Evil overruns town in ‘Gathering of Crows’

Nothing much happens in Brinkley Springs.

Many of the town’s residents have moved on along with its industry. It almost seems like the town is taking its final breath of life. But none of the town’s remaining residents thought it would happen so soon — and in one night.

Five men in old-time black clothes stroll the streets, hungry, confronting anyone with whom they cross paths.

“Seriously,” Stephen said, quit fucking around. I’m not in the mood, buddy. Not tonight.”
The man stepped closer. Stephen caught a whiff of him, and winced at the stench. The smell was bad enough to make his eyes water. The stranger reeked of roadkill, like he’d just rolled around in a five-day-dead possum or something.
“Jesus Christ —”
“Is not here right now,” the man in black replied. “And even if he were, he could not save you.”

Jesus Christ might not be of any help, but a rare boarder at the town’s bed-and-breakfast could be in just the right place at just the right time. Levi Stoltzfus, an ex-Amish magus, will have to use his powerful magic to come to the town’s defense in Brian Keene’s “A Gathering of Crows.”

Keene introduced readers to Levi in “Ghost Walk” and featured him again in the prequel “Dark Hollow.” Neither of these books needs to be read to enjoy “A Gathering of Crows,” as the novel can stand alone. But readers just might want to pick up these other books after seeing what Levi can do. He seems to be afraid of nothing as Brinkley Springs comes under attack, its residents slaughtered all around.

Keene gores it up in usual fashion and readers can never be sure who, if anyone, will survive the massacre. The strangers in black target every thing with a soul, regardless of age or species. Levi only can hope to save some of the residents of this tiny town, but his task will be difficult. The mysterious creatures are old and are very familiar with Levi’s abilities.

“A Gathering of Crows” doesn’t quite scare as much as Keene’s “Urban Gothic,” one of his best. It’s also not quite as gory as his post-apocalyptic zombie novels “The Rising” and “City of the Dead.” But all that’s not saying much as Keene has proven himself a consistently good horror writer. Any fan of the genre is sure to devour “A Gathering of Crows.”

And for those who hope to encounter Levi again, Keene says in the author’s note that the magus will return for at least two more books.

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