Blackbird by ND Gomes

8/10 Blackbird is an accomplished, moving and heartbreaking novel that should not be missed.

It’s New Year’s Eve when the beloved and popular Olivia goes missing on the Orkney island that was her home. Of all her friends and family, it’s her little sister Alex, who takes it the hardest. 

Blackbird is the claustrophobic account of Alex’s life immediately following her sister’s disappearance. Her search for answers, the reasons behind those she finds and her journey at the hands of grief are all depicted in excruciating first–person detail.

It’s an impressively emotionally effective novel for such a swift read, diving deeply into the troubled, fourteen-year old’s mind and suffocating in its depiction of her every thought and feeling. It evokes a uniquely impotent feeling in the reader as Alex’s loss of joy, friendship, and normality is graphically depicted.

As the relationship between Alex and her parents breaks down under the stress of the situation, the teenager looks for hope in the lead detective of the case, DI Birkens. The two form an unusual bond that allows a glimmer of hope to shine through the unrelenting darkness that now plagues her life.

The actual investigation into Olivia’s disappearance serves as a framework within which to experience our protagonist’s trauma, and so takes a back seat for most of novel. 

However, the tone shifts sharply from psychological drama to regular crime read when Gomes brings everything to a close, which unfortunately takes some of the edge off an otherwise incredibly sharp read.

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