Review: THE CORMORANT by Chuck Wendig

cormorant

I just finished the third book in Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series. This is punk dark fantasy. Period. End of story. Full stop.

Why?

Because every time I read about Miriam Black, I can hear the Sex Pistols and The Exploited jamming together in my head with every turn of the page. In my humble opinion, Ms. Black is the most bad ass, the most kick your teeth in, the most dangerous and unpredictable female protagonist in fantasy books today. If there were vampires, she wouldn’t sleep with them – she’d grab a flamethrower and a 40 ounce bottle of Jack Daniels, chug it back and exterminate them. She will @#$% up your sh*t. Again, period. Full stop. End of story.

There is a percussive rhythm to Wendig’s style of writing and in this installment of my favorite train wreck’s misadventures, we see Miriam as a suspected serial killer at the start of the book. She’s being interrogated by the FBI and she’s as defiant as ever. She’s got a story to tell  – so unbelievable at times, you actually have to feel sorry for the pair of agents who are trying to string together some kind of truth to a roller coaster ride that takes the reader all over the Florida Keys, to Miami, to the seediest spots you can think of. And folks, nobody writes seedy better than Wendig. The strength of the series is in Miriam herself, because she’s trying like hell to eke out an existence from book to book. An existence comprised largely of ten and twenty dollar bills, endless cigarettes (a lot of them bummed from others) stolen automobiles, knife and gun violence not to mention hard liquor that can also be used to strip paint off an old house.

And why wouldn’t she be screwed up? When she touches your skin she sees your end. Sometimes you burn to death in an overturned car or rot away from the inside thanks to cancer. Maybe you’re an old man with dementia and you fall down the stairs or maybe someone puts a bullet in the back of your head when you least expect it. This is Miriam’s existence. This is her life, curse, burden .. whatever. I can’t think of any other female lead who faces the kinds of things Miriam faces. She’s a creature of the shadows, really, and in this book, Wendig paints a vivid picture of those shadowy places where the rest of us roll up the windows, lock the car doors and hope like hell we can still make that green light ahead.

The plot is a simple mystery with a supernatural twist. Miriam is drawn to Florida because someone wants to pay her $5K to find out how and when he dies. And when she gets there, when she steps inside her time machine of the macabre, she’s greeted by a killer who knows her name and wants her dead. Someone, it seems, who knows about her unique ability and who sets up an elaborate scheme just to grab her attention. Hi jinks ensue. Really. Bloody. Hi jinks. (Sniff the cordite. Just sniff it!!)

Buckle up dear reader. Have a belt of something that will burn a hole in your stomach. Light up a smoke and prepare yourself because you know what? You’re going to get some of this story on you as you read. Why? Because there are very few authors I’ve read who have absolutely mastered the art of showing and not telling. (Seriously, are you thinking of trying to get published? You should read all of Wendig’s books because he’s going to school you on how it’s done.)

A damned good book by a damned good author. An anti-hero protagonist who could easily kick Randall Flagg in the balls while mashing her fist in the face of the Devil himself. It’s the bad part of town for nearly three hundred pages. Grab a stab vest, won’t you?

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