(It’s not a chapter, but dammit, I promised content and you’re gonna get it. )
The Family Plot by Cherie Priest
I only really know Cherie Priest from her Clockwork Century novels and Those That Went Remain There Still, but I’d heard that she does ghosts well, too. I was not deceived.
The premise of The Family Plot is a simple one: a salvaging business is offered a contract to strip on old southern mansion of whatever the hell they want. The house is, naturally, haunted as fuck. Plot ensues.
Of course no story is THAT simple. The business is a family one and it’s nearly going under – this house could make or break them and there are a lot of red flags. A lot. Add in family drama and there’s already a lot of tension before we even get to the house. Then when they do arrive, they have to contend with the family drama of the dead. Such a headache.
Before long, the crew discovers an old photo album and a family
plot graveyard *cough* which gives them an excuse to contact the former owner and ask her some questions. Some nice, reasonable, prying questions about long dead family members and what their deal is. I kid, I kid. That conversation is handled with southern delicacy, and let’s be real, Ms. Winthrop would never answer any damn question she didn’t want to.
The story and its mysteries unravel fluidly albeit a little bit predictably. But in a good way, I felt. Like rereading a book you’ve mostly forgotten. Sure, you remember how much you liked it, but the details have faded into a fond blur. Rereading becomes more like reading with prescience or narrative déjà vu. I found myself correctly guessing the direction of the plot at least half the time, and where I was wrong, it was pleasantly so. One slight spoiler for an example: our MC, Dahlia, has some bad blood with her cousin and coworker, Bobby, and it makes for a tense work environment in no short order. I think most readers and watchers of horror movies are used to seeing strained relationships deteriorate further under the added stress of the supernatural. Surprisingly though, (delightfully, imo) Dahlia and Bobby are able to recognize that something is going on that has nothing to do with them and put aside their personal issues for a while. I just love it when adults act like adults. Such a thrill.
The way Priest wrote about the haunting was so well done, too. Really, the highlight of the whole book. The subtle, insidious way it snuck into Dahlia’s thoughts, the way everyone experienced the ghosts differently and their different reactions to being haunted, the way the ghosts presented themselves and what it told us about who and how they were when they were alive. All gold. Other horror writers should take note.
The ending itself wasn’t to my taste, but that’s more a matter of preference than anything really wrong with it. Loose ends were tied up and consequences were met out. All in all, a satisfying read that kept me up way waaaaay too late.
I conclusion, let me just say that Cherie Priest is one of those authors who’s always a good time. I may not LOVE what she’s written, I may nitpick the hell out of it, but I always enjoy the experience. I hope you do too.
*Additional side note: The Goodreads description is a bit misleading. Not terribly so, but I did wonder if whoever wrote it had misread or only skimmed parts of the book.