Book Review: A Murder of Crows
A Murder of Crows
A Murder of Crows was published on January 11th, 2018. The publisher provided me with a copy of the book, but all thoughts are my own.
A dead father. A missing Spirit. An ancient manor with way too many locked doors.
Abigail Crowe is willing to accept that no amount of illegal magic will be able to bring her father back from the dead. She’s willing to appear proper at the funeral (or at least try). She’s even willing to put up with her little brother, William, and his questions about death. But when their mother whisks Abby and her brother south to stay with their estranged uncle, Dr. Edward Crowe, Abby decides she is not willing to ignore the eeriness of ancient Ravenscourt Manor. Screams in the night, an insane gardener, and a murder blamed on her late father are only the beginning.
As Abby breaks the rules to dig deeper into the mysteries surrounding her family’s history, she finds that, where magic is involved, things are rarely as simple as they appear.
A Murder of Crows is a Victorian fantasy, murder-mystery that is the first in a five-book series – The Ravenscourt Tragedies. With undertones of Coraline and the Murder Most Unladylike series, A Murder of Crows is a gothic adventure of magic, murder and family secrets.
Coraline is not the only story I saw in A Murder of Crows. Images of The Secret Garden, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Ruby Holler, and perhaps a classic young or new adult story involving the fey realm (I had previously never read one) were also conjured up throughout the book. Thus, A Murder of Crows is not only a recent addition to the ranks of whimsical mysteries in which children take center stage, but it’s an effective, spellbinding, and satisfactory combination of all the above.
From the beginning, it is clear that Abigail and William have an admirable sibling relationship, and throughout the book they work quite well together to uncover secrets, investigate mysterious events and details, and always have each other in mind. This isn’t to say they agree on everything, but their conversations are productive, respectful, and yet feel totally appropriate of children of their ages. It’s important that they have each other, because the adults in their life prove to be less than dependable, at least from their child points of view. As an adult reader, it is easy to see the adult logic in punishing inappropriate or line-crossing childhood curiosities, but A. Kirke – like Neil Gaiman, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Lemony Snicket, and Sharon Creech – has such a way with words that will make a reader of any age remember and/or indulge in their childlike curiosity, sense of adventure, and finding answers no matter the obstacle – even adult obstacles.
A Murder of Crows is a book that gives the impression of always being in place. Its timeline is fluid and anticipatory, and the twists, turns, surprises, and realizations come unexpectedly, and yet also at the right moment. It’s also a bit reminiscent of many Agatha Christie novels: the answer to the mystery(ies) seems to be obvious, but then everything turns on its head and the author carries you through your state of adoring shock to an ending that both satisfies and has you seeking out more.
Although I am making many comparisons to other novels and authors, this book truly holds its own. Standing on the edge of our world and a magical realm, the book presents conflicting arguments of magic. There are connections to the spirit world, and magical objects have such convincing connections the physical, “real” world that it is impossible not to be placed into a position alongside Abigail and William, and buy into their beliefs while also challenging them. The gardener, Beatrice, is one of the most mysterious, yet enjoyable characters (which is not to deplete the enjoyment factor of the other characters), as she challenges the children to ask the right questions, take guidance, and be brave enough to stand on their own.
A Murder of Crows will have you triple-guessing, doubling back, and realizing that this is what storytelling is all about. Childlike wonder, believable characters, and being fully immersed by a storyteller (author) until the very end.