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William Bayer: Peregrine

 

Crescent Blues Book Views Forge (Hardcover), ISBN 0-765-31161-5

Book: william bayer, peregrine
Originally published in 1981, Peregrine won that year's Edgar for author William Bayer. It also introduced New York detective Frank Janek who later appeared as the main protagonist in a series of popular mysteries. Here, however, Janek takes a back seat to television reporter Pam Barrett.

The main story line follows a pattern often used in stories concerning serial killings. A series of victims, usually young women apparently singled out for vengeance, die under unusual circumstances. The deranged killer avoids detection and ratchets up the pace of the killings as law enforcement agencies frantically search for his motives, identity, and location. In Peregrine, Bayer reveals the identity of the murderer early on. He uses this as a device to heighten the suspense as the reader knows what the principals do not, while the serial killer lurks among them and even takes a major roll in the investigation.

Pam Barrett, reporter for local television's Channel 8, pauses in Rockefeller Center to watch a young skater and reflect on her failing career. From the corner of her eye she spots a swiftly moving black object dive from the sky and impact the skater's skull with tremendous force. In disbelief the reporter watches as a giant bird tears at the throat of its victim and suddenly swoops away leaving the mutilated body behind. After a brief stunning moment, Barrett realizes that a group of Japanese businessmen captured the incident on tape. Rushing after them, she obtains their film and takes the first step toward salvaging her fading career.

The TV station features the film footage and relentlessly pushes the story. Seeking to cover the incident from every angle, the station hires a bird expert who studies the film and identifies the bird as a much larger than usual peregrine -- one under control of a human. That translates to murder. Temporarily withholding this information from the police, Barrett begins an investigation into the world of falconry. Then she receives a puzzling note signed only "Peregrine."

As other deaths occur under similar circumstances, Channel 8 makes sure the public receives all the gory details. Many in the city begin to panic, and Barrett receives additional mysterious and unnerving notes carrying the same signature. It becomes obvious that the unknown falconer's fixation revolves around the reporter. Detective Frank Janek takes charge of the investigation for the city, but Barrett continues to tap her sources on falconry breeding, training, and distribution in an independent investigation. Stifled at every turn, Janek puts into place a risky plan to trap the killer, and as the search reaches its frenzied finale, he realizes he must learn to live with the consequences of his decisions.

Bayer writes an eerie and wonderfully haunting story. I admit to suffering from a bit of falconry information overload approximately half way through the book, but as compensation the story provides one of the most bizarre and unforgettable closing segments I can remember reading in a long time.

Clint Hunter

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