"Blackbirds" cover

Cover art by Joey HiFi

“Blackbirds” by Chuck Wendig, 2012

Finished July 2012

Miriam Black is a young woman with a very unpleasant “gift.” If she touches you, she sees how and when you will die. The worst part is, there’s nothing you, or her, or anyone else can do to prevent it. She has tried, and all her efforts only help the event occur exactly as she originally envisioned it. She developed this ability in high school, after a brutal beating and miscarriage, so as you can imagine, this girl has baggage.

Her life is unsettled and harsh. She is constantly moving, hitching rides to wherever and living however she can. In many instances this means finding someone she knows will soon die in order to rob their corpse. It’s a ghoulish life. She hates her ability, but exploring it is often a compulsion. When she shakes the hand of Louis, a gentle giant of a truck driver, she sees that he is soon to be tortured and murdered, and his last bewildered utterance is her name.

At first she runs, but everything leads her back to him, and she is desperate to know what role she plays in his death. She’s a compassionate woman, but also very hard to like. She has had to armour herself, and this takes the form of foul language, rudeness, sarcasm, and anger. She drinks too much and gets in a lot of fights, and even though she fights dirty, she doesn’t always come out on top. She is drawn to danger, which is why when she runs from Louis, she ends up with bad boy Ashley. He’s what gets her and Louis into the fatal mess that she foresaw.

Ashley has been following her. He seen how she is tied to several deaths, but none of them look like murders. He is intrigued, thinking she might be some sort of con-artist, like him. Unfortunately for all concerned, Ashley is also a thief, and the people he has stolen from most recently are merciless. When he blackmails Miriam into helping him out this starts them down the inexorable path to Louis’ death.

Wendig is a very entertaining writer, and there is a lot of humour in what could have been a very bleak book. Miriam has a darkly amusing approach to the world, and her wry observations set the tone. I don’t know how successful he is at writing a female character, because she has a lot of masculine qualities (is quality the right word for it? I don’t know), but she is entertaining nonetheless. And determined. Her perseverance is something to behold. And even though she isn’t likeable I ended up liking her very much. Recommended.

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