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A Parliament of Crows

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  41 ratings  ·  21 reviews
From World Fantasy Award winner Alan M. Clark comes a godforsaken southern gothic based on the three most evil sisters in history. They are the Mortlow sisters, and they do it all for the family.

A Parliament of Crows is the story of three women in black. Always in mourning clothes, creepy and secretive, devious and deadly, they might at first blush appear to be long lost m
Paperback, 162 pages
Published October 15th 2017 by IFD Publishing (first published October 21st 2012)
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Dan Schwent
Dec 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bizarro, 2013
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
Jon Recluse
An engaging work of historical fiction based on the true crimes of the Wardlaw sisters, three women whose survival instincts, honed in the Civil War, proved to be deadly to other family members....including small children. Until the death of a daughter/niece finally brought them to the attention of the law.

Clark brings empathy and a depth to this novel that one rarely finds in true crime accounts, recreating the pivotal moments of these women's lives leading to their downfall.....and offering a
April Cote
A story of how far family will go to save or help one another. Even if that means the death of their own loved ones. This story is based of the true story of three murderous sisters from the early 1900's. The story goes back and forth between their struggle to survive as young women during the civil war, trying to start over after the war, through marriage, jobs, children; all while loved ones from spouses to their own children seem to die rather suspicious deaths. A great read that will have yo ...more
Vincenzo Bilof
Aug 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The psychosis of history, women left to the ravages of war; survivors from The War Between the States suffering forever from the terror of an upbringing that forever shattered their souls. Alan M. Clark’s A Parliament of Crows is a page-turner that delves into the personal horror of infamous women who endured the torments of time and may have been… unlucky enough to survive.

While reading this book, I couldn’t help but turn the pages because I wanted to know WHY and HOW these women became who th
A.J. Griffiths-Jones
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Based on the true story of the Wardlaw sisters, this is a thought-provoking tale of the invisible bond between siblings. The author has cleverly used creative license to build the characters according to their real-life counterparts & does so perfectly. The period, events & emotions are relayed in vivid detail, capturing the reader’s attention from the very start. I’m very impressed to say the least.
M.M. Santos
  The Dirty South?
                                          Civil War times?
                       Oh I love me some historical fiction!

                  Three murderous (yet resourceful) sisters?
Check, check, and check!
  The good and decent part of me listened to the story being told between the three women and knew something was a littl
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-the-best
A Parliament of Crows rules, plain and simple. It's short, dirty, awful, sweet, and horrifying; it's paced expertly and structured thoughtfully. It eschews the fantastical for the grotesque, reads like pulp, takes the best parts of crime fiction and southern Gothic and then does its own thing.

Get it for yourself, mix up a batch of mint juleps spiked with absinthe, and read it until you reach the last page. Savor how the book and the liquor linger on your palate, bewitching you long after you've
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bizarro, history
Note: I actually finished this years ago, but it didn't show up on my "reading" list until I populated it today!

What I recall of this book was that it was fantastic. I enjoyed the historical aspect and the tension that Alan Clark wrote into the story. I also recall that he captured the dark feeling and unspoken story between the three main characters beautifully.

I do plan on re-reading this book and will hopefully have a more helpful review at that point. It was worth the read the first time, an
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The story virtually starts at the end with the three Mortlow sisters being held for murder. The story then shifts back and forth between their childhood during the Civil War and their adulthood in the early 20th century till their eventual arrest.

You learn early in the story that Mortlow sisters are far from innocent the twins Carolee and Mary are extremely cruel and twisted and take delight in causing pain to others.Vertiline the eldest is hard women who will and does anything to protect and ke
Vittoria Corella
Alan M. Clark is a writer like few others. No, I'm serious. His characters are “people”. People who have survived in their bodies, intangible living beings, humans full of soul, that isn't quite physical. His characters don't have a story, actually, they are alive.

