The Family Plot - Tor/Forge Blog

8 Haunted House Fantasy Reads to Delight with Fright!

The haunted house is a classic horror set piece. What’s supposed to be a place of reprieve is an iron cage; ensnaring you, forcing you to confront a myriad of ghosts, ghouls, and secrets best left buried. Here are eight titles starring houses to contain your worst nightmares—be they demons, a gaggle of ghosts, or unabashed intimacy.

by Kaleb Russell

masters of death by olivie blakeMasters of Death by Olivie Blake

Viola Marek is both struggling real estate agent and vampire, a facet of identity that both presents a range of different problems and solutions in one’s life. Tragically, it won’t help her un-haunt the house she needs to sell. That’s where Fox D’Mora enters the picture. He’s a medium, so he can help with Viola’s ghost dilemma, but he’s also a complicated sham. He’s not really a medium, but he is the godson of Death (entity). As the quantity of immortal and undying beings tangled with Viola’s ghost house rises, the game begins. It’s a special one. One the immortals play. There is only one rule: Don’t lose. 

The Mystery at Dunvegan Castlethe mystery at dunvegan castle by t.l. huchu by T.L. Huchu

Everyone’s favorite fifteen-year-old ghostalker, Ropa, arrives at the worldwide Society of Skeptical Enquirers’ biennial conference just in time to be tied into a mystery—a locked room mystery, if an entire creepy haunted castle on lockdown counts. One of the magical attendees has stolen a valuable magical scroll. That’s bad news. But here’s the good news: Ropa can access a unique network of information and intrigue: the castle ghosts.

Just Like Home by Sarah GaileyJust Like Home by Sarah Gailey

At the behest of her estranged mother, Vera Crowder returns home in spite of the tragic memories it holds; memories of the bodies her beloved father (moonlighting as a serial killer) left buried there. One day, Vera starts finding notes written in her father’s handwriting. If it’s not the leech of an artist her mother has chosen to house leaving them, then who is? To find the truth, Vera must dig deep and uncover secrets she’s been running from all her life.

The Family Plot by Cherie PriestThe Family Plot by Cherie Priest

To save their family’s floundering salvage company, Dahlia Dutton is tasked by her father to oversee the stripping of an esteemed heiress’s family estate. Unbeknownst to Dahlia and her crew, there’s a sinister presence at the aged estate looking to wreak chaos before the job is done. The Family Plot is an atmospheric modern Gothic that will leave you reeling.

The Library of the Dead by T. L. HuchuLibrary of the Dead by TL Huchu

The first book in Huchu’s Edinburgh Nights series contains a bevy of haunted houses as a precocious teen explores the haunted underside of modern Edinburgh, speaking to the dead, looking for leads to find the one responsible for snatching children and leaving them empty husks. Huchu’s rendition of Edinburgh is a lush, evocative one that gives the ghosts in this story an air of wonder in lieu of abject fear.

Mapping the InteriorMapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones by Stephen Graham Jones

One night, a young Blackfoot boy named Junior wakes up to find the ghost of his recently deceased father wandering the house dressed in full Blackfoot regalia. To prove to himself he’s real, Junior takes to meticulously diagramming the house’s interior, recording when and where his father appears. It quickly becomes apparent his father’s reappearance is something deeply sinister. Like much of Jones’ work, there is an ache to the writing that’s impossible to ignore. Espousing a kind of hurt that lingers long after you’ve turned the last page.

The Bone Orchard by Sara A. MuellerThe Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller

Sole survivor of a race of necromancers, Charm is a prisoner of the Emperor with nothing but her children and her bone trees to bring her solace. One day, as the Emperor lays in his deathbed, he gives Charm one final command: learn which one of his conniving sons is his murderer. She can succeed and be set free, but that entails betraying the ghosts of her fallen people in the process. Will she follow the will of her dead master or forsake the sanctity of the empire to sate her hunger for vengeance? Trade in a haunted house for a haunted bordello and you

Under the Whispering DoorUnder the Whispering Door by TJ Klune by TJ Klune

Charon House is perhaps the most ideal haunted house one would want to reside in; that is, unless you have a paralyzing fear of intimacy, the kind of warm and kind intimacy Klune’s work is best known for. Charon House is a place where the dead crossover with the help of its good natured owner Hugo and the deliciously sarcastic reaper named Mei, although not before helping themselves to hot tea and the most scrumptious scones. But our protagonist, Wallace Price, isn’t ready to pass on. Due to his dour demeanor and cold-heartedness, he’s missed out on all the goodness life has to offer. So, with the help of Hugo, he attempts to live a lifetime in 7 days. Under The Whispering Door is a heartwarming haunted house book about coming to terms with loss and seeking out new beginnings.


Ask the Staff: Our Favorite Halloween Reads

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, EVERYONE!!!! It’s our absolute favorite time of year and we’re excited for candy, costumes, and curling up with a scary book. We wanted some recommendations on what to read and asked the experts what their go-to creepy books are. And by experts, we mean our terrific and terrifying staff. Check out their best Halloween picks here!

image-39122Kristin Temple, Associate Editor

My go-to Halloween/Spooky Season read is Stephen King’s IT. Every few years, as the weather starts to cool off, I’ll transport myself back to Derry and watch gleefully as the Losers throw rocks at bullies, face their fears, and save their town. Something about the coming-of-age themes and the epic battle against evil really puts me in the Halloween spirit.

image-29826Jordan Hanley, Marketing Manager

Halloween is not only one entire season on the calendar, it is also an entire ~mood~. Working on Nightfire titles means that I get to think about Halloween as others think about Christmas– i.e. all year long! Since I joined the Nightfire team, I first dipped my toe and then completely submerged myself in the horror genre. I’ve been a diehard Constant Reader of Stephen King for as long as I can remember, but luckily for me, I am surrounded by horror fans who have expanded my view of what horror can be.
A few recent Halloween atmospheric reads have been:
The Family Plot by Cherie Priest and Halloween Season by Lucy A. Snyder.
The Family Plot takes place in a haunted house that bites back. I recently moved and had been hunting down antiques and gently used furniture up and down the Jersey shore. The Family Plot centers around a gold-mine– a house left untouched in the boonies. As I was furniture hunting, I constantly wished I could have been in this house! But without all the horrible things that happen in it.
Halloween Season by Lucy A. Snyder is a collection of short stories by the author of one of my most anticipated forthcoming Nightfire books. Lucy is an incredibly talented writer, and these fun-sized stories are perfect for curling up on the couch with on a chilly October night.

