The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird (Paperback)
A “well-written, engaging detective story” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) about a rogue who trades in rare birds and their eggs—and the wildlife detective determined to stop him.
On May 3, 2010, an Irish national named Jeffrey Lendrum was apprehended at Britain’s Birmingham International Airport with a suspicious parcel strapped to his stomach. Inside were fourteen rare peregrine falcon eggs snatched from a remote cliffside in Wales.
So begins a “vivid tale of obsession and international derring-do” (Publishers Weekly), following the parallel lives of a globe-trotting smuggler who spent two decades capturing endangered raptors worth millions of dollars as race champions—and Detective Andy McWilliam of the United Kingdom’s National Wildlife Crime Unit, who’s hell bent on protecting the world’s birds of prey.
“Masterfully constructed” (The New York Times) and “entertaining and illuminating” (The Washington Post), The Falcon Thief will whisk you away from the volcanoes of Patagonia to Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park, and from the frigid tundra near the Arctic Circle to luxurious aviaries in the deserts of Dubai, all in pursuit of a man who is reckless, arrogant, and gripped by a destructive compulsion to make the most beautiful creatures in nature his own. It’s a story that’s part true-crime narrative, part epic adventure—and wholly unputdownable until the very last page.
About the Author
Joshua Hammer is the New York Times bestselling author of The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu. He has written for The New York Times Magazine, GQ, Smithsonian, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, National Geographic, and Outside. He lives in Berlin.
“The Falcon Thief practically begs for comparison to Susan Orlean’s 1998 classic The Orchid Thief... After reading this book, one feels sympathy for both the falcon and bustard, and none at all for egg poachers like Lendrum or the falconers who keep them in business.”
— Wall Street Journal
“Joshua Hammer’s gripping The Falcon Thief plunges us into the psyche of the wildlife thief and smuggler Jeffrey Lendrum... With the instinct of a hunter himself, Hammer tracks Lendrum’s nefarious career, structuring the story with elegant precision... The suspense and drama leading up to Lendrum’s ultimate undoing are masterfully constructed and the outcome satisfying.”
— New York Times
— Los Angeles Times
“Reading The Falcon Thief, one thinks of Truman Capote, who elaborated on a tiny news story... This is very much what Hammer is after in The Falcon Thief, which can sometimes read like the treatment for a James Bond movie. Like Capote, Hammer has a keen eye for elegant detail.”
— Christian Science Monitor
"A thrilling story”
— Royal Geographic Society
"Joshua Hammer has that rare eye for a thrilling story, and with The Falcon Thief he has found the perfect one— a tale brimming with eccentric characters, obsession, deception, and beauty. It has the grip of a novel, with the benefit of being all true."
— David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon and The Lost Citz of Z
"I love this book. Josh Hammer has an amazing ability to find truly great yarns, and he's done this again with The Falcon Thief. It is a tremendous relief to read a book that teleports you out of current politics into a wholly new world that is both magical and thrilling and weird and wholly unknown. Stop, sit, read, think, savor, enjoy."
— Janet Reitman, bestselling author of Inside Scientology
“Middle Eastern Sheiks. 180 mph apex predators. An agile and fearless, globe-trotting obsessive dangling beneath helicopters and slipping through borders from Patagonia to the high Arctic. The Falcon Thief is more than just a ripping page turner; it is a cautionary tale about what happens when our most precious wildlife becomes status symbol in our diminishing natural world.”
— Carl Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Wild Men of Borneo and Savage Harvest
“You don’t need to know, or care, about birds to enjoy The Falcon Thief. I couldn’t tell a jaybird from a jaywalker, but I loved this book: an international, ornithological whodunit. By the final page, I had learned, and cared, more about the secret world of falcons and the people who love them than I ever thought possible.”
— Eric Weiner, The New York Times bestselling author of The Geography of Genius
“This book moves like a falcon: sleek and fast. It’s an absorbing story of a thief, an obsession, and an astounding bird.”
— Russell Shorto, New York Times bestselling author of Revolution Song and The Island at the Center of the World
"Hammer is one of our great non-fiction storytellers, and he's got a terrific one here: a true crime saga about how love of nature can go very, very wrong."
— Bruce Handy, author of Wild Things
"If you love nonviolent true crime, this is a great one, full of fascinating tidbits about the history of falconry, wildlife conservation and crime, and oology."
— Book Riot
“[A] well-written, engaging detective story that underscores the continuing need for conservation of rare bird species… A sleek, winning nonfiction thriller.”
— Kirkus (starred review)
"Hammer delivers a vivid tale of obsession and international derring-do… this swashbuckling account should hold its audience rapt until the very end."
— Publishers Weekly
"Combining adventure and true crime, this gripping narrative is a fascinating and infuriating story that reads more like a novel than nonfiction. The Falcon Thief will appeal to those who also were enthralled by The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson and The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, and to anyone who enjoys reading about birds, nature and travel.”