Review: Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig (Miriam Black #2)

Thought I wouldn't get time to get in a review before the year ends but then I realized I'd written this two months back and forgot to post it!

TITLE: MOCKINGBIRD (Miriam Black #2)
Miriam is trying. Really, she is.
But this whole "settling down thing" that Louis has going for her just isn't working out. She lives on Long Beach Island all year around. Her home is a run-down double-wide trailer. She works at a grocery store as a check-out girl. And her relationship with Louis--who's on the road half the time in his truck--is subject to the piss and vinegar Miriam brings to everything she does.
It just isn't going well. Still, she's keeping her psychic ability--to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them--in check. But even that feels wrong somehow. Like she's keeping a tornado stoppered up in a tiny bottle.
Then comes one bad day that turns it all on her ear.

Chuck Wendig’s ‘Blackbirds’ disturbed me to no small extent. The purist in me rebelled against the language and profanity, the girlie-girl in me cowered from the extreme violence, and the responsible book-blogger in me put out a warning that this book was addictive, but not for those faint of heart. The reader in me also made it abundantly clear that I was going to pick up the next installment- I was hooked by Miriam Black in ‘Blackbirds’, and in ‘Mockingbird’ she appears with talons to reel me right back into her story.

And, what a story.

When you look at it from outside, ‘Mockingbird’ is a deceptively simple onion. A pretty one, yes, but kind of procedural. Psychic-girl, visions of a murder, character drama, resolution. But when you peel back the layers, it becomes much more. Miriam’s going to snark at me for going philosophical on her, but take a breather, Miss Black. Let me talk about you.

This time around, Miriam is trying to settle down. Be a happy checkout girl at a department store. Live with Louis in a trailer park. Keep her psychic ability under check. At least until bullets get involved, and a bit of scalp is lost, and the psychic drifter witch is out on the roads again.

It isn’t long before Miriam is neck-deep in it - this time the trouble starts at a school/prison for delinquent girls. The Caldecott School for Girls. There’s a murderer loose and he’s killing the schoolgirls. Of course, Miriam knows this by touching the victims and has to stop it from happening. 

But in Chuck Wendig’s world, killing them is equal to cutting off tongues, lopping off heads, singing a creepy song and lots and lots of barbed wire, so Miriam really is up against some major psychopath.

You’d see why Miriam would get involved. This time around she might have bitten off more than she can chew, because she’s up against a pretty formidable enemy. Maybe even more than one.

Louis Darling remains my favorite one-eyed trucker ever, although there’s a scene with bloody feathers and eye sockets and car wrecks and river water that will probably not let me sleep easily for a while at least.

I said in my review of ‘Blackbirds’ that what makes the book is the main protagonist. She’s back and she ain’t lost her charm. (Or extreme lack of it.) She’s still trash-talking her way through her dark little life, seeing hallucinations that creep me the hell out, and getting into so much trouble that you want to lock her up somewhere. Not that Miriam wouldn’t bust out. Just saying.

The real good thing about Mockingbird, however, is that it doesn’t simply draw Miriam as a dark, brooding, pot-mouthed, psychic young woman with a one-eyed trucker boyfriend. Her home-life appears in tiny Interludes between chapters, and we learn how Miriam became well…Miriam. Uncle Jack teaching her to hold a gun and shoot a bird, her over-religious mother (Carrie parallel?) destroying her stuff, the strange house that she grew up in- we get to visit each scene through the writer’s extremely cinematic prose.

The story moves fast and is paced so violently, with so much blood and fighting and crazy dialogue involved, and I loved that. It’s slightly less…well, French, than the book before but there’s still plenty of bombs for those who try to avoid stuff like that (or, alternately, enjoy stuff like that, whatever floats your boat).

I reiterate- THIS IS NOT YOUNG ADULT. But if you’re like me and enjoy bloody paper-and-ink conquests, kickass UF heroines, trucker lingo, awesome dialogues, razor-sharp prose, subtle shout-outs to Stephen King, and a good old-fashioned serial killer tale, you’ll dig Mockingbird.

And hee. I love the damn cover. Joey Hi-fi is rockin’ it. Do you see the detailing in it, with the stuff in her hair? There's an axe, a hand, a detailed bird beak. There's the school on her shirt. You could play "spot that" with the cover the whole day.

4 on 5 stars, and bring on more Miriam! 


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