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Mockingbird
     

Mockingbird

3.7 17
by Chuck Wendig
 

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Miriam Black is trying to live an ordinary life, keeping her ability to see how someone dies hidden...until a serial killer crosses her path. This is the second book in the Miriam Black series.

“Visceral and often brutal, this tale vibrates with emotional rawness that helps to paint a bleak, unrelenting picture of life on the edge.”

Overview

Miriam Black is trying to live an ordinary life, keeping her ability to see how someone dies hidden...until a serial killer crosses her path. This is the second book in the Miriam Black series.

“Visceral and often brutal, this tale vibrates with emotional rawness that helps to paint a bleak, unrelenting picture of life on the edge.” —Publishers Weekly

Miriam is trying. Really, she is. But this whole “settling down thing” just isn’t working out.

She lives on Long Beach Island all year in a run-down, double-wide trailer. She works at a grocery store as a checkout girl. And her relationship with Louis—who’s on the road half the time in his truck—is subject to the mood swings Miriam brings to everything she does. It just isn’t going well.

Still, she’s keeping her psychic ability—to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them—in check. But even that feels wrong somehow. Like she’s keeping a tornado stopped up in a tiny bottle. Then comes the one bad day that turns it all on her ear.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/10/2015
Wendig sends his potty-mouthed dysfunctional psychic heroine, Miriam Black, out on her scathing second adventure (after 2012’s Blackbirds), equipped with the eerie ability to see the death of anyone she touches, except her long-suffering lover, Louis. In a grungy corner of New Jersey, this unlikely pair, “cautious guardian” Louis and “frazzled lunatic” Miriam, plunge into a grisly school for bad girls that conceals a horrifying scheme of kidnapping, torture, and murder. Wendig takes mythic bits from Egyptian, Greek, and Norse avian legends, pads his creepy narrative with allusions to T.S. Eliot’s Waste Land, and loses no opportunity to attribute Miriam’s unusual insights and abilities to her adolescent angst, brought on by her religious-zealot mother and a wallop to the head with a red snow shovel wielded by the mother of the boy who got teenage Miriam pregnant. Not for the squeamish, this attempted exploration of primal fears loses much of its intended impact through injudicious overkill. Agent: Stacia Decker, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
2015-07-29
Wendig ups the ante in this second novel about a psychic girl pitted against dark forces, malevolent humans, and the twisty nature of fate. If readers were intrigued by the introduction of acid-tongued, supernaturally gifted Miriam Black in Wendig's last novel, this book will really sink its teeth into them. She's recovering after the traumatic events of Blackbirds (2015), holed up in an old Airstream trailer owned by the truck driver who saved her life. But she's getting itchy, and the visions she's having of a dark entity she calls "The Trespasser" aren't helping. Eventually she's introduced to Katey, an English teacher at an exclusive all-girls prep school. Katey thinks she's dying, and Miriam quickly confirms this truth. But when she accidentally bumps into young Lauren "Wren" Martin, a much darker vision occurs to Miriam. "Here's the poop, little bird," she says. "I have this power. Like a psychic power? Except not your everyday psychic hoodoo. I can't levitate shit, I wouldn't know palm reading from a pile of donkey guts, and tarot cards weird me out a little. But what I can do is touch a person and see how they're going to die. I saw how you're going to die. And I don't want that to happen." With each turn of the screw, the book pushes readers deeper into the dysfunction of a small town and ratchets up the horror, both paranormal and startlingly human. As before, Miriam isn't for everyone; she's extremely profane, her creator absolutely punishes her physically, and she's not exactly someone to root for. But it's apparent that Wendig is getting more skilled at his craft here, using better characterization and the same whiplash prose to carve out a story that is not only creepier and equally as propulsive, but is also pushing its heroine toward even worse events in future installments. Lurid but wildly entertaining urban horror that falls somewhere between Flowers in the Attic and Joe Hill.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780857662330
Publisher:
Watkins Media
Publication date:
08/28/2012
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
4.36(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.12(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Mockingbird

  • ONE

    SHIP BOTTOM

    Boop.

    Suntan lotion.

    Boop.

    Pecan sandies.

    Boop.

    Tampons, beach towel, postcards, and, mysteriously, a can of green beans.

    Miriam grabs each item with a black-gloved hand. Runs the item over the scanner. Sometimes, she looks down and stares into the winking red laser. She’s not supposed to do that. But she does it anyway, a meager act of rebellion in her brand-new life. Maybe, she thinks, the ruby beam will burn away that part of her brain that makes her who she is. Turn her into a mule-kicked window-licker, happy in oblivion, pressed up against the walls of her Plexiglas enclosure.

    “Miss?”

    The word drags her out of the mind’s eye theater and back to checkout.

    “Jesus, what?” she asks.

    “Well, are you going to scan that?”

    Miriam looks down. Sees she’s still holding the can of green beans. Del Monte. She idly considers braining the woman standing there in her beachy muumuu, the worn pattern of hibiscus flowers barely covering a sludgy bosom that’s half lobster red and half wood-grub white. Two halves marked by the Rubicon of a terrible tan line.

