Miriam Black, the angel of death, the fate-breaker, the punk-rock death-whisperer, returns home to face the music.
It’s possible for an author writing a series to get lackadaisical about the ingredients: characters who stay the same, doing what they do in a familiar setting. The ever more transgressive Wendig (Thunderbird, 2017, etc.) is not that guy. In this fifth book about Black, a harder-than-nails young woman cursed with an unforgivable gift, Wendig not only portrays the authentic arc of a troubled character, but also shows that our sins can indeed come back to haunt us, with permanent, unfixable consequences. Here, Miriam, who can see the circumstances of anyone’s death by a touch, has had it. She’s retreated to her dead mother’s house to drink, smoke, and do a little breaking and entering with an elderly neighbor. She’s haunted by The Trespasser, an otherworldly doppelgänger who warns, “The river is rising,” whatever that means, psycho. Plus, a copycat killer who resembles Miriam is replicating all the murders Miriam has committed over the years. Former FBI Agent Thomas Richard Grodsky, now writing a book about serial killers, is trying to help but is kind of useless. Later, Miriam gets help from ex-lover Louis Darling, whose violent murder of his new bride, Samantha, still lies in the future, predicted by Miriam. She also bears the burden of finding Lauren Martin, the Wren, similarly cursed, while avoiding getting her head cut off by Harriet Adams, a machete-wielding undead thing who’s proving to be quite persistent, despite a bullet to the brain. It’s possible to jump into the series here, but readers will get more satisfaction starting with Blackbirds (2012) and enjoying the entire sordid tale. Miriam is that rarest of gifts in any genre, the bloodied, beat-up antihero who does actually change over time.
Another profane, gruesome, and blackly funny entry in a great series, with an ending to die for.