I would hate to be Miriam Black.
When Miriam touches someone, skin on skin, she sees their death. Sometimes she sees it in a flash, if it’s a quick one, and sometimes she sees several minutes of agony. All it takes is her skin touching someone else’s, and she’s done. She knows how they die.
Blackbirds, a rough, unflinching suspense tale from Chuck Wendig, introduces us to Miriam and the torture of knowing how people die, yet being powerless to stop it. Miriam tried, once, but her failure to intervene hangs like a porous cloud over her. She has tried to use her powers for some good; primarily financial good, providing she can pick the right mark and be there to help clean out his pockets when he dies.
One fateful night, she hops in a truck driven by Louis Darling and sees his future: he is being tortured, and just as he dies, he calls out her name.
WTF, thinks Miriam, who immediately runs away. Unfortunately for her, she runs straight into Ashley Gaines, who, despite his come hither grin and strange sex play, is not a good person. Ashley blackmails Miriam into helping him run a scam on innocents. The trouble is that trouble is following Ashley. And then Louis reappears.
Miriam is a wonderfully complex character. Sometimes I hated her, sometimes I liked her, but always I wanted her to survive. And I really wanted Louis to survive. Ashley? Not so much. In a conversation with him, Miriam discusses the titular animal as she debates which color she will dye her hair:
She holds up the other box. “Blackbirds, on the other hand, are cool birds. Symbols of death in most mythology. They say that blackbirds are psychopomps. Like sparrows, they’re birds that supposedly help shuttle souls from the world of the living to the world of the dead.” A little voice tries to say something, but she shushes it. “Of course, on the other hand, the genus – or is it species, I always get them mixed up – of the common blackbird is Turdus, which, of course, has the word ‘turd’ in it. Not ideal.”
That’s Miriam. She can be a real turd, but she also means well. For the most part, she would like to help shuttle souls, but she’s learned the hard way that she needs to protect herself.
Blackbirds is a quick, tense read. Wendig hooks us with Louis and the question of whether or not Miriam can save him.
If you’re looking for a fun thriller, Blackbirds is for you.
Published by Angry Robot and available on Amazon.com.
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.