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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

The Crow: The Lazarus Heart
Poppy Z. Brite
HarperPrism/pp. 214/ $13
ISBN 0-06-105824-6

James O'Barr's Crow mythos is, of course, an extension of primal myths and the core unoriginal idea that "love never dies." But, it's become a potent one in the last few years, even surviving a disastrous second film built on the franchise. And why not? Such myths are ingrained in us and speak to us any time they are skillfully re-told. The Crow gives a writer ample room to create -- the bird is a supernatural messenger/guide that returns a soul from the dead to seek justice. The spirit is invulnerable only so long as it pursues those specifically responsible for the disquietude. This element, along with a strong theme of romance, allows our dead anti-hero to become vulnerable and elicit even more reader sympathy.

HarperPrism has launched a series based on The Crow (tm) with books by David Bischoff, Chet Williamson, and Poppy Z. Brite. The series may work better than most tie-ins simply because authors aren't confined by preconceived characters. If Bischoff and Williamson, both good writers, have served up novels of the quality of Brite's The Lazarus Heart, then it doesn't matter what you think of the trademark -- this is a vivid, passionate, entertaining dark fiction to be appreciated on its own merits.

Although less complex than her other novels, The Lazarus Heart, still has some interesting levels. It pokes at societal hypocrisy and offers some sociopolitical bite with a serial killer whose madness -- a paranoiac fear of the androgyne, the transgendered, the transsexual, and the homosexual, who he knows are Alien invaders spreading contagion -- is repellent, fascinating, and all too believable. The "good" guys here are gay/transgendered, artistic, slightly decadent denizens of that most decadent of U. S. cities, New Orleans. There's also a closeted gay cop who introduces an element of noir grit and tough guy angst to the mix.

It's tightly plotted, well-crafted and yes, it's romantic, melodramatic, visceral, violent, and sometimes over-the-top. We get buckets, heck, fountains of blood and body parts; true love (but no explicit sex,) self-sacrifice, a hurricane, a dodo, black lace and latex, interesting interior decoration, Edgar Allan Poe (c'mon who could resist tying "The Raven" to The Crow?), a hurricane named Michael, a pretty damned unhelpful crow, characters who read Clive Barker and Caitlin Kiernan, we even get Brite finally writing a female character -- well, okay, so the character USED to be a male. There's an insouciance to The Lazarus Heart that is delightful, yet it's poignant as well. As protagonist Jared Poe says, "Get a clue, babe. Haven't you looked in a mirror lately? We're all monsters."

Brite is not going to please everyone and she obviously doesn't give a crow's feather. Good for her. Her bird ain't wet, it's a winner. -- Paula Guran

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Copyright © 2002 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.