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Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Blackbirds cover imagePublisher: Angry Robot
Paperback (283pp)

Miriam Black is the girl your mother warned you about. Her life thrives on drama and conflict, and she is a creature of habit; all the bad ones. You will love her instantly. However if a great memorable protagonist was all there was to Blackbirds you wouldn’t make it past about page twenty. Miriam’s great fun to be with but you really want to go on a journey with her and not just sit around in a smoke-filled bar. And boy does she take you on an action-packed trip. Miriam can see how someone will die with just the slightest touch but, and this is the aspect that has hardened her against the world, she cannot do anything to change the outcome.

This is a brutal, unflinching story, with enough swearing to make a rapper blush, but it is all described in some quite exquisite prose and sparkling dialogue that wouldn’t feel out of place in an Elmore Leonard novel. Miriam’s visions are a particular highlight and bring to mind the work of Stephen King in Dead Zone and Joe Hill in Horns.

From the first page Chuck Wendig leaves no doubt in the mind that he knows what he’s doing and this confidence propels the reader into Miriam’s world. That world is one of mysterious foreign drug dealers, hit-men wracked by inner conflict and over-confident con-artists, but it’s much better constructed than these generic characters would, on the face of it, suggest. Each character is fleshed out with intriguing back-stories and believable motivations, so that they ably hold their own against the juggernaut that is Miriam.

Blackbirds moves at a crackling pace, plonking the reader slap-bang into the action, and making great use of flashback to fill the reader in on the necessary information of Miriam’s ‘gift’. Wendig also isn’t afraid to let the reader connect the dots of the narrative, which helps to maintain intrigue and avoid any passages of clunky exposition. Some questions are answered, some are left unresolved and yet others are generated by the exhilarating climax. All of which paves the way for further adventures with Miriam Black. You’ll want to take those journeys with her; you just won’t want to tell your mother.

ROSS WARREN

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