January 16, 2014

Are You a Pelican or a Pelican't: a review of Chuck Wendig's "The Cormorant"

The Cormorant (Myriam Black #3)
by Chuck Wendig
Angry Robot Books (2013)
384 pages

Oh, Myriam. You're as cuddly as barbed-wire dipped in battery acid.

She could really use a hug too, but darn it if everyone she even slightly cares about winds up with a boatload of trouble in their laps. Boats winds up playing a bit of a role in this novel too, since she heads down to the Florida Keys to meet up with a rich, old eccentric who wants to pay her to find out how he dies.

Following the harrowing events of Mockingbird, Myriam wanders the streets on her own once again, ditching Louis to keep him a safe distance from her death magnet of a life. More so than the two previous novels, the Trespasser has become her companion on the road, taking the form of people from her past, both dead and alive, to taunt her and nudge her along her wayward path. Her path takes her to a remote island getaway on the ass-end of the Florida Keys, but the man she meets turns out to be a ruse, placed there to deliver a macabre message to Myriam. It's macabre, because when she touches the man's arm to see his death, she sees his murder one year in the future and a message scrawled in blood addressing her directly. Someone knows who she is and what she can do, and they are about to bring what little there is left in her life that she gives a damn about crashing down.

It feels cat-and-mouse, but not so much for the chase Myriam sets out on, but for the way the villain toys with her like a cat does when it catches a mouse. Myriam gets batted around, physically, emotionally, and psychologically for much of this novel, as she tries to find out who her tormentor is, how he is always one step ahead of her--oh, and her estranged mother is back in her life too, so that is a real heartrending experience all by itself.

I've already sung the praises of Wendig's writing on this series in my reviews of Blackbirds and Mockingbird, so just go read those and carry all the gushy bits over to this review. He offers such a keen sense of these characters that you can practically smell the sea breeze and cigarette smoke, it's kind of crazy. Descriptions can be sparse in one scene and then honed-in to an insane degree in the next, but I always felt this kind of Coen-Brothers-on-a-whiskey-binge quality to it. And dialogue? Cheese and rice! Myriam Black may be my favorite character right now for spitting out memorable one-liners.

I'm not sure how well the book reads for someone unfamiliar with the two previous novels. Maybe it plays out perfectly fine, but I'm gonna insist that you read the first two books if you haven't already, before you sit down with this gem. Actually, now that I think about it, you're not going to appreciate the care and timing Wendig has put into these characters unless you read all three books in succession. So do that with no need to thank me, because The Cormorant is a keeper.

Oh hell, I forgot to mention the cormorant that shows up in the book. Gah. Okay, trust me, those scenes are fan-effing-tastic. Trust me.

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