    Instead, Miriam swipes the can across the scanner with a too-sweet smile.

    Boop.

    “Is something wrong with your hands?” the woman asks. She sounds concerned.

    Miriam waggles one finger— a jumping inchworm dance. The black leather creaks and squeaks.

    “Oh, these? I have to wear these. You know how women at restaurants have to wear hairnets? For public health safety? I gotta wear these gloves if I’m going to work here. Rules and regulations. Last thing I want to do is cause a hepatitis outbreak, am I right? I got hep A, B, C, and the really bad one, X.”

    Then, just to sell it, Miriam holds up her hand for a high five.

    The woman does not seize the high-five opportunity.

    Rather, the blood drains from her face, her sunburned skin gone swiftly pale.

    Miriam wonders what would happen if she told the truth: Oh, it’s no big deal, but when I touch people, this little psychic movie plays in my head and I witness how and when they’re going to die. So I’ve been wearing these gloves so I don’t have to see that kind of crazy shit anymore.

    Or the deeper truth behind even that: I wear them because Louis wants me to wear them.

    Not that the gloves provide perfect protection against the visions. Nobody but Louis is touching her anywhere else, though. She keeps covered up. Even in the heat.

    Behind the woman is a line seven, eight people deep. They all hear what Miriam says. She’s not quiet. Two of the customers— a doughy gentleman in a parrot-laden shirt and a young girl with an ill-contained rack of softball-sized fake tits— shimmy out of the queue and leave their goods on the empty checkout two rows down.

    Still, the woman hangs tough. With a sour face, she pulls a credit card out of nowhere—Miriam imagines she withdraws it from her sand-encrusted vagina— and flips it onto the counter like it’s a hot potato.

    Miriam’s about to grab it and scan it when a hand falls on her shoulder.

    She already knows to whom the hand belongs.

    She wheels on Peggy, manager here at Ship Bottom Sundries in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Peggy, whose nose must possess powerful gravity given the way it looks like the rest of her face is being dragged toward it. Peggy, whose giant sunglasses call to mind the eyes of a praying mantis. Peggy with her gray hair dyed orange and left in a curly, clumsy tangle.

    Fucking Peggy.

    “You mind telling me what you’re doing?” The way Peggy begins every conversation, it seems. All in that Joisey accent. Ya mind tellin’ me what y’doin’? The lost Rs, the dropped Gs, wooter instead of water, caw-fee instead of coffee.

    “Helping this fine citizen check out of our fine establishment.” Miriam thinks but does not say, Ship Bottom Sundries, where you can buy a pack of hot dogs, a pack of generic-brand tampons, or a handful of squirming hermit crabs for your screaming shitbird children.

    “Sounds like you’re giving her trouble.”

    Miriam offers a strained smile. “Was I? Not my intention.”

    Totally her intention.

    “You know, I hired you as a favor.”

    “I do know that. Because you remind me frequently.”

    “Well, it’s true.”

    “Yes. We just established that.”

    Peggy’s puckered eyes tighten to fleshy slits. “You got a smart mouth.”

    “Some might argue my mouth is actually quite foolish.”

    By now, the line is building up. The woman in the floral muumuu is holding the green beans to her chest, as though the can will protect her from the awkwardness that has been thrust upon her day. The other customers watch with wide eyes and uncomfortable scowls.

    “You think you’re funny,” Peggy says.

    Miriam doesn’t hesitate. “I really do.”

    “Well, I don’t.”

    “Agree to disagree?”

    Peggy’s face twists up like a rag about to be wrung out. It takes a moment for Miriam to realize that this is Peggy’s happy face.

    “You’re fired,” Peggy says. Mouth twisted up at the corners in some crass facsimile of a human smile.

    “Oh, fuck you,” Miriam says. “You’re not going to fire me.” It occurs to her too late that saying fuck you is not the best way to retain one’s job, but frankly, the horse is already out of the stable on that one.

    “Fuck me?” Peggy asks. “Fuck you. You bring me nothing but grief. Come in here day after day, moping about like someone pissed in your Wheaties—”

    “Do people even eat Wheaties anymore? I mean, seriously.”

    “— and I don’t need a grumpy little slut like you working in my store. Season’s over after this weekend anyway, and you’re done. Kaput. Pack up your crap and get out. I’ll send you your last paycheck.”

    This is real, Miriam thinks.

    She just got let go.

    Pink-slipped.

    Shit-canned.

    She should be happy.

    Her heart should be a cage of doves newly opened, the free birds flying high, fleeing far and away. This should be a real the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music moment, all twirling skirts and wind in her hair. But all she feels is the battery-acid burn of rage and bile and incredulity mingling at the back of her throat. A rising tide of snake venom.

    Louis always tells her to keep it together.

    She is tired of keeping it together.

    Miriam yanks her nametag off her chest— a nametag that says “Maryann” because they fucked it up and didn’t want to reprint it— and chucks it over her shoulder. The muumuu lady dodges it.

    She goes with an old standby—her middle finger thrust up in Peggy’s juiced lemon of a face— and then storms outside.

    She stops. Stands in the parking lot. Hands shaking.

