The first short story I ever read by Alan Baxter was “In Vaulted Halls Entombed,” which featured a group of soldiers chasing terrorists into a cave in Afghanistan only to see them trapped by something their training never prepared them for. Since then, I always get excited when I see his name attached to an anthology.
With Crow Shine, I don’t have to wait for his next short story, I merely need to turn the page. Nineteen wondrous, magical shorts. Some new for this collection, but many published before. They were all new to me, making this work all the more enjoyable.
“Crow Shine”—The title story is that of a legendary bluesman, his special shine, and his grandson who takes it all in. Great storytelling.
“The Beat of a Pale Wing”—A chilling story of the mob…and magic.
“Tiny Lives”—A charmingly original tale of an old man who can breath life into clockwork animals…at a price.
“Role the Bones”—Luck and Chance…what’s the difference? And are you willing to roll the bones?
“Old Promise, New Blood”—The age-old story of what happens when a deal with the devil comes due.
“All the Wealth In the World”—How cool would it be if you could buy time?
“In the Name of the Father”—A sensational story of a young priest in the Outback, although he’s not exactly what he seems.
“Fear Is the Sin”—A beautiful, lyrical story of a theater troupe and their controversial, sensual performance.
“The Chart of the Vagrant Mariner”—This is the result of a mashup between a swashbuckling tale of piracy on the high seas and H.P. Lovecraft.
“The Darkest Shade of Grey”—My favorite story in the collection and one of the best shorts I’ve read in recent memory.
He was supposed to be the rough, tough, take no shit reporter, getting to the bottom of everything. All he ever got to the bottom of lately was a bottle, and then he started right over at the top of the next one.
This was one of the longer stories in the collection and when it was over, I still wanted more.
“A Strong Urge to Fly”—A clever tale I found to be both charming and creepy. Could easily be subtitled “Mrs. Oates’ House of Cats and Contradictions.”
“Reaching for Ruins”—What can you do when the plants run amok?
“Shadows of the Lonely Dead”—Intelligent horror and another terrific tale.
“Punishment of the Sun”—I never quite learned what was going on in this story, but that didn’t make it any less creepy.
“The Fathomed Wreck to See”—The tale of a siren and choices.
“Not the Worst of Sins”—If there’s a moral to be found in this story of vengeance in the wild, wild west, it’s never trust a ghost.
“The Old Magic”—The perils of an extraordinarily long life.
“Mephisto”—A short yet powerful story of a legendary magician.
“The Darkness In Clara”—When Michelle’s lover commits suicide, she returns to the town where Clara was raised, looking for answers. A wonderful story to finish this collection.
All of the stories contained in this body of work are inventive, original, and above all entertaining. Each tale has it’s own unique voice. If I didn’t know they were all written by Alan Baxter I would think this was an anthology instead of a collection.