“A parliament of Crows” is an ancient English expression which derives from Germanic folklore. It is due to the belief that crows, which were believed to be as intelligent as humans, would reunite to judge their own who had offended th
David Bridges
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is a thin line between "protecting your family" and pschyopathy. This is a great book and I really enjoyed it. It's expertly written with steady flow of tension that is compiled with horror after horror. The depth of relationships in the book are incredible especially when reflected with the cruelty of this world Clark has created. I found myself having these complicated feelings about the sisters because what they do may seem selfish and horrible but as you learn their experiences you rea ...more
Ross Lockhart
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With his latest novel, A Parliament of Crows, author Alan M. Clark (Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim) weaves a strange tale of twisted family values that will shock and surprise readers, leaving them gasping for more. Part courtroom drama, part historical thriller, part Antebellum Gothic, A Parliament of Crows follows the lives of three sinister siblings--the Mortlow sisters--from privileged childhoods spent surrounded by servants and slaves in the pre-Civil War South to stark ...more
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-faves
Amazing! Honestly, this is a great book that deserves so much more press that it's been getting. I love the way that Clark drew me in so close to three very unlikeable people and made them very real to me. Plus, he's able to keep three narrative timelines alive at once without it feeling gimmicky or forced. This is a very hard book to recommend as the subject matter is quite difficult at times, but if your reading stomach is strong, you will get amazing payoffs. It's a beautiful and constantly h ...more
Jun 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most disturbing stories I've read in a long while, and one I won't soon forget. Inspired by true events, Mr Clark provides his fictional sisters with a backstory that helps to humanize the characters while in no way excusing their monstrous behavior. A gripping read I couldn't put down. ...more
Elizabeth Engstrom
This is an extreme case of sibling dysfunction, expertly told by Alan Clark. Three sisters, at once rivals and co-dependent, encourage each other in their lawlessness. Very creepy, yet a satisfying read.
Sid Stark
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"A Parliament of Crows" is another installment in Alan M. Clark's collection of "horror that happened" historical mystery/horror books. It tells the story, based on historical fact, of the three Mortlow sisters, who went on a killing spree that lasted decades.

The story could have been lurid, and there are certainly moments in the book that may cause more squeamish readers to want to turn away, but, as with the author's books about the victims of Jack the Ripper, the focus is not on the gory deta
Caleb Wilson
Dec 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gothic in plot but not tone. I appreciate that the writing isn't fevered and emotional, instead, it's fair, even, calm, and almost mild, which I found let it get under my skin all the more. I also really like the structure, which bounces back and forth between the past and present in such a way that each turn colors our view of the three sisters differently -- and with each turn they become both more awful and more understandable. (Nice reference too to the horrible series of twins in A Pretty M ...more
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
Clark's concocted another great read with an eerily entertaining tale of deeply disturbed sisters...and that's mildly stating their level of disturbance.  As a reader, I was torn with wanting to forgive the vile sisters for their survivalist actions or hoping they'd get what they deserved.   As I thought events were settling down and  coming to a close, a stellar climatic scene gave me horrific jolt....I love a good reader shock!    A fine read full of colorful characters, historical bits, and d ...more
Edward Morris
May 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I heard Alan M. Clark read from this at Bizarrocon and it is just epic. Like Flannery O'Connor and [whoever really wrote Carnivale] tag-teamed the most densely-layered Gothic-procedural mystery, full of wit and canny understanding of the form, but more importantly a broad and all-encompassing cultural understanding of, and respect for, characters and reader alike. He does here with the Wardlaw sisters what Russell Banks did with John Brown's extended posse in CLOUDSPLITTER,and the results are j ...more
Cranky - The Book Curmudgeon
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing

This is a well written work of historical fiction. It is based on the true story of the Wardlaw sisters who survived the Civil War and went on to commit many crimes. They never got over their father’s death and were mentally deranged in different ways. In this story, they are never fully aware that what they are doing is wrong. In their minds, they have a very good reason such as “it is to keep our family together”, “it is to protect the family”, “it is your duty to the family” etc
Rena Mason
Aug 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nothing is more horrifying than the inhumanity of man against man. In his latest novel, Alan M. Clark perfectly captures this feeling and puts it to words in A PARLIAMENT OF CROWS. The story follows the lives of three sisters who believed they were above the law in their decades of wrongdoing. While reading, I went through the emotions of despising these women, sympathizing with them, and then finally, having pity on them. This book is well-written with a refined writing style that truly enhance ...more
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Melody Clark
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Lisa Burdette
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Author and illustrator, Alan M. Clark grew up in Tennessee in a house full of bones and old medical books. His awards include the World Fantasy Award and four Chesley Awards. He is the author of seventeen books, including twelve novels, a couple of novellas, four collections of fiction, some of them lavishly illustrated, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. Mr. Clark's company, IFD Pub ...more

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