    An ocean breeze kicks up. The air brings with it the smell of brine and fish and a lingering hint of coconut oil. Serpents of sand whisper across the cracked parking lot.

    A dozen gulls fight over bread scraps. Ducking and diving. Squawking and squalling. Drunk on bread crust and victory.

    It’s hot. The breeze does little for that.

    People everywhere. The fwip-fwip-fwip of flip-flop sandals. The miserable sob of somebody’s child. The murmur and cackle of endless vacationers smelling a season drawing to a close. A thudding bass line booms from a car sliding down the slow traffic of Long Beach Boulevard, and she can’t help but think how the beat sounds like douche-douche-douche-douche and how it echoes her hammer-fist heartbeat dully punching against the inside of her breastbone. And Walt the “cart boy,” who’s not really a boy but in fact a developmentally handicapped fifty-year-old man, gives her a wave and she waves back and thinks, He’s the only one here who was ever nice to me. And probably the only one she was ever nice to, too.

    She thinks, Fuck it.

    She peels off one of her gloves.

    Then comes the other.

    Miriam pitches both over her shoulder—her hands are freakishly pale, paler than the rest of her body, the fingertips wrinkled as though she’s been in a long bath.

    If Louis wanted her to keep it together, he’d be here. And he’s not.

    Miriam goes back inside the store, cracking her knuckles.

  • Meet the Author

    Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. He’s the author of many published novels, including but not limited to: Blackbirds, The Blue Blazes, the YA Heartland series, and the New York Times bestseller Star Wars: Aftermath. He is co-writer of the short film Pandemic and the Emmy Award–nominated digital narrative Collapsus. Wendig has contributed over two million words to the game industry. He is also well known for his profane-yet-practical advice to writers, which he dispenses at his blog, TerribleMinds.com, and through several popular ebooks, including The Kick-Ass Writer, published by Writers Digest. He currently lives in the forests of Pennsyltucky with wife, tiny human, and dog.

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    Mockingbird 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
    fictionhumper More than 1 year ago
    The novel itself was an enjoyable enough read, but the ebook formatting was atrocious. So many grammatical and spelling errors, not to mention one passage which seemingly contained actual editing notes. It seems that the ebook version was lifted from an early proof version on the author's computer. Very disappointing and frustrating. I suggest purchasing the paperback copy.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I would spend my money on another book, any book. One of my most disliked books I have ever tried to read. Starts with a good basis for a good book but the story deals with such low life scum that it becomes a story that is not real world. The world is better than this story.
    VanillaCatMagnet More than 1 year ago
    If a nasty, foul mouthed antihero is who you're looking for-- that's what you'll find in Miriam. There's no moral to the story, no shiny vampires or love stories, nor filler pages of sickening sweet sucrose description of how the world was made a better place because of something that happened in fiction fiction land-- No-- It's more of a shoved up against the wall with a tongue down your throat after a few drinks on a really bad kind of day kind of book, or a after fight sex workout and eat ice cream in bed feeling... Awesome. Can't get enough. Not always meaningful, but worth it. Delicious...
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    But still an awesome book. Think what I really missed was Miriam out on the road, those were the bulk of my favorite scenes from Blackbirds. Also miss the way the time/flashbacks were done. Solid plot, but a bit too murder mystery for me. Hope there is a third though, with more of Miriam's on the road adventures. Style still kicks ass.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    If you'd like to read a tightly plotted noir thriller, and strong language doesn't curl your hair, allow me to recommend this book. The story grabs you from the first page, and fans of tales with a twist will enjoy the screaming left turn that happens about two thirds of the way through. It's a great read and the time you spend with Miriam Black will stay in your brain after you've closed the book. Highly recommended read.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I am conflicted about this book. I was deeply involved in the story and that was good. But the characters are outright loathsome. It is really saying something that truly horrible Miriam is just about the best of the bunch.
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    Scott_Kennedy More than 1 year ago
    It's impossible to stop reading this book. It sinks its talons in and won't let go. Really. I stole every minute I could find to get back to it and finish it. But better than just being thrilling, the book builds upon and deepens the themes of its predecessor, Blackbirds. There's a resonance to this book that's both haunting and beautiful, and at times Miriam Black's thinking slips into lines whose profane beauty could easily fit into a poem by Bukowski or, more appropriately, Crow by Ted Hughes. But Wendig is such a disciplined writer that such moments of wordy goodness never slow the narrative or even pull you out of the book; they simply deepen Miriam's character and make her even more compelling. This is a unique mix of Urban Fantasy meets Pulp Noir built with a superbly crafted plot. Read it. It's a blast.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Wasn't hooked on it until last 90 pages. Now i am looking forward to the next in this series.
    relaxeau More than 1 year ago
    Horrible would be an over reach for this hatchet job of a "story". I may be under reviewing this so called book because I threw it away after getting half way finished. In 50 years of voracious reading this is the first book I have thrown away in the middle of reading it. (I have thrown a few away after finishing them, even ceremonialy burned a couple that were particularily offensive) But this is a first for me. Shallow, thin, characters in a ridiculous plot. It's a perfect low budget horror movie vehicle that would go straight to streaming. (No one would pay to print DVDs)
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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