image-39125Julia Bergen, Marketing Manager

I don’t actually have a go-to Halloween book, because I very rarely reread books, I always want something new! So at Halloween I usually pick out something scary/autumnal that I haven’t read yet. I really love novellas for this, since they’re quick and can fit into my reading routine, like The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht, or The Atrocities by Jeremy C. Shipp.

image-39126Theresa Delucci, Senior Marketing Director

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is a horror classic for a reason and I return to it frequently, but for the last few years I’ve been revisiting its modern spiritual descendant, A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. When the leaves change color and the sky gets gloomy, any falling-apart house in New England could contain a falling-apart family like the Barretts. Is teenager Marjorie very sick or very possessed? Things only get worse and more terrifying and, seen through the eyes of Marjorie‘s clever kid sister Merry, you’re pulled into an ending that’s horrific, heartbreaking, and leaves you wondering what haunts every lonely soul.

image-39032Rachel Taylor, Marketing Manager

I’ve never had a go-to Halloween book before, but I’ve found one this year that I know is going to be my new yearly re-read—Slewfoot by Brom. If you loved 2015 film The Witch, this is 1000% the book for you. It’s also filled with some absolutely stunning yet creepy art, which I can’t help but keep flipping back to.

image-39034Lizzy Hosty, Marketing Intern

My go-to book for Halloween is any of the Series of Unfortunate Events books. I’ve been periodically working my way through them since I never read them as a kid, but obviously Halloween is the best time to read these creepy stories! I’m also really excited to read Nothing But Blackened Teeth, because I have been rocking the pre-order pop socket, and cannot wait to double that energy but holding the book in one hand and my phone in the other.

image-37538Angie Rao, Design

The Monster of Elendhaven!

It’s spooky and dark but also fun and short so you can read it and then eat some candy while you process your feelings.
What book are you most excited to read this Halloween? Let us know in the comments!

a cat, Marketing Coordinator 

This interactive necromantic legal thriller from Max Gladstone has something scarier than skeletons and demons: balancing cost of living, debt, career advancement, and life satisfaction (in addition to many skeletons and demons)! Pay off your loans! Make partner! Find a hot partner (if you want)! DIE! BE REBORN AS A DEATHLESS SKELETON! GO TO WORK ON MONDAY!
My transition into all caps is meant to reflect my all caps love for this game, that you should go play immediately. Also check out Deathless: The City’s Thirst, where after working with other mortal magic practitioners to depose a god, you must take on god’s task of procuring water for a desert city.


$2.99 eBook Sale: October 2021

It’s officially October and that means it’s time for tricks, treats, and SALES! Check out all the chilling and thrilling ebooks you can snag for $2.99 here.

Image Place holder  of - 78The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

Music City Salvage is owned and operated by Chuck Dutton: master stripper of doomed historic properties and expert seller of all things old and crusty. Business is lean and times are tight, so he’s thrilled when the aged and esteemed Augusta Withrow appears in his office. She has a massive family estate to unload—lock, stock, and barrel. For a check and a handshake, it’s all his. And it’s enough of a gold mine that he assigns his daughter Dahlia to personally oversee the project. Augusta Withrow left out a lot of things. It’s empty, but Dahlia and the crew quickly learn it is far from abandoned. There is still something in the Withrow mansion, something angry and lost, and this is its last chance to raise hell before the house is gone forever.

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Poster Placeholder of - 35Psychomech by Brian Lumley

Richard Garrison, a Corporal in the British Military Police, loses his sight while trying to save the wife and child of millionaire industrialist Thomas Schroeder from a terrorist bomb. While Garrison is recovering from his injuries, Schroeder makes him an offer the young man cannot refuse-refuge at Schroeder’s luxurious mountain retreat and rehabilitation from the best doctors who can treat Garrison’s blindness and if not cure him, at least teach him a new way of life. But Thomas Schroeder has a secret. He is dying and determined not to lose his life. The doctors tell him his body cannot be saved. But about his mind? Garrison’s healthy young body would make an excellent replacement for Schroeder’s failing corpus.

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Image Placeholder of - 81The Doll Collection edited by Ellen Datlow

The Doll Collection is exactly what it sounds like: a treasured toy box of all-original dark stories about dolls of all types, including everything from puppets and poppets to mannequins and baby dolls. Featuring everything from life-sized clockwork dolls to all-too-human Betsy Wetsy-type baby dolls, these stories play into the true creepiness of the doll trope, but avoid the clichés that often show up in stories of this type.

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Placeholder of  -68Wild Cards X: Double Solitaire edited by George R. R. Martin, written by Melinda M. Snodgrass

Aboard his grandfather’s spaceship and fleeing the violent turmoil between jokers, aces, and nats that his vicious ambition spawned, Blaise is headed for a new conquest: the planet Takis. Dr. Tachyon is left behind… but he’s lost more than his only way of returning to his homeworld. Blaise has stolen his body, as well—leaving Tach trapped in the pregnant body of a teenage runaway.

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$2.99 eBook Sale: October 2020

There’s a hint of fall in the air and we are SO excited for all the thrilling reads we have to offer this month with our down-priced ebooks! Check out which ones you can snag for only $2.99 throughout the entire month of October below.

Placeholder of  -7Alone with the Horrors by Ramsey Campbell

Three decades into his career, Ramsey Campbell paused to review his body of short fiction and selected the stories that were, to his mind, the very best of his works. Alone With the Horrors collects nearly forty tales from the first thirty years of Campbell’s writing. Included here are “In the Bag,” which won the British Fantasy Award, and two World Fantasy Award-winning stories, “The Chimney” and the classic “Mackintosh Willy.”

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Place holder  of - 34The Toll by Cherie Priest

Titus and Melanie Bell are on their honeymoon and have reservations in the Okefenokee Swamp cabins for a canoeing trip. But shortly before they reach their destination, the road narrows into a rickety bridge with old stone pilings, with room for only one car. Much later, Titus wakes up lying in the middle of the road, no bridge in sight. Melanie is missing. When he calls the police, they tell him there is no such bridge on Route 177 . . .

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Image Place holder  of - 21Hell House by Richard Matheson

Rolf Rudolph Deutsch is going die. But when Deutsch starts thinking seriously about his impending death, he offers to pay a physicist and two mediums $100,000 each to establish the facts of life after death. Dr. Lionel Barrett, the physicist, accompanied by the mediums, travel to the Belasco House in Maine. For one night, Barrett and his colleagues investigate the Belasco House and learn exactly why the townfolks refer to it as the Hell House.

