In the Shadow of Blackbirds

In the Shadow of Blackbirds - Cat Winters **No spoilers.I don’t know the scientific veracity of the above, but the internet never lies.I imagine I would have not done well had I lived in the WWII era, because hand sanitizer is my very best friend. I know it only kills 99.99% of germs, but that’s 99.99% less than were on my hands before I used it. I’m… one of those people. I don’t like to touch things. I don’t like when people touch my things. I don’t like communal things. I hate sneezers who don’t properly cover their orifices and I will run from them shamelessly. I hate people who don’t wash their hands – I will unabashedly give them The Look. I don’t like sitting on public chairs. My ass has never touched a public toilet, for I have mastered the sacred art of Female Acrobatic Urination. I have a To Go-sized Lysol disinfecting spray in my purse at all times. I also carry a Ziplock bag of Clorox Wipes. My hands are slightly reptilian from the over-washing . Yes. I’m one of those.Due to my ever-so-normal hygienic paranoia, In the Shadow of Blackbirds effectively creeped me out. The threat of Spanish Influenza in this book was palpable and suffocating to me – in a strangely good way. There was a lot of good anxiety for me. The disease was a silent killer ever lurking and closing in. The MC, Mary Shelly, was largely unmoved by the threat of illness, but luckily, her aunt was the carbon copy of my imaginary then-self. She added a much-needed element of uneasiness to the whole affair. Her near-manic fear was unsettling. I liked it.Mary herself was a very likeable MC. She had strength about her that I really respected. She was no pushover and she was kind and goodhearted without tipping into Mary Sueland. Although the flu played a large role, the spotlight was reserved for the supernatural element. This is a book of spirits and séances. How cool is that? I’ve not seen many books with such a heavy focus on séances. I love séances! I can’t even count the times my cousins and I tried to contact Elvis around a dinner table as kids. No, seriously. We did it a lot. The mystery, the possibility of a good scare, possible possession à la Whoopi-Goldberg-in-Ghost style - what’s not to love about a séance? This book had a few of them.As the blurb states, Mary’s first love returns from the grave in spirit form. I can’t say I liked this character, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t well-written. He grated on my nerves throughout, but, especially in the second half, I felt like that was the point. He had a sense of urgency that made me uncomfortable, but it all tied in with the premise. I appreciate his role a lot more in retrospect.The story is basically a mystery and I have to say it was nicely done. It confounded me for the most part and threw me for a loop at the end. Some parts were predictable, but elusive enough to keep me interested and wondering. Pretty much throughout, I was like, “WTF with these birds, man?!” Most importantly, in a mystery, is that the resolution be satisfying, so you don’t feel cheated at the end. It was.Only a couple of things kept this from being a 5 star read for me. There was a randomly tossed-in character bearing a massive info-dump and I hate that. There has to be another way to get that info. Having a random character come in at 80% for one scene, dump, and disappear is not the best way. Additionally, there was a lull in the middle that really dampened my desire to read. I didn’t want to quit, but it made me reluctant to pick it up. I felt like there were a few scenes that were too similar and so, they lost their luster. It got a bit wordy, too. Thankfully, the last ¼ of the book was a rising crescendo of good stuff. It got pretty crazy nearing the end and I was unable to resist being dragged along. It was a little bewildering. Again, all in a good way. If you like creep, unease, mystery, and ghosts – all with Victorian flair - this one’s for you. For more of my reviews, visit my blog: