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Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig
Review by Drew Bittner
Angry Robot Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780857662330
Date: 28 August 2012 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Miriam Black has a terrible power: one touch and she knows when and how you'll die. Once upon a time, that sent her life into a self-destructive nosedive. Now things are...well, maybe a bit worse. In Mockingbird, Chuck Wendig continues the story of Miriam, her faithful friend (and sometime lover) Louis, and a horrifying cycle of madness and murder.

Having survived a pair of mismatched hitmen and their cadaverous boss, Miriam and Louis are a quasi-domestic couple in a New Jersey trailer park. But Miriam is not made for domesticity and her naturally caustic wit sharpens itself on Louis once too often. He finds her a job--settling a friend's fears about her mortality--and drives her to the appointment, at a fancy private school.

Upon meeting Katey, a teacher at the school, Miriam at first lies but then comes clean after making a second discovery: a girl at the school will be ritually murdered in a few years' time. She wants to warn the girl and needs Katey's help to do it. On the way, however, she finds a second girl will be murdered in the same way.

Miriam resolves to get to the heart of this, despite the soft opposition of Beck, the girls' self-defense instructor, and Eleanor Caldecott, the school nurse who founded the whole enterprise. As she digs deeper, however, she learns that her role as fate's enemy has made her a target, that there are others who are meant to ensure fate's pattern remains intact...and for that to happen, Miriam Black has to die.

Despite the guidance of her spirit mentor and some unlikely allies, Miriam is up to her neck in trouble and sinking fast. Unless she can discover the secrets behind the school and the bizarre, masked figure who calls itself "the Mockingbird", Miriam's own life won't need a fortune-teller, as it will be measured in minutes.

Wendig provides a powerful follow up to Blackbirds, the first Miriam Black adventure. His heroine is just as sharp edged, a woman-shaped bottle of acid and broken glass drafted to fight against inevitability. Miriam is profane (sometimes gratuitously so), antisocial, and hostile to most people, but her heart is undeniably in the right place and her quest is oddly noble. She'll do what it takes to keep these girls alive, even when they themselves aren't going to help, and no matter the cost to herself. For all the anger surrounding her, she's a deeply damaged but compassionate young woman who wants to make a difference.

The villains--well, I can't say much about them without spoiling the story, but suffice it to say that their road has been as twisted as Miriam's, and their goals are horrific but make a certain perverted sense. The collision with Miriam was unavoidable, once they learned of each other, and their contrasting qualities make them well matched enemies.

If you like your urban fantasy dark, blood-stained, and stinking of cigarettes, whisky, and pain, you need look no further--this is the book for you. It's a powerful read and not for the faint of heart, but it delivers.

Recommended.

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