Mary Shelly Black was just 16 years old, in 1918, when her father was dragged off to jail accused of treason, because of his German heritage and the fact that he doesn’t believe in the war. While the Spanish Flu epidemic raged around the world, she was sent to San Diego to live with her Aunt, while her father awaits his trial. She is in love with Stephen, a young photographer, who is heading off to war torn Europe. They will briefly meet, one last time, as she poses ungraciously for his brother Julius, a spiritual photographer. Friends since childhood, Stephen shares his mistrust and dislike of the fake photography in which his brother Julius is involved. He leaves Mary Shelly with two of his own precious photographs, for fear Julius will destroy them, and a cryptic message.
Mary Shelly’s photo with a ghostly figure beside her in the background, taken on an earlier visit to her Aunt, has brought in a good deal of business for Julius. Wanting to add another photo of her to his display, thereby proving he can capture a deceased loved one for a price, Julius tries to pull Mary Shelly into his schemes, bilking those who have lost loved ones to the flu or war. As the months pass, Mary Shelly tries to make sense of all that is happening around her: people dying, reading to veterans, missing limbs and wits, at hospital, while corresponding with Stephen and her father. When Stephen’s letters stop, he comes to Mary for help. He tells her they are killing him. But can she solve the mystery and help the young man she so loves …one last time.
Historical fiction at its richest, In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters takes you into the trenches of Europe, the hospital wards of the recovering and dying veterans. You can almost taste the terror of a country flooded with the fear of death and feel the pain of loved ones no longer of this Earth. You can almost smell the onions and garlic used to fight off the flu, see the blood splattered fields of the war torn earth and hear the crying of pain from the sick, maimed and dying. The emotional impact of those who are so desperate to bring back a loved one that they will believe that an image of the spirit can be captured by a camera or hear a voice in a séance; it can make your heart ache. There is mystery and romance as well in this tale that will have you curled up in a corner somewhere back in time.
Interspersed throughout the book are actual photos of the time period and further historical information at the end of the story.
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