Mockingbird

Yes, this cover is awesome, too.

Mockingbird
by Chuck Wendig

Yes, I posted a review of Blackbirds, the first book of this duology, just a week ago. If you recall, I ended that review with the thought that this really isn’t my genre. Horror, particularly gory horror, isn’t my thing. Still, I loved the first book despite my dislike of the genre. Well, guess what? I’m still not a fan of the genre. And this is still very gory. And… well, some things really fly in Mockingbird. Some things really, really don’t.

Miriam Black still has the curse of knowing exactly when and how a person dies when she touches them. She’s gotten a little more used to her power… but when a teacher hires her to find the cause of her death, Miriam discovers more than she wanted to know. She finds out that several girls currently attending a prestigious school will be murdered in the same grisly fashion a few years in the future. Can Miriam prevent a serial killer that won’t strike for years?

The core concept of this novel is solid. Wendig starts playing with the pieces he introduced in Blackbirds, seeing what happens when he smashes different elements together or asks some nice questions of Miriam’s ability. I appreciated the expansion of the lore that he had set up in the first book.

Now, in the author interview at the end of Blackbirds, Wendig had said that this isn’t so much a duology as a series he has percolating, and it shows in this volume. Book one was a strong pilot. Book two now begins exploring what to do within the setup. It feels like a “book two” in a series, and this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s really great. I’d love to read more of this series. As I said, as a book two, this is fantastic.

Except for the first fifty pages or so.

Blackbirds ends with a strong status quo. The problem is, Miriam Black doesn’t do status quo. The first chunk of Mockingbird seems to do little other than reestablish Miriam’s abilities and put away the setup from book one. Wendig takes pains to show why the happy ending of book one couldn’t stick. I think I would have rather just seen Miriam back on the road again with a one-paragraph summary of what had happened in between books one and two.

Once we get past that bump, though, it’s clear sailing with a strong premise and strong character work. The new players work well with (or against) the old. Everyone’s perfectly in character.

I greatly appreciated the deepening of the supernatural aspects of the setting. Miriam is getting in touch with her abilities, and this opens up a whole can of worms – including new threats that are not of this world. The revelation of the identity of the serial killer is a nice surprise; Wendig is completely logical and fair with the reader, but the full extent of the mystery plays out well. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave that there.

In short: If you like Blackbirds, you’ll enjoy Mockingbird. It’s a further exploration of the same themes with the same characters with a vastly different plot, so you don’t have the chance to get bored. Wendig does well, and I am definitely interested to read if a book three comes out. I just hope he doesn’t repeat the first fifty pages again. We don’t need to see everything in between; just get us on to the next adventure.

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