Friday, February 1, 2013

Parliament of Crows

A Parliament of CrowsA Parliament of Crows by Alan M. Clark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The three Mortlow sisters, Vertiline, Carolee, and Mary, lead wicked lives, starting at the time of the Civil War and into their old age, leaving a trail of corpses in their wake. When the Orphia, the daughter of Carolee, winds up dead in a bathtub, they are arrested and go on trial. Has the law finally caught up with them?

First of all, I'm pretty sure a group of crows is called a murder and a group of owls is called a parliament.

The Parliament of Crows is a historical novel inspired in part by the real life Wardlaw sisters and a chilling group they must have been. Elder sister Vertiline will do whatever it takes to protect her family, and the twins Carolee and Mary make her job very tough. While Parliament of Crows was published by Lazy Fascist, which is primarily a bizarro publisher, there are very few bizarre elements in it. Mary and Carolee seem to share an empathic link but that's about it. It's mostly a straight-up historical novel.

The story shifts back and forth between the sisters' childhood during the Civil War and their adulthood in the early 20th century, ensnared in a hell of their own making after Orphia's death. The shifting builds suspense and does a lot to develop the characters of Vertiline and her sisters. The way they go from behind girls in Milledgeville during the Civil War with a deceased mother to cold hearted killers later in life was both believable and horrifying. Pushing a maid down the stairs for fun? Insurance scams? Poisonings? These are just a few things the sisters perpetrate.

The writing is really good. In addition to the gothic and horror elemetns, there's a fair amount of dark humor. Even though the Mortlows are horrible people and probably sociopaths to some degree, I caught myself hoping they'd stay out of jail a few times.

Four stars. I'd like to read a longer book by Alan M. Clark.

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