In the Shadow of Blackbirds

9 CDs. 10:45 hrs. Recorded Books. 2013. $97.75. ISBN 9781470383701. Playaway. digital download.
Gr 8 Up—Mary Shelley Black's very name sets an eerie tone, bringing to mind menacing monsters and the power of lightning. Mary Shelley, a 16-year-old with a knack for tinkering, has come to live with her Aunt Eva during the flu epidemic of 1918. She had previously fallen for Stephen, a talented photographer, but they were caught in a compromising situation by Julius, who purports to capture spirit images in photographs. Interest in séances and the afterlife runs high as war and disease have taken many loved ones too soon. Julius is making a fine living, and Stephen has been reported killed at the front. Winters's debut (Amulet, 2013) is full of descriptions of smells-many of them rancid or tinged by the onions and garlic worn and eaten to ward off the flu. Mary Shelley tastes bitter grief, hot metal rage, and "carrots that taste like rocks" as she seeks to separate reality from imagination when she senses Stephen's spirit nearby. He tells her he is beset by blackbirds that tear at the flesh of the boys at the front. Along with the air of the supernatural, deliberate hoaxes enter into the story. The satisfying conclusion resolves an earthly mystery and sets a troubled spirit to rest. Angela Goethals narrates in a low, slightly husky tone, well suited to this ghostly story. Her voice wraps itself around the rich imagery, and will alternately lull listeners and send chills up the spines of those seeking historically grounded Gothic romance. The print book contains period photographs not available with the audiobook.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

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