If you’re a reader who can’t get enough of crumbling antebellum mansions, dark family secrets, and muggy Southern weather, you’ll enjoy Four and Twenty Blackbirds. This Southern Gothic ghost story was Cherie Priest’s first novel, and while it’s imperfect, it’s quite readable and shows a lot of promise.
Set in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Four and Twenty Blackbirds possesses a strong, tangible sense of place. I once spent a brief time in Chattanooga during the summer, and Priest took me right back. She has a knack for the sensory detail that makes a book’s setting come to life. A particularly vivid scene is one in which the heroine, Eden, explores a crumbling hospital in search of clues to her family’s past.
And what a past it is. Eden’s family history is filled with all the baggage you might expect from Southern Gothic: racism, abuse, incest, murder, mental illness, and of course, ghosts. Eden’s quest begins when some of the family’s secrets catch up to her and put her in mortal danger.
Eden is an interesting protagonist; not always likeable, but always dynamic. She’s got a catty streak, and sometimes she annoyed me, but she never bored me.
I was disappointed in the ending — I wanted something more. But, I enjoyed Four and Twenty Blackbirds and look forward to reading Cherie Priest’s more recent novels.