Now this is embarrassing. I found a handwritten copy of this review among my papers, but can’t find any record of where and when it appeared in print (the book is from 1997), and possibly it was never published.
So, warts and all:-
BRIAN LUMLEY – The Compleat Crow (NEL pb, 276pp, £5.99)
Perhaps now better known for his bestselling Necroscope and Vampire World books, Brian Lumley began his career with a series of short stories and novels chronicling the adventures of Titus Crow, an occult investigator and cosmic voyager battling the eldritch horrors of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. NEL have recently released the six Crow novels in two omnibus volumes and now we have this companion book collecting together, for the first time in a British edition, Crow’s shorter adventures.
“The Compleat Crow” contains ten short stories and a novella, ranging in time from 1969 to 1983. Some, such as ‘Billy’s Oak and An Item of Supporting Evidence’, are rather slight, more in the nature of anecdotes than stories. And, given that the original stories appeared in different places, an element of repetition inevitably occurs, with the contents of Crow’s library described once too often for my liking. There is plot similarity too, with ‘The Viking’s Stone’, ‘The Mirror of Nitocris’, and ‘DeMarigny’s Clock’ all unfolding more or less the same story; only the object at which wrongdoers meet their doom differing. Some stories are effective though, such as ‘Inception’, the account of Crow’s genesis. ‘The Caller of the Black’ pits Crow against a fiendish sorcerer, while in the intriguing and clever ‘Name and Number’ he takes on the Anti-Christ himself. Perhaps best of all is the novella ‘Lord of the Worms’, Crow’s first encounter with the occult, a cleverly plotted story of move and counter move.
This book should appeal to those who like Horror and Dark Fantasy, but eschew work from the more visceral end of the spectrum. My advice though, for the maximum enjoyment, would be to read the stories over a period of time rather than gulp them all down at the one sitting.