and on a whim I decided to try this thriller/horror/disturbing story.

Grey is a 23-year-old British woman who is convinced she’s not crazy. Once, when she was 13, she read something somewhere that she believed to be true, and she’s spent nearly a decade trying to prove she didn’t make it up.

“Sometimes you have to go a long way to prove things. Even if it turns out that you’re only proving things to yourself.”

Her efforts take her to Tokyo, Japan, in search for a rare piece of film footage shot during the 1937 Nanking Massacre – a real historical event, by the way. (You may click here for more information, though prepare for disturbing content.) She has little money, little means to earn money, and yet she wanders Tokyo anyway, hoping for stars to align so she may put eyes on that film. Soon Grey finds Shi Chongming, one of Nanking’s few survivors, a reclusive man who initially refuses to help her.

But of course, he relents under the agreement that Grey do him a favor – pull strings at the hostess club where she works and find the one thing he, too, seeks… Roles reversed, Grey works for Shi Chongming, even though every step forward takes her down a darker path.

You guys, I read this book in two days. Sure, I was sick and only moved from the bed to the couch and back to bed again, but still. The Devil of Nanking is one hell of a story – fast-paced, cleverly woven, and expertly drawn out amid two separate time periods. It is indeed a thriller and entirely disturbing, but it’s not a horror book in the sense that it’s out to make you cringe. Rather, it’s out to open your eyes to what one human can do to another human.

Five stars all around – for mature audiences only.

Buy The Devil of Nanking here.