Chuck Wendig’s “Blackbirds” (Miriam Black, #1) deals with a girl who sees how people will die when she touches their skin, but who appears unable to stop the hands of fate no matter how hard she tries.
When Miriam meets a handsome yet burly trucker she foresees his imminent death and to her surprise she realizes she is also embroiled in it. Freaked out by this, and true to her fatalistic style, she initially abandons him to his own devices fully convinced that she will not be able to stop his death. Lo and behold, fate conspires to bring them together again and the future takes a course just like Miriam has seen in her vision.
As an entity I liked the book, which was my first fiction title by Wendig. In many ways, the cruelty of the writing and his no holds barred exploration of the dark crevices of the human psyche reminded me of Stephen King, which y’all know I’m a huge fan of. Miriam, the lead character, is an antihero in every sense of the word. She is utterly self-loathing, she scams and she steals and basically uses her ability to scratch a living by robbing the soon to be dead right after they’ve kicked the bucket. As a character she is hard to like but at least you get a clear idea as to why she’s that way.
During her journey from one dead guy to the next, she comes across another scam artist who has noticed her skills and who forces her into working with him. From there she inevitably crosses paths with a voodoo loving master criminal and the chain of events that will lead to the burly trucker’s death begins to unravel.
The story is solid and gripping, I finished it in a couple of days as it was well written and concise. Everything you needed was there, there is no superfluous information or much diversion from the story, which I think is a sign of the times and the upsurge of affordable fiction; people are much more into short entertaining books now than say five years ago.
On the down side, there were however a couple of instances which I thought were unrealistic, particularly a scene where Miriam takes a beating that is so severe I’m not sure anyone could have survived from it; and I’m saying that after some of the bashing I’ve given my characters in the past! Following from that she hijacks a car AND a bike and races towards the hostage trucker who according to her vision is about to get it at any moment. There were also a couple of instances where what happens next is a little predictable but he goes on to tie up the loose ends well, so you can kind of look the other way.
As a lover of horror and suspense I was no doubt entertained by this book and I will go on to read the next one when I can. The best thing about Wendig is his use of language and the images he creates so it’s definitely worth the time.