Reviewing the Pages: A Murder of Crows

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A Murder of Crows: Seventeen Tales of Monsters and the Macabre

A collection of short horror, ghost, and dark fantasy stories for adults, woven together by a flock of crows, telling stories to entertain a girl trying to survive a tragedy…

It was we crows who took your daughter, in case you were wondering. She didn’t run away. We had–I had–been watching her for some time, listening to her tell stories in the grass behind the house. She would sit near the chicken coop and watch the white chickens pick at the dirt, pulling up fat worms and clipping grasshoppers out of the air as they jumped toward the fields.

Some of them were good stories. Some of them were bad. But that’s what decided it, even more than any issue of mercy or salvation or anything else. Crows are, for one, possessive of stories. And also by then I had pecked almost all the elders into coming to listen to her at least once, except Facunde, who was then mad and responded to nobody’s pecking, not that I had had the courage to exactly take my beak to her. “She is like a daughter to me,” I had pled with the others. “She listens.” They laughed at me, they rattled their beaks, they came and heard her and were convinced, or at least bullied into pretending they were convinced.

We took her on the same cold winter day that you traded your son to the fairies, the wind blowing in cold gray threads, ruffling our feathers. It had snowed a few days before that, a storm that had killed your husband, or so it was said. The wind had snatched the snow out onto the prairie, hiding it in crevices. It had been a dry year, and even though it was still too cold to melt the snow, the thirsty dirt still found places to tuck it away in case of a thaw.

I stamped my feet on a sleeping branch while the others argued. Some argued that we should wait for spring. So many things are different, in the spring. But old Loyolo insisted: no, if we were to take the child, we would have to take her then and there: there had been at least one death already, and no one had heard the babe’s cry for hours.

We covered the oak trees, thousands of us, so many that the branches creaked and swayed under our weight. I don’t know if you noticed us, before it was too late. You were, it is to be admitted, busy.

The girl played on the swings, rocking herself back and forth in long, mournful creaks. She wore a too-small padded jacket and a dress decorated in small flowers. She was so clean that she still smelled of soap. Her feet were bare under their shoes, the skin scabbed and dry, almost scaly. Her wrists were pricked with gooseflesh, and her hair whipped in thin, colorless threads across her face as the wind caught it. The house had the smell of fresh death, under the peeling paint and the dusty windows, and seemed to murmur with forgotten languages, none of which were languages of love or tenderness. Afternoon was sinking into evening. The girl’s breath smelled like hunger.

“Now!” called old Loyolo, at some signal that not even I could have told you. And thousands of birds swept out of the trees toward her. From the middle of it, I can tell you, it seemed a kind of nightmare. Wings in my face, claws in my feathers. The sun was temporarily snuffed out, it was a myriad of bright slices reflected off black wings…

I’m a fan of short stories. Don’t get me wrong, I love longer novels too. But, the magic is condensed and more pronounced in shorter forms. And the last two reads that I’ve had on my Kindle were short story collections. And, by leaps and bounds, this is a much better version. There are seventeen short stories in total, even though there are sixteen titled stories, the seventeenth story is the one that ties it all together. Which is also something that I like about this collection. I love that there is a story that these stories that are woven into the narrative of this collection. The crows are well done, even if I am a little confused at parts where stuff happens that is not shown through the eyes of our main crow narrator. But, don’t let that distract you from the sixteen unique tales. I will admit, not all of the tales are going to be for you, but you should go check this short story collection out anyway.

So, there are a lot of these short stories in this collection.  And I will say that not all of them will be for you.  For example, “Lord of Pigs” and “The Rock that Takes Off Your Skin” were a pair of tales that I wasn’t a big fan of.  But, that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the collection.  There were far more stories that I enjoyed, and had to think on some of them.  Mainly to see if I’ve read that particular plot before.  And some of them, I have to say, I haven’t. I really enjoy that. That, or stories that take an established idea, and rattles it around a little bit to look at it from a fresh perspective.  Like “Treif” and “Inappropriate Gifts” for example.  “Haunted Room” is another very unique tale that I just adored, especially for the little twist to the tale at the very end.  Overall, I am very pleased with this read, and for those of you who like short stories that will grip you with the cold tendrils of suspense, than this collection is for you.

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