That's what makes Blackbirds so fantastic (and yes, it really is fantastic). It is a murky book full of death and decay, but there is always a ray of hope - usually in the form of big Louis, one of our (anti?)hero's love interests. This ray of hope keeps you reading, keeps you guessing, maybe, just maybe, it will all turn out ok in the end.
Blackbirds is funny, too. Really funny. Dark funny, grotesque funny, but always funny. That's important, because with all the gritty, nasty drama in this novel it is bordering on depressing, and depressing doesn't make for a good read. Thankfully Miriam is so brazen, so bolshy, that she manages to have you laughing out loud in even the most perilous situations.
The pace of the book is pitched just right. We race around on a mad road trip with our heroin as she bounces from one hell to another, being chased by killers, seeing the horrific fates of friends and strangers alike, but it is slowed and steadied by a series of interludes. Some of these take the form of bizarre dreams featuring ghosts with crosses of electrical tape for eyes, others fill in back story for our villains, and the best of all take the form of an interview Miriam does, presumably a while before the start of the book. They help to ground the story and give some much appreciated history.
One slight let down is the novel's main antagonist Ingersoll, or “Hairless Fucker” as Miriam calls him. He is a bit of an evil villain cliché. An emotionless, hairless businessmen, who could be from countless books and films. Thankfully his righ-hand-woman, Harriet, is much more interesting. She is dead inside, and all she lives for is causing pain and suffering to anyone and everyone. Plus, her interlude that explains how she became who she is is fantastically gory.
The concept of Blackbirds is simple: Miriam Black knows when you are going to die.
Still in her early twenties, she's foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name.
Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can't save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she'll have to try.
This is urban fantasy, but done in a fresh, bloody, broody, exciting and exhilarating new way. Blackbirds is one of the best books of the year so far, and a real must read.
Blackbirds is out from Angry Robot Books on May 3rd 2012
Order your copy of Blackbirds from Amazon UK