In the Shadow of Blackbirds

Cat Winters, Author
Cat Winters. Abrams/Amulet, $16.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4197-0530-4
Reviewed on: 02/11/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-1-4197-1023-0
Compact Disc - 978-1-4703-8370-1
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Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black lives up to her striking name—she’s a curious girl fascinated by science, living in 1918, “a year the devil designed,” as Mary puts it. With WWI raging on and Mary’s father on trial for treason, she goes to live with her Aunt Eva in San Diego, Calif., even as influenza sweeps across America, devastating the population and rendering those left behind paranoid and weary. Grieving for her childhood beau Stephen, who died while fighting overseas with the Army, Mary goes outside during a thunderstorm and is struck dead by lightning—for a few minutes. When Mary comes to, she discovers she can communicate with the dead, including Stephen. Winters’s masterful debut novel is an impressively researched marriage of the tragedies of wartime, the 1918 flu epidemic, the contemporaneous Spiritualism craze, and a chilling love story and mystery. Unsettling b&w period photographs appear throughout, à la Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, greatly adding to the novel’s deliciously creepy atmosphere. Ages 12–up. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Agency. (Apr.)
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