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Poster Placeholder of - 35HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear. The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations but, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

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Image Placeholder of - 68The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel

West Virginia, 1966. For thirteen months the town of Point Pleasant is gripped by a real-life nightmare culminating in a tragedy that makes headlines around the world. Strange occurrences and sightings, including a bizarre winged apparition that becomes known as the Mothman, trouble this ordinary American community. Mysterious lights are seen moving across the sky. Domestic animals are found slaughtered and mutilated. And journalist John Keel, arriving to investigate the freakish events, soon finds himself an integral part of an eerie and unfathomable mystery.

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The Keep by F. Paul Wilson

“Something is murdering my men.” Thus reads the message received from a Nazi commander stationed in a small castle high in the remote Transylvanian Alps. Invisible and silent, the enemy selects one victim per night, leaving the bloodless and mutilated corpses behind to terrify its future victims. When an elite SS extermination squad is dispatched to solve the problem, the men find something that’s both powerful and terrifying.

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Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge

Halloween, 1963. They call him the October Boy, or Ol’ Hacksaw Face, or Sawtooth Jack. Whatever the name, everybody in this small Midwestern town knows who he is. How he rises from the cornfields every Halloween, a butcher knife in his hand, and makes his way toward town, where gangs of teenage boys eagerly await their chance to confront the legendary nightmare. Both the hunter and the hunted, the October Boy is the prize in an annual rite of life and death.

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Legion by William Peter Blatty

A young boy is found horribly murdered in a mock crucifixion. Is the murderer the elderly woman who witnessed the crime? A neurologist who can no longer bear the pain life inflicts on its victims? A psychiatrist with a macabre sense of humor and a guilty secret? A mysterious mental patient, locked in silent isolation? Lieutenant Kinderman follows a bewildering trail that links all these people, confronting a new enigma at every turn even as more murders surface.

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I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells

Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t demand or expect the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there’s something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat—and to appreciate what that difference means. Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can’t control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.

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Queen by Timothy Zahn

Nicole Hammond is a Sibyl, a special human that has the ability to communicate with a strange alien ship called the Fyrantha. However, Nicole and all other sentient creatures are caught up in a war for control between two competing factions. Now, the street-kid turned rebel leader has a plan that would restore freedom to all who have been shanghaied by the strange ship.

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The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

From Cherie Priest, author of the enormously successful BoneshakerThe Family Plot is a haunted house story for the ages—atmospheric, scary, and strange, with a modern gothic sensibility that’s every bit as fresh as it is frightening.

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The First Days by Rhiannon Frater

The morning that the world ends, Katie is getting ready for court and housewife Jenni is taking care of her family. Less than two hours later, they are fleeing for their lives from a zombie horde. Thrown together by circumstance, Jenni and Katie become a powerful zombie-killing partnership, mowing down zombies as they rescue Jenni’s stepson, Jason, from an infected campground.

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Nightflyers & Other Stories by George R. R. Martin

On a voyage toward the boundaries of the known universe, nine misfit academics seek out first contact with a shadowy alien race. But another enigma is the Nightflyer itself, a cybernetic wonder with an elusive captain no one has ever seen in the flesh. Soon, however, the crew discovers that their greatest mystery – and most dangerous threat – is an unexpected force wielding a thirst for blood and terror….

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Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

Badly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog. Without functioning navigation or communication equipment, they are lost and completely alone. One by one, the men fall prey to a mysterious illness. Deckhand Noah Cabot leads the last of the able-bodied crew on a journey across the ice and into an uncertain future where they must fight for their lives against the elements, the ghosts of the past and, ultimately, themselves.

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The House of Cthulhu by Brian Lumley

The fabled riches of the House of Cthulhu draw thieves and warriors from throughout the civilized-and uncivilized lands, but none escape with so much as a single gemstone, for they discover that Cthulhu’s House is not a temple but a dwelling-place. Surely the Elder God lives there still, waiting for an unwary person to open the portal between his world and ours . . . .

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The Five by Robert McCammon

As they move through the American Southwest on what might be their final tour together, the band members come to the attention of a damaged Iraq war veteran, and their lives are changed forever. This is a riveting account of violence, terror, and pursuit set against a credible, immensely detailed rock and roll backdrop. It is also a moving meditation on loyalty and friendship.

kindle nook ebooks Image Place holder  of google play- 89 kobo


What to Read If You’re Already Missing Supernatural

What to Read If You’re Already Missing

Supernatural is set to end this year, but we’re filling our TBR with spunky supernatural horror adventure to keep our feels at bay. Check out our list of recommended spooky adventure reads here!

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets Stranger Things in award-winning author S. A. Hunt’s Burn the Dark, first in the Malus Domestica horror action-adventure series about a punk YouTuber on a mission to bring down witches, one vid at a time.


Place holder  of - 31Stygian (Dark Hunter Series) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

I have lived for thousands of years, believing myself to be something I’m not. Someone I’m not. Trained as a slayer and predator, I’ve learned to become a tool for evil. Until I was sent to kill the one woman I couldn’t. My hesitation cost her everything, including her life. Or so I thought. To save her, I need to trust enemies and friends I’m not sure won’t betray me, including a woman born of an enemy race who hates mine bitterly. And maybe become the monster of my past.

Image Place holder  of - 53Graveyard Shift by Michael F. Haspil

Alex Menkaure once ruled as pharaoh. Marcus once lived in the time of Caesar. Now, mummy and vampire are partners in a special police unit, fighting to keep the streets safe from both supernatural criminals and anti-vampire vigilantes. When someone starts poisoning the artificial blood used by vampires, relations between vampires and humans deteriorate to the brink of anarchy. While the city threatens to tear itself apart, Alex and Marcus must form an unnatural alliance with a vigilante gang and a shape-shifter woman in a desperate battle against an ancient conspiracy.

Placeholder of  -98The Family Plot by Cherie Priest
Music City Salvage is owned and operated by Chuck Dutton: master stripper of doomed historic properties and expert seller of all things old and crusty. Business is lean and times are tight, so he’s thrilled when the aged and esteemed Augusta Withrow appears in his office. She has a massive family estate to unload—lock, stock, and barrel. For a check and a handshake, it’s all his. But there is something in the Withrow mansion, something angry and lost, and this is its last chance to raise hell before the house is gone forever.
Image Placeholder of - 37Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear. The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.


$2.99 Ebook Sale: The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

Place holder  of - 71The ebook edition of The Family Plot by Cherie Priest is on sale now for only $2.99! This offer will only last for a limited time, so order your copy today.

About The Family Plot: 

Music City Salvage is owned and operated by Chuck Dutton: master stripper of doomed historic properties and expert seller of all things old and crusty. Business is lean and times are tight, so he’s thrilled when the aged and esteemed Augusta Withrow appears in his office. She has a massive family estate to unload—lock, stock, and barrel. For a check and a handshake, it’s all his.

