Full Name: Birdcage
Nationality: British
Organization: Birdcage
Occupation Agency

Creator: Victor Canning
Time Span: 1971 - 1985


       The Birdcage is a small department in the British Intelligence community.
       It is not officially called the Birdcage. Officially it really does not have a proper name. It just is. When we first hear of it, it is rather in the shadows, sometimes referred to as the Department. It initially comes across a somewhat stern and cold but it obviously needs to be because it is working on behalf of the British Government and no particular person so it can not really have a heart. It only as time goes by and the people working for the Department, which they might occasionally refer to as the Birdcage, become a little bit less shrouded in the shadows that we begin to see there is something decidedly mean about it.
       The Birdcage is not really a bad organization in that it does not go out of its way to break the laws of the nation, except of course when it is expedient to blackmail or corrupt or main or even kill to get the job done. Even then it likely would talk about the "greater good" and "best interests" and so on. But in the case of some of the people whose lives are messed with if not actually snuffed out, it would be beyond most people to agree with the actions.
       The stories told in the series run a huge gamut of plots and characters. Most do not have recurring people in them, even if the people from one book might survive the goings-on. There are a few people from the Department that might show up in an adventure but not the next. People like Quint who is the one to call if accidents need happening. Or Kerslake who always seems to have a lot more knowledge of what is going on than he should and that is scary. Or Warboys who does not seem to be the top dog but perhaps really is.
       These occasional people are good for putting some faces to the people behind the scenes but other cases there will be no sign of them - just the increasingly more sinister aspect of an agency with very little real oversight and the ability to make its own decisions about what is right and wrong.


Number of Books:8
First Appearance:1971
Last Appearance:1985


Number of Movies:1
First Appearance:1975
Last Appearance:1975

1 Family Plot Family Plot
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: Ernest Lehman
Actors: Karen Black as Fran, Bruce Dern as George Lumley, William Devane as Arthur Adamson, Barbara Harris as Blanche Tyler
Released: 1975

Very loosely based on The Rainbird Pattern, this movie deals with a con artist/psychic and her cab driver boyfriend looking for a missing heir while two serial kidnappers go about their business. This Hitchcock thriller was far more of a comedy than the book.


       I have such incredibly mixed feelings about the Birdcage series. First, it is such an uncohesive collection of stories. Except for the books where people like Quint and Kerslake show up, there are a couple that I would personally never have included in the list. I do so because the author did and critics over the years have also so who I am to argue. But I tell you, comparing the first books like Firecrest and The Rainbird Pattern (more on that one in a sec) and the latter novels like Vanishing Point, I really challenge anyone to truthfully say they felt there was a connection. Again, though, who am I?
       Next is the writing. It is superb. The people are brought to such terrific life that you know them, you've worked with them or partied with them or, in a few cases, swore you'd punch them in the nose if they ever so much as ... you get the point. The artistry that Canning shows in developing and presenting these people is awesome. It is just a darn shame you invariably know you want nothing to do with that so-and-so to the point you can't stand it OR you know that person is just too good a soul to not get run over by a different so-and-so.
       Last is the dour feeling each book leaves me. There ain't NO happy endings. I remember being taught in school the difference between Greek tragedies and comedies was whether the main character died, not whether things end well because they seldom did. That is the way with the Birdcage.
       I did not finish any of the books with a smile and a nod. More likely a grimace and a head shake. I marvel at the prose. The books, though, were just not for me.


My Grade: B


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