Title: The Family Plot
Author: Cherie Priest
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
ISBN-10: 0765378248 (Tor/Macmillan)
ISBN-13: 978-0765378248 (Tor/Macmillan)
Reviewed by: Kristie
The author of the enormously successful Boneshaker returns to Tor with her unique take on the classic haunted house book
Chuck Dutton built Music City Salvage with patience and expertise, stripping historic properties and reselling their bones. Inventory is running low, so he’s thrilled when Augusta Withrow appears in his office offering salvage rights to her entire property. This could be a gold mine, so he assigns his daughter Dahlia to personally oversee the project.
The crew finds a handful of surprises right away. Firstly, the place is in unexpectedly good shape. And then there’s the cemetery, about thirty fallen and overgrown graves dating to the early 1900s, Augusta insists that the cemetery is just a fake, a Halloween prank, so the city gives the go-ahead, the bulldozer revs up, and it turns up human remains. Augusta says she doesn’t know whose body it is or how many others might be present and refuses to answer any more questions. Then she stops answering the phone.
But Dahlia’s concerns about the corpse and Augusta’s disappearance are overshadowed when she begins to realize that she and her crew are not alone, and they’re not welcome at the Withrow estate. They have no idea how much danger they’re in, but they’re starting to get an idea. On the crew’s third night in the house, a storm shuts down the only road to the property. The power goes out. Cell signals are iffy. There’s nowhere to go and no one Dahlia can call for help, even if anyone would believe that she and her crew are being stalked by a murderous phantom. Something at the Withrow mansion is angry and lost, and this is its last chance to raise hell before the house is gone forever. And it seems to be seeking permanent company.
The Family Plot is a haunted house story for the ages-atmospheric, scary, and strange, with a modern gothic sensibility to keep it fresh and interesting-from Cherie Priest, a modern master of supernatural fiction.
Quick & Dirty: A horror movie fan must read!
Opening Sentence: “Yeah, send her on back. She has an appointment.”
I love it when a title can mean two different things! The Family Plot by Cherie Priest is my first foray into Priest’s writing. I’ve had her Steampunk series on my TBR pile for years but unfortunately I haven’t been able to get to them yet and I really can’t wait to read them. The Family Plot is a standalone horror novel that is eerie and quite creepy. If I saw the ghosts as clearly as the characters within this book I would have been a goner. I definitely wouldn’t have stayed overnight after all they all saw most of these ghosts during the day light hours.
Dahlia Dutton has been put in charge of salvaging an old home in Tennessee. Her father’s company is relying on this job to keep them from going under so she must make sure she is able to get as much money out of it as possible. The lady who sold them the home, Augusta Withrow, is very secretive about the house. She says it is in disrepair and must be torn down but in reality it is still pretty much in good shape. Then there is the cemetery that Dahlia and her fellow salvagers find. It seems real but Augusta assures them that it is just a Halloween prank.
Dahlia is joined by her cousin Bobby, his son Gabe and co-worker Brad for the job. Dahlia’s father wants to make sure the job is done as quickly and cheaply as possible. They all seem to think there is something strange about the house but they are all excited about the exciting items they may find hidden in the house and property. Strange events begin right after they all get to the house. Dahlia gets so enchanted by the house that she can’t hear them calling out to her but she claims she can hear everything from inside that house. Then they all have their own ghostly experiences which all vary in levels from friendly to horrifying.
One thing that I really enjoyed was how open all the characters were to seeing ghosts and talking about it. Only Dahlia tried to hide it for a while but when the guys all started talking openly about it she finally caved and said all she had experienced.
Dahlia is a recent divorcee so she’s not exactly in the right place when she goes to the house. She tries to be friendly but since Bobby sided with her husband they aren’t exactly on friendly terms. Dahlia is a smart woman. I liked how Dahlia had her issues but she didn’t make those issues conflict with her morals when confronted with a difficult decision.
This may or may not be a spoiler. It pertains to the ending so don’t read further if you don’t want to know my thoughts or warning. However you want to take it. The Family Plot does have a bit of an open ending. If you don’t like that then you may not like this novel. It is quite like some of the horror movies dealing with ghosts end so I did come up with what I thought happened after the story was over. I like my stories to be wrapped up but this one wasn’t so bad. I kind of liked it that way.
Overall, the atmosphere of the story was pretty creepy. I found the beginning to be a little slow but once stuff started happening the story starting really picking up. I especially found the story very eerie and scary when combined with the force of nature that the group has to endure while being haunted by a scary ghost. I highly recommend this story for fans who love a good ghost story.
“Was the ghost you saw a scary one?” Gabe asked him, letting go of Buddy. The next page fell.
“She was scary as shit.”
“Old dead teenage girls are just as bad as old dead kids, that’s why,” he informed his son, but he didn’t say the rest, about her being covered with mud and blood and the miasma of having done something terrible.
Gabe went past the childhood photos and got to the one of Abigail in the yellow dress. He paused there, and asked, “Is that her?”
Bobby nodded slowly, then faster. “She’s about the right age, and the right everything. That’s her, but she looked . . . different.”
“Dead. Really, really dead.”
But Dahlia wasn’t sold. “No, you guys . . . I told you, I saw this girl, looking just like she was alive. This Abigail.” She tapped the photo. “She was even wearing this same dress, and it gave me a heart attack when I opened the album and saw the picture. This is who I saw in the cemetery.”
“I thought it wasn’t a cemetery,” Gabe said, half teasing and half wondering, like they all were.
It was Dahlia’s turn to sigh. “I never said there weren’t any ghosts. I only said there weren’t any bodies.”
FTC Advisory: Tor/Macmillan provided me with a copy of The Family Plot. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.