Book Review: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

By Haywood County Library | Jun 28, 2013

Reviewed by Librarian Donna Surles

This novel is set in 1918 during World War I. Mary Shelley is a young woman who has to move to San Diego to live with her Aunt Eva after he father is arrested for treason. Influenza is spreading everywhere. Mary's aunt makes her wear surgical masks made with onions to ward off germs. When Mary arrives in San Diego, she meets Stephen, a special guy she has known since childhood. They have a romantic meeting, but Stephen will be sent to France to be a soldier the next day. Mary and Stephen continue their love by writing letters. However, one day the letters stop.

Mary carries on by doing science experiments and by helping soldiers who have been sent to convalesce. During this time period, there was a lot of interest in séances and the paranormal. People wanted to be able to see their loved ones lost to war. Stephen's brother, who is a photographer, has been taking pictures with imposed images and selling them to families. Soon Mary begins to investigate whether these images or real or fake. However, when Mary starts to see ghostly images of Stephen, she is led into a dark mystery.

The specter of death hovers during this novel. The wartime dead, the influenza victims are always close, even on Mary's street. The author also explores "shell shock," which prevails in any war. This is a fascinating book with interesting characters and much attention to historical detail.