Speaks the Nightbird Hardcover – Sep 1 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
A trial for witchcraft proves the tip of an iceberg of intrigues in this absorbing historical mystery, the first newly published novel in 10 years from McCammon (the book was written in the mid-'90s), a bestseller in the 1980s with such supernatural novels in the Stephen King tradition as Usher's Passing and Baal. Set in 1699 in Fount Royal, a coastal settlement in the colonial Carolinas, this latest unfolds the adventures of magistrate Isaac Woodward and his assistant, Matthew Corbett, who have been summoned to the struggling town to adjudicate in the trial of Rachel Howarth, a young widow accused of deviltry that is blamed for murders, wretched weather and other calamities driving settlers away. Though town leaders press for swift execution, Matthew is persuaded by Rachel's dignity and fortitude that she's innocent. Using skills honed living by his wits as an orphaned child, he pursues inconsistencies in testimony and throwaway clues and uncovers an elaborate plot involving pirate booty, animal magnetism and deadly deceit at the highest levels of town organization. This robust tale is as historically detailed as it is long, and its recreation of an era where superstition held its own with enlightenment is among its strongest achievements. Anachronisms, improbably fortuitous coincidences and private dramas that make Fount Royal seem a pre-Revolutionary Peyton Place lard the plot, but Matthew's race against time to save Rachel with the rudimentary tools to hand makes a compulsively readable yarn. McCammon's loyal fans will find his resurfacing reason to rejoice. (Sept.) Forecast: Those who enjoyed the author's last three novels (Mine; Boy's Life; Gone South), studies of the human condition that transcended genre labeling, will snap this one up, too. But McCammon also lost readers with these novels because in them he turned away from the horror themes that made his reputation. This latest could well gain him new fans, but it won't win back any horror readers.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
After a ten-year absence from publishing, McCammon (Boy's Life) returns with this historical novel of colonial Carolina. In 1699, legal clerk Matthew Corbett accompanies magistrate Isaac Woodward to Fount Royal, where he has been summoned to decide whether a witch is living in the newly established settlement. The two are immediately thrown into danger, even before they reach the town. And once there, they must deal with the inhabitants, some of whom stand to gain if Rachel, the accused, is executed. Soon it becomes obvious to Matthew that everyone has secrets, even the magistrate. In the end, he alone must try to unravel the mysteries. While many of McCammon's prior novels dealt with the supernatural, his latest contains horrors that are more real. McCammon also provides extensive historical detail, re-creating the legal procedures, medical practices, and everyday existence of the time. The language and situations are often disturbing, especially because many of the accusations against Rachel are sexual in nature, but McCammon tells a compelling story that should find a wide readership. Highly recommended for popular fiction collections. Joel W. Tscherne, Cleveland P.L.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
And he marks his return with a different kind of horror story. At the turn of the 18th century a magistrate and his clerk ride toward a recently established village in the Carolinas to deal with a charge of witchcraft. But all is not as it seems. I won't spoil the plot except to say that if you're a McCammon fan this novel is not what you're expecting; but it's great nonetheless.
If you haven't realized it already this novel has been split into two separate books. Part I is titled "Judgement of the Witch" and part II is "Evil Unveiled". The two books need to be read in order to avoid any confusion.
The setting for the story is colonial America, at the very end of the seventeenth century. It appears that the swampy town of Fount Royal in the Carolinas is having its share of troubles, which range from crop failures to murder. The citizens have decided that witchcraft is afoot, and they believe that Rachel Howarth, the beautiful and exotic looking widow of one of the recently murdered men, is the witch that is causing all their troubles. They have thrown her into the town's jail to await trial by the territory's magistrate, Isaac Woodward.
Assisted by his very capable and highly intelligent clerk, Matthew Corbett, the Magistrate presides over the trial. Matthew, however, believes Rachel to be innocent, despite the mounting evidence against her. So, he decides to make some independent inquiries of his own in order to ascertain exactly what is afoot in Fount Royal. What he discovers is certainly evil, but it is a miasma of evil not of the kind derived from supernatural portents. There is more going on behind the scenes in Fount Royal than one would ever have bargained for.Read more ›
In Volume One the characters and situation were established (I'd said of the first half that it "essentially parades its whodunnit-style suspects before us,") and in Volume Two the red herrings are dealt with by our intrepid detective hero, as he works his way toward discovering the real killer.
McCammon is, as always, a graceful and articulate writer, and this is a satisfying conclusion to his novel--particularly enjoyable, once the reader settles into the genre, is his occasional subverting of expectations. One can easily imagine further volumes, should McCammon decide to make his hero a recurring detective, and I'd look forward to them (I don't know of any circa 1700 detectives in New York, but it would be a fun read!)
Note: This is really about a 3 and a half starrer for me--a 3 star ranking from me is actually fairly good, I reserve 4 stars for tremendously good works, and 5 only for the rare few that are or ought to be classic; unfortunately most books published are 2 or less.
Others have recounted the plot. What's good about this book is he doesn't patronize his audience with lengthy exposition regarding its historical setting, he expects his readers to be literate and well-educated; he has a whiz-bang opening to get you into his story (and it's needed, as the story drags in the middle of volume one, which essentially parades its whodunnit-style suspects before us); he's a graceful and articulate writer.
The characters could be a little more compelling, the emotional stakes a little higher, but it's a good read once you commit to it. If you enjoy McCammon, you know you'll like this well enough--and if you've never read him, this isn't a bad place to begin; see if you like it, and know that greater delights await.
Note: a 3 star ranking from me is actually fairly good; I reserve 4 stars for tremendously good works, and 5 only for the rare few that are or ought to be classic; unfortunately most books published are 2 or less.
Most recent customer reviews
Love this book and look forward to reading the whole series. They are a cannot put down read. Very gripping to the last page.Published 16 months ago by tropikatz
I am a fan of his previous works I was unsure about this series but I should have realized that his talent transcends and I enjoyed this book immensely. Read morePublished 18 months ago by TH
It is not Swan Song or Boy's Life but it's still a great read! I wish it was on Kindle.Published on Sept. 11 2013 by Morticia Adams
Très bon livre.L`auteur nous livre une bonne histoire bien racontée et bien menée sur fond historique. Read morePublished on Feb. 15 2012 by Ben Mears
This was a very long book but worth every page. It was my first book by Mr McCammon but, I'm sure, not my last.
The author can weave a tale! Read more
I have always maintained that there are three great modern American horror writers: Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Robert McCammon. Read morePublished on June 1 2004 by William Sugarman