Author: Cat Winters
Protagonist: Mary Shelley Black
SYNOPSIS: In the midst of World War I, the world was hit with the Spanish Influenza, not only are people being killed in the line of fire, but those that stayed home must also fight the deadly flu.
Those who have lost loved ones flock seances to talk to their loved ones, and a new phenomenon, taking pictures with the dead. Unlike those around her, Mary Shelley never believed in ghosts, and she never believed in the ghostly portrait. As she deals with the lows in her life, she must rethink her beliefs in the afterlife, especially when someone close to her is showing themselves to her, one that she knew to be dead.
REVIEW: I’ve read my fair share of books that goes bump in the night, a lot of thrillers and definitely more than a handful of mystery novels, but never have I lost sleep on any of them, until this book. Winters did such a great job in creating such an ominous environment with the fear of the Spanish Influenza and the impending doom of the first World War. You can feel the dire situation that people were facing during that era and how the social status of people no longer matter; the influenza struck the young, the old, the rich and the poor.
I also really enjoyed that Winters included the changes of woman’s role in the household and society because of the war. As more men have been shipped to fight at the front, many more women are stepping up to keep their household intact financially. As seen with Mary’s aunt, she has stepped up in being the main caretaker of her home, but at the same time she is still very much aware of her femininity. I love how she subtlety included this character to show the growing change that women will face in this century. At the same time we have Mary Shelley who excused the modern woman. She dresses the way she wants to, speak up for what she believes and argues for those beliefs. Right from the start we see her stubbornness and her independence, which is rarely seen during these times on a 16 years old girl.
As for the main bulk of the story, which is the mystery surrounding Stephen, it is also as amazing as her use of setting. I don’t really want to go into depth with it, but it this book left me sleepless at night. Not because I was reading it all night, which I was, but even after the book was done, I was left picturing each and every creepy detail as I lay in the dark. Even now as I write this review, in broad daylight, I’m getting the chills. Yes, I admit I don’t really read a whole lot of adult horror novels, but for a YA novels this was up in the scary chart. I really do give Winters props for using her backdrop, because it suited her novel very well and the use of Blackbirds, amazing! I will never look at blackbirds the same way again.
Yes, I really am giving this book high praises because it scared me through and through. FYI, I’m scared of ghosts. So if you’re not then this book might not be up your alley. I really thought that more people would enjoy this book, but I don’t really see a lot of people put it on their ‘Scary Recommendations’ or ‘October TBR’. For me, highly recommended for the September/October months, or for those who enjoys being scared.
ENDING: I’m not really sure if I should reveal the ending because its such a fantastic ending. Yes, I basically guessed what has happened, but how and why was a bit off. I’m glad that it went that way, heartbreaking, but effective with this story.
Stephen came back from war with PTSD. Julius wanting to win the photo competition and Mr. Darning wanting proof of the afterlife, used Stephen as a ginuea pig. On the night of his death, suffering from hallucinations, Julius and Mr. Darning poisoned him to be able to take a picture of Stephen’s soul leaving his body. Under severe stress and imagining big blackbirds (really his brother and Mr. Darning) in his vicinity, Stephen picked up a gun to kill the ‘blackbirds’, but killed himself instead.