I finally got my hands on a Joan Aiken Gothic (there are also Gothics by her sister, Joan Aiken Hodge) and I have mixed feelings. First of all, I think it's more mystery-suspense than Gothic. I should also mention that it was first published in 1967.
The Crystal Crow was original and unusual starting with the heroine and her train ride as a virgin and then, well.... I won't give it all away. The opening pages have hints of closeted lesbianism as well. The novel is definitely twisted and different; I will say that it made me gasp aloud several times.
Aulis is the main character, and her story goes for the first chapter; then, the narrator introduces Charles and Eleanor (Nell). Charles receives the news that he has severe heart troubles and will not live much longer. He thinks back about his now deceased, but previously new wife, Zita, and how she died mysteriously in Italy. The narrative follows Charles for some time through a disturbing incident with a battered female friend where he says she "probably deserved" it and wants to commiserate with the batterer. That part of the novel turned me off a bit; I will say that it is definitely not politically correct.
More characters are introduced, including Aulis' roommate, Magda, who is in love with her and is abusive. The violence in the novel is staggering, actually, but the pitiful acceptance of violence by the heroine and others is even more annoying.
Anyway, all these characters and more converge on Cornwall together, and then the story sort of sputters along to an unsurprising sort of conclusion.
Characterization: 3/5 [I could picture all the characters, but their motivations were fuzzy at times, especially those of the heroine. She was just not smart with some of her decisions at all. Furthermore, most of the characters were plain unlikable.]
Plot: 3/5 [The complex narration style deserves a 3/5, but only a 3 because there are too many characters and subplots at times.]
Atmospheric/spooky elements: 2/5 [It's not too spooky; there are Gothic elements here, though, for sure, but I would honestly call it a murder mystery or something like that. It is disturbing at points, for sure, and I would call it controversial.]
Literary? 3/5 [Not extremely so, but the novel is not stupid either.]
Romance? Yes, and plenty of sex, too, especially for this time period.
Rating: 2+ stars **+
I don't recommend this one unless you want a change up.