Review: The Family Plot by Cherie Priest
Published by Audible Studios, Tor Books on September 20th 2016
Genres: Horror, Horror & Ghost Stories
Format: Audiobook, Hardcover
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.
I loved the entire premise of this book. The story focuses on members of a scavenging team that go in to old properties to pull out pieces that can be restored and resold. Chuck Dutton, the owner of Music City Salvage, decided to seize a financial opportunity that will either make or break the struggling company. Sight unseen his signs the papers to purchase an old estate that looks promising. He pretty much paid more money than he could afford for it, so if it doesn’t work out, this decision will destroy their company. He sends his daughter (and our main protagonist), Dahlia, down to head the salvage team.
First, I really liked Dahlia. She is recently separated, working on her independence. And her personality is great. No nonsense, but very likable. As the team gets to the house, I have to say I quickly came to love what they do for a living. Going into old houses and building, salvaging the pieces that can still be of value was just a wonderful thing to read about. It brings a bit of beauty from the house’s past out, and shares it around to new places. It lets parts of the house live on even if it is about to be torn down.
The prose of this felt similar to many urban fantasy books I’ve read. I think while this is classified as horror, it would have a strong cross over appeal to readers that may not read horror, but love urban fantasy. Just the way the story is told, the protagonist’s personality and narration felt more like UF to me. Perhaps it is because of Dahlia’s personality, her against the odds, stand on my own type of persona.
Even the way the horror aspect of this was approached felt similar to UF to me. It was a bit a mystery, and almost had a slight detective style to it as Dahlia and her coworkers try to uncover the reason and source of the strange goings on. But, don’t let that dissuade any fans of horror, because while the pace and narration reminded me of many good urban fantasy stories I’ve read, the creepy ghost and haunting aspect of this puts it solidly in the horror genre. I would never classify this book as anything else, I just think because of the style of writing, it will have crossover appeal to some readers that may typically steer clear of horror.
And speaking of creepy going ons. This book is one seriously haunting ghost story. The suspense and mystery and oddities encountered kept me at the edge of my seat, reading any chance I could find. Highly recommend this one, especially this time of year when creepy ghost stories are just something you need to read.