It’s a big check. It’s a firm handshake. And it’s enough of a gold mine that he assigns his daughter Dahlia to personally oversee the project.

Dahlia and a small crew caravan down to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the ancient Withrow house is waiting—and so is a barn, a carriage house, and a small, overgrown cemetery that Augusta Withrow left out of the paperwork.

Augusta Withrow left out a lot of things.

The property is in unusually great shape for a condemned building. It’s empty, but Dahlia and the crew quickly learn it is far from abandoned. There is still something in the Withrow mansion, something angry and lost, and this is its last chance to raise hell before the house is gone forever.

Order Your Copy

kindlenookebooks.comPlaceholder of google play -62ibooks2 1kobo

This sale ends November 1st.


New Releases: 9/5/17

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

An Irish Country Love Story by Patrick Taylor

Placeholder of  -48 It’s the winter of 1967 and snow is on the ground in the colorful Irish village of Ballybucklebo, but the chilly weather can’t stop love from warming hearts all over the county. Not just the love between a man and woman, as with young doctor, Barry Laverty, and his fiancee Sue Nolan, who are making plans to start a new life together, but also the love of an ailing pensioner for a faithful dog that’s gone missing, the love of the local gentry for the great estate they are on verge of losing, or Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly’s deep and abiding love for his long-time home and practice.

Cloudbound by Fran Wilde

Place holder  of - 19 The Towers are in disarray, without a governing body or any defense against the dangers lurking in the clouds, and daily life is full of terror and strife. Nat Densira, the wing-brother to Kirit (Skyshouter, Spirebreaker, no-longer-of-Densira) sets out to be a hero in his own waysitting on the new Council to cast votes protecting Tower-born, and exploring lower tiers to find more materials to repair the struggling City.

But what he finds down-tier is more secretsand now Nat will have to decide who to trust, and how to trust himself without losing those he holds most dear

Death’s End by Cixin Liu

Image Place holder  of - 23 Half a century after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to co-exist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent.

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

Poster Placeholder of - 96 Music City Salvage is owned and operated by Chuck Dutton: master stripper of doomed historic properties and expert seller of all things old and crusty. Business is lean and times are tight, so he’s thrilled when the aged and esteemed Augusta Withrow appears in his office. She has a massive family estate to unload—lock, stock, and barrel. For a check and a handshake, it’s all his.

Augusta Withrow left out a lot of things.

Stripped Bare by Shannon Baker

Image Placeholder of - 55 Kate Fox is living the dream. She’s married to Grand County Sheriff Ted Conner, the heir to her beloved Nebraska Sandhills cattle ranch, where they live with Kate’s orphaned teenage niece, Carly. With the support of the well-connected Fox Clan, which includes Kate’s eight boisterous and interfering siblings, Ted’s reelection as Grand County Sheriff is virtually assured. That leaves Kate to the solitude and satisfaction of Frog Creek, her own slice of heaven.

One night Kate answers a shattering phone call from Roxy at the Bar J. Carly’s granddad Eldon, owner of the ranch, is dead and Ted has been shot and may never walk again. Kate vows to find the killer. She soon discovers Ted responded so quickly to the scene because he was already at the Bar J…in Roxy’s bed. And to add to her woes, Carly has gone missing.


Acadie by Dave Hutchinson

The Colony left Earth to find their utopia–a home on a new planet where their leader could fully explore the colonists’ genetic potential, unfettered by their homeworld’s restrictions. They settled a new paradise, and have been evolving and adapting for centuries.

Earth has other plans.

The Ruin of Angels by Max Gladstone

The God Wars destroyed the city of Alikand. Now, a century and a half and a great many construction contracts later, Agdel Lex rises in its place. Dead deities litter the surrounding desert, streets shift when people aren’t looking, a squidlike tower dominates the skyline, and the foreign Iskari Rectification Authority keeps strict order in this once-independent city—while treasure seekers, criminals, combat librarians, nightmare artists, angels, demons, dispossessed knights, grad students, and other fools gather in its ever-changing alleys, hungry for the next big score.


Arpeggio of Blue Steel Vol. 11 Story and art by Ark Performance

Captain Harlock: Dimensional Voyage Vol. 1 Story by Leiji Matsumoto; Art by Kouichi Shimahoshi

Golden Time Vol. 8 Story by Yuyuko Takemiya; Art by Umechazuke

Tales of Zestiria Vol. 2 Story and art by Shiramine


New Releases: 9/20/16

Here’s what went on sale today!

Deadlands: Thunder Moon Rising by Jeffrey Mariotte

Deadlands: Thunder Moon Rising by Jeffrey MariotteFear is abroad in the Deadlands as a string of brutal killings and cattle mutilations trouble a frontier town in the Arizona Territory, nestled in the forbidding shadow of the rugged Thunder Mountains. A mule train is massacred, homes and ranches are attacked, and men and women are stalked and butchered by bestial killers who seem to be neither human nor animal, meanwhile a ruthless land baron tries to buy up all the surrounding territory-and possibly bring about an apocalypse.

Death’s End by Cixin Liu

Death’s End by Cixin LiuWith The Three-Body Problem, English-speaking readers got their first chance to experience the multiple-award-winning and bestselling Three-Body Trilogy by China’s most beloved science fiction author, Cixin Liu. Three-Body was released to great acclaim including coverage in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. It was also named a finalist for the Nebula Award, making it the first translated novel to be nominated for a major SF award since Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities in 1976. Now this epic trilogy concludes with Death’s End.

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

The Family Plot by Cherie PriestChuck 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.

Metaltown by Kristen Simmons

Metaltown by Kristen SimmonsThe rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can’t take away from her. Until it does.

Lena’s future depends on her family’s factory, a beast that demands a ruthless master, and Lena is prepared to be as ruthless as it takes if it means finally proving herself to her father. But when a chance encounter with Colin, a dreamer despite his circumstances, exposes Lena to the consequences of her actions, she’ll risk everything to do what’s right.

Red Tide by Marc Turner

Red Tide by Marc TurnerThe Augerans are coming. And their ships are sailing in on a red tide.

The Rubyholt Isles are a shattered nation of pirate-infested islands and treacherous waterways shielding the seaboards of Erin Elal and the Sabian League, a region even dragons fear to trespass.

The Augerans beseech the Warlord of the Isles, seeking passage for their invasion fleet through Rubyholt territory. But they are sailing into troubled waters. Their enemies have sent agents to sabotage the negotiations, and to destroy the Augeran fleet by any means necessary.

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Vassa in the Night by Sarah PorterIn the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.


The Warren by Brian Evenson

The Warren by Brian EvensonX doesn’t have a name. He thought he had one—or many—but that might be the result of the failing memories of the personalities imprinted within him. Or maybe he really is called X.

