“I’m the vampire and you invited me in. And I warned you. This isn’t going to be fun.” – Miriam Black
Miriam Black has a unique and unwanted talent; with one glancing touch of skin on skin she can tell exactly when and how someone is going to die. And, trust her, being constantly bombarded with visions of heart attacks, auto accidents, and murders tends to make one a little nihilistic, snarky, and foul-mouthed. However, at the end of Blackbirds, the first of author Chuck Wendig’s books to feature Miriam, things had taken a small turn for the positive in her life.
Louis, the gentle giant of a trucker whose fate Miriam altered after initially foreseeing his death, decided to stick with Miriam in spite of her rough edges and has set about trying to make a normal life for the two of them. But Miriam is anything but normal, and living in a double-wide and working as a grocery store cashier in Long Beach Island, NJ isn’t quite “taking” as far as she’s concerned.
The wheels come completely off Miriam’s wagon when, having just been fired for mouthing off one too many times, she deliberately initiates contact with her former boss in order to get a glimpse of her hopefully painful death. To Miriam’s shock, not only will the woman’s death be violent, it’s going to occur in a matter of minutes in the guise of a gunman in the store. After the ensuing fracas results in a bullet grazing her noggin, Miriam decides to get back to what she knows…wandering the country and living off her “talent.”
Louis has other ideas, and convinces Miriam to stay put and accept payment to predict the death of a teacher at the boarding school to which Louis makes routine deliveries. Seems the woman is convinced she’s on death’s door and is willing to pay for Miriam to confirm it, in detail. A funny thing happens on the way to foretelling a hypochondriac’s death, however, when Miriam inadvertently makes contact with one of the school’s young students and gets a vision of the girl’s horrific murder. Worse still, Miriam can see that the girl is not the only one destined to suffer at the hands of the gruesome killer. Unwilling to just walk away, Miriam finds herself in the position of not just trying to stop a serial killer, but once again attempting to alter fate itself.
When author Chuck Wendig first introduced Miriam Black to readers it was clear he wasn’t going to pull any punches. While not going out of his way to make her unlikable, he wasn’t going to sand off her rough edges either. Still, for all her snark and brashness, readers were able to sympathize with a woman who was put in the unenviable position of never being able to have direct contact with another human without knowing exactly how they’d die. And while Blackbirds initially gave readers a Miriam who had settled into a grim acceptance of her plight, the events that unfolded in that book forced Miriam rethink her approach to life as well as her position on the intractability of fate. Mockingbird continues that highly gratifying evolution of Miriam’s character.
Where she previously had simply chalked things up to fate, Miriam is now willing not only to challenge it, but to examine her motives for doing so. It’s no longer about whether or not she can alter fate, but a question of why she chooses to try and do so. And while the plots specific to each book more than stand on their own, there is undeniably a much larger arc at work in the Miriam Black series. Miriam continues to have visions in which she’s visited by someone or something she has dubbed the Trespasser, a force that alternately goads and guides her, and symbolism and mythology abound in the forms of a crow which appears at crucial times in Miriam’s life and a swallow intertwined with Miriam’s current visions of death.
Presented in Wendig’s signature style of heaping helpings of razor-sharp intelligence, irreverent humor, and unvarnished profanity, Mockingbird is not only a worthy successor to its predecessor, it raises the bar on a series which continues to be both entertaining and thought-provoking.
Mockingbird is available from Angry Robot (ISBN: 978-0857662330).