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 tale almost too bizarre to believe, following the parallel lives of a globetrotting smuggler who spent two decades capturing endangered raptors for royals in the United Arab Emirates – where falcon races have multimillion-dollar purses and a champion bird might just be worth risking prison for – and Detective Andy McWilliam of the United Kingdom's National Wildlife Crime Unit, who's determined to protect the world's birds of prey from one of the most irrepressible predators of our time.
The Falcon Thief whisks readers 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.
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
"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
"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
"[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
"Hammer paints a vivid portrait [...] Ultimately, this book is a fine tribute to McWilliam and to others dedicated to conservation, and a compelling deep dive into the psyche of a very specific sort of criminal."
"This stranger-than-fiction story is as engrossing as a fast-paced action-adventure, and is sure to hold the attention of a variety of readers. Fans of Jennie Erin Smith's Stolen World or Craig Welch's Shell Games will be piqued."
– Library Journal
"Hammer's chronicle is a captivating and surprising read with just the right touch of suspense and mystery."
"Slipping as perfectly into the newly developing natural history-true crime subgenre as it does into a carry-on, The Falcon Thief both informs and thrills."
– Open Letters Monthly
"Startling from the first page to the last."
– Air Mail
"Entertaining and illuminating [...] How McWilliam finally nailed his man should be left for Hammer to tell, which he does in high style."
– Washington Post
It's a compelling and remarkable tale, vibrant and authentic, rendered more resonant by author Joshua Hammer's impressive research."
– Washington Independent Review of Books