That long-ago summer, four friends came face-to-face with strange, dark events they couldn’t explain away. As they grew up and left town, they all tried to forget. Instead, their secrets shaped their lives, haunting each of them in their own way. Now, in this chilling four-part serial by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger, it’s time to come home.
All My Darkest Impulses – 56 pages
Fog Descending – 60 pages
Circling the Drain – 60 pages
Love the Way You Lie – 76 pages
All books were published on May 27th 2021 by Amazon Original Stories
All My Darkest Impulses is the first in a four part collection of short stories that make up House of Crows. I read The Sleep Tight Motel by Lisa Unger last year, another short story, and enjoyed it so much that as soon as I saw this series of four connected stories, I knew I’d have to give it a try. Apparently the series is loosely inspired by The Haunting of Hill House and that’s just one more reason it found it’s way onto my endless list of books to read as autumn approaches.
In this first instalment we’re introduced to the house at the centre of it all. Merle House – massive, decrepit, an unwanted inheritance to Matthew Merle, who goes there with his family with the view to making it saleable and being free of the place, for of course, there’s a history attached, one that is teased at in this opening tale, and it involves Matthew and a group of friends during their younger days.
We also meet Claire, one of Matthew’s childhood friends who knows something of the history of Merle House. Years later it still seems to haunt her, and a traumatic experience during work starts Claire thinking that it may be time to return.
Creaky old house, strange noises in the night, visions that may be dreams, things that can’t be possible and yet in the moment they are, all courtesy of Merle House. There’s an air of mystery and menace about the place, and All My Darkest Impulses is a great introduction to what I hope is going to be en entertaining series. After something of a swift conclusion I think I’m going to read the rest of the series right away as they’re all already available, so, on to book 2…
Fog Descending is the second volume of the story, and focuses on another of Matthew’s friends, Ian, a man working as a ‘spiritual cleanser‘, ridding homes of negative energy. Ian shared that summer with Matthew and his group of friends, when a girl went missing, and strange things happened.
The narrative goes between Ian, his memories of the past, and continues the thread set up in the first book, resolving that cliffhanger and continuing the tale of Merle House and introducing the Dark Man – a myth, or something inexplicable but real? Who knows?
There are some wonderfully creepy moments in this short tale, all adding to the overall mystery of Merle House and a past that draws this varying group of people back together. It also reveals more about the mysterious Havenwood, briefly mentioned in the previous story, now brought to atmospheric and eerie life as Ian recalls the abandoned place in the woods that he and his friends stumbled across all those years ago. As with the previous story, this one concludes with Ian’s realisation that he must return home, that things from the past need dealing with.
And so, with one remaining member of the childhood friendship group to meet, I’m moving on to…
Circling The Drain, the third in the House of Crows series, and our introduction to Mason. I moved straight on to this volume without reading the blurb, it’s the continuation of one larger story after all, so I had no idea we would meet the adult Mason working with troubled teens suffering from anxiety. He’s doing his best, grateful for the opportunity he’s been given, and trying to make the most of it, so when the past comes calling via one of the group members looking him up online and finding out about a missing girl from years ago, it’s not great news.
The story switches between Mason and the Merle family, back at Merle House, where Matthew’s daughter Jewel is experiencing things that cannot possibly be real, and getting involved with an online friendship with someone called Eldon, apparently a boy she met in an online game, to whom she confides some of her worries and fears.
I enjoyed the ongoing mystery and general air of the supernatural around Merle House, from the weird noises, to Matthew’s late-night wanderings, to the realtor in search of answers about her family’s past.
Mason’s willingness to assist someone asking for help gets him into all manner of trouble and leads to the inevitable return to face the past of Merle House. And so we proceed to…
Love The Way You Lie, the fourth and final volume in this enjoyable series. The final book blends past and present, truth and revelations, and things long hidden finally come to light. The myth and legend of the Dark Man is finally revealed as Matthew and his friends reunite once more to try and find Matthew’s daughter Jewel, missing and presumed to have ventured out to Havenwood, and put to rest their shared and troubled past.
It made for exciting reading as the conclusion drew closer. It’s fraught and I couldn’t put the book down, needing to know whether Jewel would be safe and what had really happened to this groups of friends years ago.
I really enjoyed reading this series. The narrative switching between the present and past, the way the group came back together, the darkness at the heart of Merle House, bleak, tragic and awful. I don’t want to say too much more and risk spoilers, but this series is well worth a read.