He’s also not as human as he believes himself to be.

But when he discovers the existence of another—above ground, outside the protection of the Warren—X must learn what it means to be human, or face the destruction of their two species.


Nightwise by R. S. Belcher

Nightwise by R. S. BelcherR.S. Belcher, the acclaimed author of The Six-Gun Tarot and The Shotgun Arcana launches a gritty new urban fantasy series set in today’s seedy occult underworld in Nightwise.

In the more shadowy corners of the world, frequented by angels and demons and everything in-between, Laytham Ballard is a legend. It’s said he raised the dead at the age of ten, stole the Philosopher’s Stone in Vegas back in 1999, and survived the bloodsucking kiss of the Mosquito Queen. Wise in the hidden ways of the night, he’s also a cynical bastard who stopped thinking of himself as the good guy a long time ago.

Vienna by William S. Kirby

Vienna by William S. KirbyJustine is an A-list fashion model on a photo shoot in Europe. Adored by half the world, she can have whomever she wants, but she’s never met anyone like the strange English girl whose bed she wakes up in one morning.

Vienna is an autistic savant, adrift in a world of overwhelming patterns and connections only she can see. Socially awkward and inexperienced, she’s never been with anyone before, let alone a glamorous supermodel enmeshed in a web of secrets and intrigue.


Arpeggio of Blue Steel Vol. 8 by Ark Performance

NTR: Netsuzou Trap Vol. 1 by Kodama Naoko

Tomodachi x Monster Vol. 3 by Yoshihiko Inui


On the Road: Tor/Forge Author Events for September

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Tor/Forge authors are on the road in September! See who is coming to a city near you this month.

Shannon Baker, Stripped Bare

Wednesday, September 7
Boulder Bookstore
Boulder, CO
7:30 PM
Also with Kevin Wolf

Thursday, September 8
Old Firehouse Books
Fort Collins, CO
6:00 PM

Tuesday, September 20
Albuquerque, NM
6:00 PM

Wednesday, September 21
Op. Cit. Books
Taos, NM
11:30 AM

Saturday, September 24
Barbed Wire Books
Longmont, CO
3:00 PM

Sunday, September 25
Hampden Hall
Englewood, CO
3:00 PM

Tuesday, September 27
Barnes & Noble
Cheyenne, WY
4:00 PM

Wednesday, September 28
Rapid City, SD
6:00 PM

Thursday, September 29
Tattered Cover
Littleton, CO
7:00 PM
Also with Kevin Wolf

Friday, September 30
Barnes & Noble
Pueblo, CO
4:00 PM

Robert Brockway, The Empty Ones

Saturday, September 3
Village Books
Bellingham, WA
7:00 PM

Blake Charlton, Spellbreaker

Wednesday, September 14
Mysterious Galaxy
San Diego, CA
7:30 PM

Max Gladstone, Four Roads Cross

Sunday, September 4
Decatur Book Festival
Decatur, GA
5:00 PM

David Hagberg, End Game

Sunday, September 4
Decatur Book Festival
International Covert Ops Panel, with David Hagberg, Bret Witter, moderated by Alice Murray
Decatur, GA
5:00 PM

Thursday, September 8
Bookstore 1
Sarasota, FL
7:00 PM

Kij Johnson The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

Thursday, September 15
Kansas University, Jayhawk Ink Lounge
Lawrence, KS
5:30 PM

Sarah Porter, Vassa in the Night

Sunday, September 18
Brooklyn Book Festival
Magic and Mayhem in New York
Brooklyn, NY
4:00 PM

Sunday, September 25
Oblong Books
Also with Danielle Paige
Rhinebeck, NY
4:00 PM

Monday, September 26
Books of Wonder
Also with Kerri Maniscalco
New York, NY
6:00 PM

Thursday, September 29
One More Page Books
Fall for the Book YA Panel
Also featuring A. J. Hartley and Carrie Jones
Arlington, VA
7:00 PM

Cherie Priest, The Family Plot

Tuesday, September 20
Barnes & Noble
Chattanooga, TN
7:00 PM

Thursday, September 22
Star Line Books
Chattanooga, TN
6:00 PM

Brandon Sanderson, The Dark Talent

Tuesday, September 6
The King’s English Bookshop
Salt Lake City, UT
6:00 PM

Nisi Shawl, Everfair

Tuesday, September 6
University Bookstore
Seattle, WA
7:00 PM

Friday, September 9
Malvern Books
Also with Christopher Brown
Austin, TX
7:00 PM

Saturday, September 10
Poisoned Pen
Scottsdale, AZ
2:00 PM

Monday, September 12
Mysterious Galaxy
San Diego, CA
7:30 PM

Tuesday, September 13
Eso Won
Los Angeles, CA
7:00 PM

Monday, September 19
A Room of One’s Own
Madison, WI
7:00 PM

Wednesday, September 21
Nicola’s Books
Ann Arbor, MI
7:00 PM

Friday, September 23
Charis Books & More
Atlanta, GA
7:30 PM

Kristen Simmons, Metaltown

Tuesday, September 20
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
Crestview Hills, KY
7:00 PM

Thursday, September 22
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
Lexington, KY
7:00 PM

Friday, September 23
Anderson’s Bookshop
Also with Paula Stokes
Downers Grove, IL
7:00 PM

Paula Stokes, Vicarious

Thursday, September 22
Left Bank Books
St. Louis, MO
7:00 PM

Friday, September 23
Anderson’s Bookshop
Also with Kristen Simmons
Downers Grove, IL
7:00 PM

Fran Wilde, Cloundbound

Tuesday, September 27
Barnes & Noble
With Chuck Wendig
Philadelphia, PA
7:00 PM

Anne A. Wilson, Clear to Lift

Thursday, September 22
Coronado Public Library
Books provided by Bay Books
Coronado, CA
6:00 PM

Simone Zelitch, Judenstaat

Saturday, September 3
Decatur Book Festival
Decatur, GA
12:30 PM


Sneak Peek: The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

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The Family Plot by Cherie PriestChuck 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—available September 20th—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. Please enjoy this excerpt.


“YEAH, SEND HER on back. She has an appointment.”

Chuck Dutton set aside the walkie-talkie and made a token effort to tidy his desk, in case Augusta Evelyn Sophia Withrow expected to speak with a goddamn professional. The owner and manager of Music City Salvage was every inch a goddamn professional, but he couldn’t prove it by his office—which was littered with rusting light fixtures, crumbling bricks and broken statuary, old books covered in mildew, stray tools that should’ve been packed away, and a thousand assorted items that he was absolutely going to restore to life or toss one of these days when he got the time. His office was the company lint trap, and it was no one’s fault but his own.

