So, this seems like a good opener to Halloween season. I admit, this one feels a little rushed to me because I was trying to hit a deadline instead of just getting it done when I could. But I’m happy with how it turned out and hopefully you all will enjoy it.
Music City Salvage is in a bad way. Their stock has been standing on the shop floor for months and their last two big sales haven’t come through with payments yet. So it seems too good to be true when Augusta Withrow shows up offering the salvage rights to her family’s mansion and all its outbuildings. In a last bid to keep the lights on and stay in business Chuck Dutton, Music City Salvage’s owner, snaps up the rights and sends his daughter Dahlia and a hand full of workers to break down the site. The place is beautiful, an absolute gold mine for the struggling company. Unfortunately, once they arrive the team discovers that someone or something never left the house.
Cherie Priest’s The Family Plot is not what I would usually grab first on a trip to the bookstore. I’ve just not found a lot of horror that holds me for the long run. After this book, I’m going to have to reassess that.
A lot of the horror I’ve read in the past has relied on a gimmick to make the scary happen, which makes it pretty hit or miss if the gimmick works for you particularly, the scares work. The Family Plot doesn’t do that. It builds its ambiance and characters slowly, letting the reader get used to things and introducing minor bits. Then it builds. This works really well for me. It also doesn’t shy away from its supernatural aspects; the ghosts are there right from the beginning just as a matter of fact. The house is old, so it’s haunted.
I’m also a big fan of what the author did with the characters. Because she took that same slow build approach she used for the horror aspects and applied it to character interactions and development as well. We start out with the main character Dahlia, her lay about Cousin Bobby, his son Gabe, and the new guy Brad. We don’t get huge blocks of back story on them, most of what’s told rather than shown is told using Brad as a window for the reader. Then that’s pretty quickly replaced with what’s shown and we get more in-depth.
That does bring me to one of the only issues I have with the book though. For all the good the author does with her build up, the follow through feels kind of scattered. Once the main plot hits we get some really cool ideas, but then it seems like they get passed by on the way to the climax. There’s also a bit near the end that the book could have done without, but that’s my only other big thing.
So, how does it all add up? I did really enjoy this book and would like to see more like it from Ms. Priest, but there were just those couple of things that prevent it from getting a full five. Tightening up some of the ideas used would have gone a ways, but could have also gone a bit far on the other side really easily. I think I would have also liked to have seen more of the team discovering the Withrow family back story. That said, the writing is good and I really enjoyed the atmosphere. So I think The Family Plot earned a four out of five.