When Detective Jamison Landry enters a basement looking for drugs, he instead finds a man held captive at the hands of bizarre ritual killers. He frees the man, who calls himself Mal and seems strangely fixated on Jamison. Mal is rather odd in his countenance and his behaviors hinge on the disturbing. Almost overnight, Mal becomes Jamison’s shadow and as he does, terrible things begin to happen. Jamison begins to wonder if he is going mad.
For Malphas, a Prince of Hell, the human Jamison Landry is rather perfect. Instead of his natural tendency towards destruction, Mal wants to protect Jamison. But he serves a dangerous master and, despite his best efforts, he is both a magnet for and instigator of dark tidings in Jamison’s life. Ultimately Mal must decide if Jamison and the tenuous relationship they have is worth challenging the legions of Hell and the darkness that follows.
The Little Crow is the first in the Heart of Darkness series by Caitlin Ricci. The book has a strong voice and sense of self, which is always enjoyable to read. The plot is somewhat complex and there are times the writing tends to trip over itself. As a result, sections of the novel occasionally fail to make sense of the story’s wider context and more than once I had to re-read a portions in order to figure out what was happening. This was frustrating, but overall the story was engaging enough that it didn’t completely detract from my experience.
The real strength of The Little Crow is Malphas. He is everything that a demon should be. Cold, calculating, and ruthless, Mal never conforms to our traditional expectations of a protagonist. He gives Jamison roses, not because they are beautiful, but because they remind him of blood. He constantly offers to kill or maim (and in one case does) those who hurt or cause even minor annoyances to Jamison. He is not kind and we find him lacking in all artifice. Which is why I like him. He is honest in his evil and though as humans we find such things repulsive, he is far more comfortable in his skin than most. Jamison serves as our human counterpart, the one to whom we are supposed to relate. And Mal and his apparent lack of humanity suitably horrify him. So much so that it makes Jamison’s attraction to the man rather baffling. We’re simply never sure why he ultimately welcomes Mal into his life. Despite being well rounded and feeing like a fully formed character, Jamison pales in comparison to Mal, but I think most characters would. Mal simply steals every page upon which he appears.
The Little Crow has some overall issues with uneven writing and an overly complex plot that could have been improved with a bit more editing. But Malphas is such an intriguing character that he makes any other concerns seem minor. He isn’t warm and fluffy and anyone looking for a traditional romance will be sorely disappointed. But if you love original characters and paranormal suspense, then you’re going to enjoy The Little Crow.