He successfully rearranged a stack of old license plates and stuffed all his pens into an I LOVE MY MASTIFF mug, just in time for his visitor to appear. She arrived in a faint cloud of expensive perfume: a tall, thin lady of a certain age and a certain pedigree. Her hair was silver and her dress was blue linen, something with a fancy label at the neck, unless Chuck missed his guess. Her handbag was large, square, and black—more of an attaché case than a purse.

She stood in the doorway, assessing the mess; then she bobbed her head, shrugged, and stepped over a nested stack of vintage oil cans that Chuck kept meaning to relocate.

Chuck darted out from behind his desk, hand extended for a greeting shake. “Kindly ignore the clutter, ma’am—like myself, this office is a work in progress. I’m Charles Dutton. We spoke on the phone, before you met with James.”

“Yes, of course. It’s a pleasure.” She accepted his handshake, and, without giving him a chance to offer her a seat, she drew up the nearest chair—a Naugahyde number that had once sat in a mid-century dentist’s lobby. “Thank you for seeing me. I’m sure you’re very busy.”

Chuck retreated to his original position, sat down, and leaned forward on his elbows. “Anytime, anytime,” he said cheerily. “Projects like yours are what keep us busy.”

“Good. Because one way or another, that old house is coming down. It can’t be saved, or at least, I don’t plan to save it. But there’s plenty on the property worth keeping—as James saw firsthand last week.”

“Yeah, he couldn’t shut up about it. But this was your family home, wasn’t it?” He already knew the answer. He’d looked it up online.

“That’s correct. My great grandfather built the main house in 1882. He gave it to my grandparents as a wedding present.”

“And none of the other Withrows are interested in preserving it?”

“There are no other Withrows,” she informed him. “I’m the last of them, and I don’t want it. On the fifteenth of this month, the house will be demolished. By the first of November, all other remaining structures will be razed, and the property will be donated to the battlefield park. The paperwork is already filed.”

“Still, it seems like a shame.”

“Spoken like a man who never lived there,” Ms. Withrow said, not quite under her breath. Then, more directly, “You mustn’t cry for the Withrow house, Mr. Dutton. It’s a miserable, drafty, oppressive old place with nothing but architectural details to recommend it. James made notes and took photos, but I have a few more, left over from the assessment when I inherited it last spring. If you’d care to take a look at them.”

“I’d love to. He said you two talked numbers. I trust his judgment, but my finance guy balked when he heard forty grand, so I’m happy to see more of the details. I hear you’ve got imported marble fireplace inlays, stained glass, wainscoting…”

In fact, Barry the Finance Guy had not balked; he’d put his foot down with a hard-ass no. The company was owed a small fortune in outstanding invoices, as least two of which were headed for court. Music City Salvage barely had enough cash on hand to keep the lights running and cover payroll—and if a windfall didn’t come along soon, they’d have to pick between them. There was absolutely no stray money for sweetheart deals on old estates.

Period. End of story.

Still, when Augusta Withrow unfastened her bag to withdraw a large folder, Chuck eagerly accepted it. She said, “As for the fireplaces, only two have Carrera inlays. The other five surrounds are tile, but all seven mantels are rosewood, and, as you can see, the grand staircase is chestnut.”

“Mm … chestnut…” He opened the folder and ran his finger over the top photo. It showed a staircase that was very grand indeed, with a ninety-degree bend and a platform, plus sweeping rails that terminated in graceful coils. He positively leered. These pictures were a hell of a lot better than the ones James had snapped on his phone.

“I’m told that American chestnut is extinct now.”

“Since the thirties,” he agreed. “It’s strong as oak at half the weight, and pretty as can be. Woodworkers love that stuff. It’s worth … well. It’s very desirable, to the right kind of craftsman. I don’t often see it in stairs, but I’ll take it wherever I can get it.”

“Then I should mention the barn, too. It’s falling down, but I’m fairly certain it’s made from the same wood.”

Mm.” Chuck’s eyes were full of rust lust and dollar signs. He kept them fixed upon the photos so Ms. Withrow couldn’t see the greed and raise her asking price even further out of reach.

After the staircase, he found a shot of a large fireplace. It had a double-wide front, with a pair of ladies on either side—their poses mirroring one another in white and gray marble. He spied a few thin cracks, but nothing unexpected. All in all, the condition was better than good. He looked up. “James said something about a carriage house. Is that chestnut, too?”

“Only stone, I’m afraid. It has the original copper roof, but it’s all gone green now. You know how it is—the weather gets to everything, eventually.”

He glanced up in surprise. “No one’s stripped it? No one sold it for scrap?”

“I don’t know what kind of neighborhood you think we’re talking about, Mr. Dutton, but…”

“No, no. I didn’t mean it like that.” He shook his head and returned his attention to the folder. “I’ve been to Lookout Mountain before. I know it’s a nice place. I wasn’t trying to imply it was all et-up with meth heads, or anything like that. It’s just something that happens. Over the years the metal goes manky, so people swap it out for cedar or asphalt shingles.”

She didn’t reply for long enough that he wondered what her silence meant.

Finally, she said, “You won’t find any meth heads, no. But the house is just barely on the mountain proper. It’s down toward the base, and some of the nearby neighborhoods are not as savory today as they were a hundred years ago.”

“At the foot … you mean down by the Incline station?”

“At the edge of Saint Elmo—that’s right.”

Chuck frowned. “I know that place; it’s a historic district. Do you have the city’s permission to bulldoze the property?”

“It’s near Saint Elmo, not in it. I don’t need the historic office’s permission, and I assure you, all the appropriate legal steps have been taken. Now, did I mention that the floors are heart of pine, over an inch thick? Except in the kitchen, where they were replaced back in the sixties. My uncle was a very thorough man, with an unfortunate fondness for linoleum.”

“A full inch of pine? Lady, you’re speaking my language,” he said, and immediately felt silly for it.

She grinned, unperturbed by his informality, and pleased to have redirected his attention. “Then you’ll love this part, too: No one’s been inside the barn or carriage house since before I was born. My grandfather boarded both of them up, and declared them off-limits. God only knows what you’ll find once you get the doors open.”

Chuck didn’t dare speculate about her age—not out loud—so he asked questions instead. “Not even a groundskeeper’s been inside? No maintenance people? Burglars?”

“I won’t vouch for the delinquent youths of outer Chattanooga, but barring some unknown vandalism … no. The house is isolated, and the property can be tricky to reach. You might need to throw down a gravel drive for heavy equipment or trailers. I assume you’ll want to take the colonnades? The portico?”

He sorted through more promising photos.

