Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig – review

by Chuck Wendig

Publisher: Angry Robot Books

UK ISBN 9780857662323

US ISBN 9780857662330

ePub ISBN 9780857662347

Mockingbird is Wendig’s second novel from Angry Robot Books and the sequel to Blackbirds (which I reviewed here.)

Mockingbird picks up a year or so after the events of Blackbirds, with Miriam and Louis in some kind of stable situation. But this is Miriam Black, so we know that’s not going to last. Louis sets Miriam up with a job using her special power to see how people are going to die. A friend of his works at a school for troubled girls and wants to know if her suspicions of terminal illness are well-founded or not. Miriam reluctantly agrees to use her powers for good.

While at the school she touches a young student, a troubled teen called Lauren, and sees her suffer a hideous death, aged eighteen, at the hands of a particularly nasty serial killer. This leads Miriam to investigate further and she begins to uncover a lot of horror, murder and mayhem,  dragging her through several twists, reversals and life-threatening scenarios.

Once again, Wendig showcases his excellent writing skills, with tight powerful prose, locked into the voice of his characters like a tick to exposed skin. The character of Miriam definitely grows in this book – she’s explored more deeply, we discover more about her background and what has led her to be the way she is. She also begins to realise what she is to become, where her own destiny lays.

The irreverence and black humour are still well in evidence and this book is definitely darker than Blackbirds. Horrible people do horrible things, but there’s also a deeper, more pervasive dread throughout this book that Wendig handles with far greater skill than the last one. The development of the supernatural aspects of Miriam’s life and talents was particularly well done, and greatly interesting to me. And there’s still more to learn, so it seems likely that we’ll be getting more instalments. At least, I hope we do.

The story this time around is a lot more complicated than Blackbirds, but complicated in a good way. Mockingbird is a longer book than Blackbirds, but it still rocks along with that addictive pace Wendig maintains so well. It’s twistier than a dark mountain road and characters play a variety of roles. Miriam is in the thick of it all the time and kicks butt and takes names throughout. In fact, she also gets her own arse thoroughly whupped on many occasions. It’s sometimes hard to suspend disbelief at just how much punishment one small woman can take at the hands of these brutal assailants, but I suppose she’s a kind of superhero, so maybe it’s okay. A foul-mouthed, smart-assed, violent, crazy, psychic, killer of a superhero, at that.

Mockingbird is a violent and powerful tale addressing fate, mortality and our duty to others. It’s funny, horrible and often quite disturbing. Which makes it a lot like life. Wendig’s characters, particularly Miriam Black, are well realised and engaging. Even Louis (who I found a bit bland in Blackbirds) is a far more interesting person this time around. Mockingbird is, in many ways, a much better read than Blackbirds.

Urban fantasy, horror and thriller all rolled into one. Delicious. Five stars.