|Posted by Vladimir Mortsgna on April 27, 2020 at 12:40 AM|
In the first installment of my review of William Bayer’s Peregrine, I have noted some of its bonkers elements, some of which are so ridiculous (the protagonist, Detective Frank Janek, releases tension by repairing accordions) that I wondered if the book was meant as a spoof. The villain, who is our POV for about half the time, also appears to have no motive, though he eventually acquires one. His motive seems to be chaos, or perhaps to feed into and thus reveal the toxicity of 1970s media culture. This just makes him a serial killer, which is not an unpromising basis in and of itself. In fact, I actively dislike when an author takes a serial killer (Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader) and then creates an origin story that is supposed to explain his insanity.
But, and this is an element that can’t be put delicately, our villain is also a rapist. He forms an attachment on a news anchor who seems intrigued by his crimes, and his plot changes to a plot to kidnap her, use her as a sexual captive, and in fact torment and brainwash her into believing that she is his falcon, even to be point of dressing her in feathers and wings. This now goes well beyond the realm of satire or a villain who is charming in his nihilism, and really to the point of misogynism. I don’t recall any female characters in the novel of any strength and character to seemingly balance the victimhood of the kidnapped reporter, and indeed the murder victims are likewise vulnerable young women. I think there is much room to question whether this is entertainment. Full disclosure, I have the same question about some other novels that have been wildly popular but which, for me, the skill or suspense achieved falls far short of the sadism and cruelty that is created by the author.
Speaking of suspense, what passes for suspense is also disappointing. For at least half the novel, I don’t recall the police authorities making any headway whatsoever. Janek and his team do, late in the game, pick up the trail and carry out some convincing detective work. But the author seems to want it both ways, and while creating some intriguing police work to close in on the villain, he seems to hold back and resist allowing his villain to be captured. When Janek finally finds the apartment the falconer is using for his headquarters, he arrives after the action is over. The killer has let the real falcon go and induced his captive to cut his throat, essentially brainwashing her into assisting his suicide. This is what the villain had wanted as the ending all along, so Janek is basically too late to either save the victim or foil the plot. Essentially, he is too late to do anything except help the victim start her psychological recovery, presuming that she would not have eventually walked out of the apartment or called someone on her own.
To me, what happens in this book might be another case of an author being overly fond of his villain. We saw this before with The Day of the Jackal, where Frederick Forsyth couldn’t resist bestowing near superpowers on his assassin protagonist. I found this a weakness in that great thriller, but it came in the context of superior plotting and writing and a plot that was far more plausible. The gamble for an author when you fall in love with your villain is that you are risking that your readers will too, but the maniac behind the falcon is given no qualities that are likely to be interesting to the typical reader. A telling example of Bayer’s excessive fondness of his character is an episode in the middle where a world-famous Japanese bird trainer brings his hawk-eagle cross to hunt the falcon that has terrorized the city. Of course, the namesake falcon wins this air battle, and in the aftermath, the trainer kills himself in shame. It is not enough for Bayer to describe his villain thwarting another scheme to stop his crime spree, but the people who attempt to bring him down must be humiliated. And of course, in the end no one can stop him and he is only stopped by his own deathwish.
Categories: Edgar Winner Reviews (Spoilers)