Four columns held up the side porch … he wondered if they were wood, or carved limestone. They weren’t pre-war, but if they were stone, they were worth thousands. If they were only wood, they were still worth thousands, but not as many. He said, “I want to take it all.”

“Then you’ll need a forklift, at least.”

“Good thing I’ve got one. Now, in these pictures, the house is still furnished. I assume all that’s been cleared out by now?”

“Some of it. Some remains, but I won’t kid you about its value. What’s left is too cheap or too broken to pique the appraisers’ interest. You can have it, if you like. I know your representative said you preferred to work piecemeal on projects like this, but my offer is all-inclusive. I don’t have the time or energy to go through the place and put a price tag on every damn thing, if you’ll pardon me for saying so. Anything, anywhere, on the four acres that make up the estate is yours for a check and a signature.”

Yeah, but she wanted that check made out for forty thousand dollars.

It was the most Chuck had ever paid out for a salvage opportunity, by a long shot—and he was still waiting for Nashville Erections to come collect (and pay for) a haul they’d reserved three months ago. It probably served him right for tying up twenty grand in a company named for somebody’s dick, but he knew they were good for it. Eventually. And T&H Construction still owed him for another thirteen grand’s worth of room dividers, bay windows, and a turn-of-the-century door with sidelights and surrounds. Chuck had graciously let them take that batch on credit and a handshake, so it wasn’t even on the floor anymore.

Because sometimes, Chuck was an idiot.

All right then, fine. Sometimes, Chuck was an idiot. But this was the haul of a lifetime, and it could skyrocket the company back into the black within a couple of months.

Or it could be the nail in its coffin in a couple of weeks.

But what a nail.

Cash was low—perilously low—but the stock at Music City Salvage was stagnant. Pickers hadn’t brought in anything interesting in months, and a haul like the Withrow estate would be something worth advertising … a landmark Southern estate, relatively untouched for generations. He could take out a full page in the paper. They’d have customers out the door, rain or shine; they’d come from hundreds of miles around. It’d happened before, but not lately.

The pictures sprawled across his desk, glossy and bright.

Ms. Withrow’s offer wasn’t too good to be true, but it felt too good to be true, and he couldn’t put his finger on why. He was dying to whip out his checkbook and shout, “Shut up and take my money!” But something held him back … something besides the fact that he didn’t actually have enough dough sitting in the corporate account right that moment. In order to sufficiently fill ’er up, he’d have to take money against a credit card. Or two. Or all of them.

It’d be the biggest gamble of his life.

He looked up from the photos, at the woman who sat with her legs crossed just below the knee. She’d scarcely moved since she sat down. She did not look tense, or sinister, or deceitful. She looked like a fancy old lady with good taste who had one last piece of business to take care of before she retired to Florida or wherever fancy old ladies go when they’re finished with Tennessee.

“Do you have any questions?” she gently prompted.

He closed the folder and rested his hands on top of it. “Just one, I guess. Why me? I know at least two salvage crews in Chattanooga who’d be thrilled by a haul this size. Why come all the way out to Nashville?”

“It’s only a couple of hours’ drive, Mr. Dutton—it’s not the Oregon Trail. But since you asked, I visited them both first. Out of pure convenience, let me be clear—I don’t mean to imply you’re third string, or anything of the sort,” she said smoothly, that highbred accent purring. “Scenic Salvage is closing this year; the owner is retiring, and she declined to pursue my offer. As for Antique Excavations … well. Let’s be honest. They don’t have the supplies or the manpower for this job. They were, at least, direct enough to confess it.”

“Judy Hanks told you no?”

“She’s the one who suggested I try you. I understand you know one another.”

They did, but it wasn’t entirely friendly. He didn’t really like her, and as far as he knew, the feeling was mutual. “Sure. I know her.”

“She said you were an ass, but you ran a competent ship—and you’d have the resources to take care of an estate this size.”

Ah. That was more like it. “Not a good ship?”

Augusta Withrow withdrew another folder from her bag. “You should settle for ‘competent.’ It’s high praise, coming from her. High enough that I’ve already arranged the paperwork, based on the details James and I discussed—and I’ve brought it with me. None of this faxing or e-mailing nonsense. I prefer real ink to dry on real paper. I find it reassuring. So, Mr. Dutton?”

“Ms. Withrow,” he stalled.

“Going once, going twice—forty thousand dollars, and you can pick over the remains of my family estate. Do we have a deal?”

He swallowed. He felt the fat stack of pictures beneath his hands. Forty thousand dollars was a lot of money, but the Withrow house was a gold mine. Maybe even a platinum mine, once he got that carriage house open. There was literally no telling what might be inside, if it’d been closed up for what … seventy years? Eighty?

But, but, but.

But the company budget was so tight, it squeaked. But the stock was getting stale. But Barry would kill him, if for no other reason than if it didn’t work … he’d probably be out of a job. For that matter, they’d all be out of a job. The business would have to run on fumes until the Withrow estate started to sell. Paychecks might bounce. Lights might dim. Doors might close for good.

But, hell, in another year or two they might close anyway. A family business was a fragile thing, and Music City Salvage was on shaky legs.

But chestnut. But marble. But stained glass and built-ins and heart of pine. But the big locked box of the carriage house, and everything that might be waiting inside. The magical crapshoot of rust lust tugged at him harder than fear, harder than Barry would. Harder than caution, and harder than common sense, perhaps.

But what an opportunity. What a Hail Mary pass.

He stood up and reached for his coffee mug full of pens. While he rifled around for one that definitely worked, he declared, “Ms. Withrow, we’ve got a deal.”

“Excellent! Shall we summon your finance fellow, for approval?”

“Nah. He works for me—not the other way around.” At least until the first paycheck bounced.

She rose to her feet, papers in hand. “You are the boss, after all.”

“Damn right, I’m the boss.” He took her papers and signed where indicated. He produced a checkbook, started writing, then postdated the check by several days. “I’ll need to juggle some funds,” he explained. “I hope that’s all right.”

“Juggle away. I’ll sit on the check if you like, but you only have until the fifteenth to get the job done. That’s when the wrecking ball arrives, and your time is up.”

“Two weeks is good. We won’t need half of that.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Then, for the first time, she hesitated. “And I’m glad that the things which can be saved … will be saved. I don’t know. Maybe you’re right, and maybe it’s a shame to see the place go. Maybe I should’ve tried to find a buyer … Maybe I should’ve…” She looked at the folder on his desk, and the check in his hand. For a split second, Chuck thought she might tell him to tear it up—but she rallied instead. “No, it’s done now. I’m done, and the estate ends here. Believe me, it’s for the best.”

