IFD Publishing is reissuing Alan M. Clark’s historical novel A Parliament of Crows as part of its new boutique imprint Horror that Happened – Based on a True Story. This is a continuation of my experience re-reading the book.
As the three Wardlaw sisters (renamed Mortlow for the purposes of this work of historical fiction) continue their reign of criminality, they alternate from being sneaky co-conspirators to being suspicious and intolerant of one another. Clark handles these back-and-forth changes in demeanor very well, as the women seem to delight in tormenting Carolee’s daughter and Mary’s remaining living son. They present a united front when investigated for their nefarious doings, but behind the scenes, they don’t seem to appreciate one another.
Tensions ratchet up as they take sides with one another, alliances always shifting, as they commit more and more murders, as they perpetuate more and more crimes of insurance fraud.
The horrific climax of the book melds the wretched turning point of the sisters’ starvation at the end of the Civil War and the turning point of the trial, and Vertiline’s illness in jail.
No one does well in the wake of these sisters, and this true tale is chilling in its cold-bloodness, stepped in historic culture.
An excellent work of historical fiction.