cover image The Compleat Crow

The Compleat Crow

Brian Lumley. Subterranean (, $35 (192p) ISBN 978-1-59606-554-3

Histrionic italics and exclamation points ("%E2%80%94Only to freeze in that position as irresistible fingers grasped his wrists and drew him effortlessly up!") are symptomatic of these 11 heavy-handed stories featuring occult investigator Titus Crow. Their biggest drawback is a consistent inability to scare the reader. The longest entry, "Lord of the Worms," with a villain lifted from a far superior M.R. James tale, recounts Crow's experiences in the house of a cult leader, who ostensibly wants him to catalogue his occult books. Unsurprisingly, the job offer is a pretext, and the employer has a more sinister purpose. The formulaic plot isn't fatal, but Lumley fails to compensate for it with atmosphere, clever twists, memorable prose, or solid characterizations. The other inclusions suffer similar flaws. Though Lumley is known for Lovecraft pastiche, these stories lack the sense of cosmic menace present in Lovecraft's most enduring works. This deluxe edition of inferior work is strictly for collectors and completists. (Mar.)