|Posted by Vladimir Mortsgna on April 27, 2020 at 12:40 AM|
You might assume as you start the book they did award in 1981 that the title is symbolic, and refers to a detective, or perhaps a victim or another character who drives the plot, who is restless and driven to move constantly. But in fact the title is literal, and refers to a peregrine falcon, which a villain has trained to swoop down on command and kill passersby on the streets on early 80s New York City. The author acknowledges that this is almost impossible biologically, so there is much straining of the plot to justify how a falcon could actually kill a human being, and in case you are thinking that larger birds of prey might have been better choices, it turns out to be a carefully bred falcon, far larger than the norm.
I was tantalized by the possibility that Bayer meant this as a spoof, at least originally, although the last half of the book is certainly not amusing or droll in any way. But the media frenzy that follows the attacks rang true and was a fairly convincing bonkers echo of the Son of Sam media frenzy from four years earlier. Another indicator of at least a fleeting attempt at satire is the hobby given to the main police protagonist, Frank Janek – he repairs accordions. But there appear to be three additional novels starring Frank Janek, and some of his other traits are less original: Like so many other Edgar protagonists, Janek is seen as damaged goods with a scandalous past – and it will turn out, as it so often does, that his sin is something that the author strenuously justifies so that few readers will consider it a sin. Which doesn’t mean they will find it interesting. Richard Crenna made a series of TV movies in the 80s in which he played Frank Janek, though as far as I can tell, Peregrine was never chosen as the basis for one of them.
So Frank Janek, while not repairing accordions, leads the NYPD’s efforts to contain panic and stop the mad falconer. And returning to the very real sins of the 1981 Edgar voters, one could say that Peregrine, like Gorky Park and Red Dragon, would be followed by better entries by its author. So why pick the one and not one of the others? No risk of spoiling – I couldn’t possibly spoil that mystery because I don’t know the answer. But I can’t say more about why Peregrine is bad without spoilers – in the next installment.
Categories: Edgar Winner Reviews (No Spoilers)