“In the Shadow of Blackbirds” Cat Winters

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Published April 2, 2013. Amulet Books. 407 pp. Includes Period Photographs and Author’s Note.

IntheShadowofBlackbirdsIt was the fall of 1918, and the Spanish Influenza raged across the country. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black’s German father had been arrested for being unAmerican, as it was the middle of World War I and anyone who dared speak against the war in any way was subject to arrest. Anyone who spoke German or looked German was also considered dangerous.

Since her mother died at childbirth, Mary had no place to go so wound up living with her aunt in San Diego. There, she was able to see Stephen, her childhood sweetheart, one more time before he went off to war. During a series of unforeseen and unknown circumstances, Stephen wound up dead. It was claimed he’d died a hero’s death, but something in Mary Shelley’s gut told her this was not true.

During this time period, with so many people dying of the Flu and from the war, people were desperate for one last moment with their loved ones. Spiritualism seemed to provide the answers they sought, with many making a tidy profit fooling bereaved relatives through seances and trick photography – including Stephen’s brother Julius. Because of a lightning strike and near death experience, Mary Shelley had developed the ability to sense Stephen’s restless spirit. She wanted to help him find peace, but soon found herself dragged into a mystery deeper and much uglier than she’d imagined.

Readers aged 12 and older will learn much about this confusing time in American history, while also becoming detectives along with Mary Shelley to find out the mysterious circumstances of Stephen’s untimely death. The author’s period photographs at the beginning of selected chapters will help them put faces to the events going on in Mary Shelley’s life.

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