Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig (Miriam Black #2)
Angry Robot Books (Aug 2012)
Ebook, 416 pages
Firstly, I disagree with the Goodreads summary. Miriam isn’t trying or maybe she did for about 2-3 sentences on page 1 and then she promptly returns to her unlikable, chaotic and danger prone-self.
Mockingbird starts a year after we left Miriam after the end of book one. She is working as a checkout girl in a touristy store in Long Beach and hating her trailer park lifestyle. Louis is still in the picture but only barely as he continues to travel the country truck driving. Marion has tried to be good but only in the sense of curbing her psychic abilities by wearing gloves. It only takes a few paragraphs before she is drawn to back into need to touch people to see their deaths. She admits she is an addict – a death addict. Her palms itch to reach out to make contact and her breath catches in her throat as she allows her obsession to take control. Miriam shows all the hallmarks of an addict and these scenes make the reader a tad uncomfortable and uneasy. It isn’t long before Miriam gives in to her addiction and is back with full on visions of the death of anyone she comes into contact with.
Wendig really ramps up the horror in this novel when Louis takes Miriam to ‘read’ the death from a friend Katey, of who is a teacher at an all girls school for juvenile delinquents. Miriam sees not only visions of Katey’s death but also those of several girls in the school. Each girl is tortured and murdered by a serial killer and Miriam is determined she is going to to put a stop to it. The murder is particularly barbaric and ritualistic. These scenes describing Miriam’s visions are particularly chilling and her journey to find the killer is much more graphic than similar scenes in the first novel.
Wendig uses birds throughout the novel both as symbolism and to advance the plot. Crows and swallows are prominent despite the mockingbird used in the book’s title. Crows are a feature and Wendig uses them to deliver prophecy and warnings to both Miriam and Louis. He exploits the mythology of crows as a symbol of death both in the murders and as a portent for Miriam. There is one particular scene with a crow and Louis that made me feel rather ill reading it. I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling the macabre scene. Ghost Louis makes an appearance in this novel but under a slightly different guise. He has been largely replaced by other ghostly images and again, by a crow. Wendig works this imagery well into the story and it heightens the ‘creep’ factor considerably. He also uses poetry and mythology as subtext to the plot including the poems The School of Broken Dolls and The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot, as well as, the Greek myth of Philomena. This myth is used to explain the significance of the swallow in the murders and in Miriam’s vision. The use of mythology is in sharp contrast to the harsh and vulgar Miriam, but Wendig makes it work.
Miriam’s journey takes her back to her hometown. She is reluctant to visit her mother due to the sad memories of her past but finally drums up the courage to visit. She is surprised to find that her mother has moved away leaving her uncle in the family home. It took a lot of courage for Miriam to face her mother and the memories of her sad, harsh, childhood. Wendig, uses these scenes between Miriam and her uncle to bring out more of Miriam’s past and to give the reader a sense of why she is so self-destructive. You are also given the sense that Wendig has more to say about Miriam and her mother. Perhaps in book 3?
Miriam was very unpleasant in parts of the novel especially to Louis, and there were points in the novel when you actually wondered if she was the good guy. There were fewer opportunities to sympathize with her than there were in the first novel but somehow you still wanted her to win in the end. Wendig ends Mockingbird with a little cliff hanger just to tease the reader for next book in the series.
Mockingbird is not a comfortable read and this is down to Wendig’s portrayal of Miriam in this second book. I had to pace myself reading this book and couldn’t read it before bed because it was so gritty, macabre and in some points down right gross. I said that Blackbird wasn’t for the faint hearted and Mockingbird is definitely not for the faint hearted or anyone with a weak stomach. However, saying that it is an excellent read. Wendig has a unique writing style and successfully weaves symbolism and mythology into a modern setting.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
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