Review: Blackbirds, by Chuck Wendig

I’ve been reading Chuck’s blog for a year or two over at, so I thought I would give his fiction a shot. I’m not sure how to characterize Blackbird’s genre, but at the intersection of paranormal, crime, and thriller, it’s definitely on the outskirts of my usual reading.

The premise is that Miriam, a young drifter, can see the time and circumstances of anyone’s death as soon as she touches them – everyone, that is, except herself. It’s not exactly a Disney princess life for her, seeing often-gruesome death with every handshake. More than once she’s tried to stop them from dying, but in a cruel twist she just ends up being the cause of their demise.

So when she brushes up against a truck driver and sees his murder and hears him calling out to her as he dies, she’s in a pickle. Is she helping the murderer, or is she the next victim? She does what she can to avoid it all, but fate seems as inevitable as ever, with each random turn taking her closer to the grisly murder. Is there some way out? Maybe, but she’s going to have to fight fate for it.

Overall, I liked it, but he didn’t knock it out of the park. I liked most of his gritty, profanity-infused writing style, but the point-of-view kind of threw me. The story tracks with Miriam most of the way through, very rarely showing a scene where she is not present. The narrative distance from her is almost non-existent, i.e. we’re totally in her head, in her thoughts. Yet, the tale is told almost entirely from third person, and given how deep we were inside Miriam, I kept expecting it to be in first person.

The only time we got first person was in individual chunks when other characters took a chapter to tell us their back-story, and strangely, those sections did not have nearly the narrative closeness that the rest of the story did. Then toss in a series out outside-the-plot interludes where Miriam is giving her own back-story in an interview reminiscent of the film Memento, and the result was a narrative style that felt like it was all over the map. However, I’ll admit that these are largely structural issues that might only stand out to another writer, and in that sense, it could simply be that I don’t like it because I don’t write that way. Still, I was the reader, and I didn’t like it.

So, I’ll give it five stars for originality and then rip off a few of the stars’ points for the structure of the narrative.