Chuck handed over the check with two fingers.

Augusta Withrow traded it for a set of keys, and thanked him.

“No ma’am, thank you! And I promise we’ll do our best to treat the old place with the respect it deserves.”

Her face darkened, and tightened. “Then you might as well set it on fire.”

She left his office without looking back. The sharp echo of her footsteps rang from the concrete floor as she retreated the way she came—between the rows of steel shelving stocked with wood spindles, birdbath pedestals, and window frames without any glass. When she turned the corner beyond the row of splintered old doors, she was gone … and only a faint whiff of flowers, tobacco, and Aqua Net remained in her wake.

Chuck took a deep breath and held it, then let it go with a nervous shudder.

Forty grand was a lot of money, but he could swing it, he was pretty sure. He could rig up enough credit and cash to cover expenses for the next few weeks, until the Withrow stuff flew off the shelves and refilled those dusty corporate coffers.

“It’s a gold mine,” he reassured himself, since nobody else was there to do it. “This is a good idea. We can do this.”

“We can do what?”

He looked up with a start. He wasn’t alone, after all. His daughter leaned around the doorframe, peering into the office. “The Withrow estate,” he told her.

“What’s the Withrow estate?” Dahlia Dutton strolled inside and planted her ass in the same seat that Augusta had recently vacated. “Does it have something to do with that old lady who just left…?”

“Yup. That’s Augusta Withrow.”

She gazed across Chuck’s desk. “You cleaned up for her. She must be rich. Hey, wait—is this that place James was going on about? The one in Chattanooga?”

“That’s the one. You wouldn’t believe it—this lady’s just walking away from a gingerbread mansion with a carriage house and a barn. James said we could earn back a nickel on every penny.”

Dahlia’s eyes narrowed. “How many pennies, Dad? ‘Estate’ is usually code for ‘expensive.’”

“It was … a good number of pennies, yes. But it’ll be worth it.” He shoved Augusta’s folder across the desk.

Dahlia picked it up and opened it. She flipped through the first few pictures, scanning the highlights. She let out a soft whistle. “Many, many pennies, I assume. Please tell me this is an investment, and not a calamity.”

“Life is full of risks.”

“And this house is full of furniture,” she observed. “Why’s that?”

“It’s cheap shit, left over from yard sales and estate clearance.” He sat back in his chair. It leaned with a hard creak, but didn’t drop him. “We can take all that stuff, too—if we feel like it.”

“This isn’t all cheap shit.”

“Well, you’re the furniture expert, honey, not me.”

She nodded down at the images in her lap. “Some of these pieces are good. If the old lady doesn’t want them, sure, I’ll take them. I could use some furniture right now. I don’t care if it’s old and dusty. I’ll clean it up here, and take it back to my new place.”

Dahlia had just sold her house. It was part of the divorce agreement, since Tennessee is a communal property state—and neither she nor the ex could agree on who ought to keep it. Her new apartment was half empty, like it belonged to a bachelor or a college kid. In Chuck’s opinion, it was downright pitiful.

She sighed. “Jesus, Dad. Look at this staircase.”


“Is it? Oh, wow, that’s great…” But that’s not what she was thinking, and he knew it. She was thinking about the staircase in the house she’d lost, and how it had gleamed in the muted, colored light from the stained glass in the front door sidelights.

“Honey, chestnut’s a whole lot better than great—and there’s a bunch more sitting out back, from the old barn. There’s a carriage house, too. Both of them have been locked up since before Ms. Withrow was born.”

Her face brightened. “Seriously?”

He’d figured that little tidbit might distract her. “That’s what she said.”

“And she must be ninety, if she’s a day. Let’s round it up to a hundred years, then. What did those buildings hold, a century ago?”

“I don’t know. I’m going to guess … carriages. And barn stuff.”

Dahlia tapped her finger on the folder’s edge. “We could pry open those doors and turn up anything, or nothing.”

“You’ll find out when you get there.”

“Hell yes, I will. What’s our time frame like?”

“Two weeks.” He cracked open the top desk drawer, and slipped his checkbook back inside it.

“We won’t need that long.”

He grinned. A child after his own heart. “I know, but I expect we’ll need more time than you think. We’re talking four acres, with several outbuildings. The house is some 4,500 square feet. And … I hate to mention it, but I can’t spare much in the way of manpower or resources right now. I’m counting on you, kid.”

“T&H? The dick joint?”

“Neither one of them’s paid up. But,” he said fast, “Barry’s got a lawyer up their asses, and they have until the end of this week, or we’re suing them.”

“Dad…” She sighed.

“I know, I know. It’ll be tight for a month or so, that’s all. But once you get the Withrow house gutted, I’ll fire off a flashy press release, then we can sit back and watch the money roll in. These places don’t hit the market every day of the week—you just watch, we’ll have designers and construction guys coming out from both coasts, and Canada, too.”

“I hope you’re right. Because if you’re wrong…”

“I’m definitely right. We just have to hang on until we get the stock back here, sorted out, and tagged for sale,” he promised.

She might’ve believed him, or she might’ve just been resigned to her fate. He couldn’t tell which when she said, “Then I’d better work fast. Who’s coming with me?”

Now for the fun part. He didn’t want her to bite his head off, so he started out easy. “You’d better take Brad, for starters.”

“Has Brad ever actually done a salvage run?”

“Ask him. He might have. You’ll want to keep one eye on him when he’s using the power tools; but he knows his shit on paper, and he might be useful if you run into permission problems. The place is right outside Saint Elmo, on Lookout Mountain … and the historic zoning folks might get ideas about what belongs where. Supposedly this ain’t any business of theirs, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hear from them anyway, when they see you pulling the house apart.”

“Fair enough.” She slapped the folder back down on his desk. “Who else?”

Next he proposed his great-nephew. “Gabe’s done a couple of jobs, now.”

“Gabe’s just a kid.”

“He’s a big-ass kid—that boy can swing a sledge like Babe Ruth. Best of all, he adores you, and he’ll do whatever you tell him.”

“All right, Gabe’s in. Who else will I wind up babysitting on this gig?”

Chuck hemmed. He hawed. “Well, James is out picking in Kentucky this week, and Frankie’s got to work the floors. I have to hang around and play manager—and that’s my least favorite thing, so you know I don’t have a choice. Melanie’s got the register and phones … and that’s everyone we have on deck, except Bobby.”

Dahlia stopped smiling.

Chuck squeaked, “Baby?”

“Of all the idiots…”

“He’s not an idiot. You’re just mad at him.”

“I judge him by the company he keeps. Besides that, he’s lazy as hell, and you know he won’t take orders from me.”

“If he won’t, he can pack it in. This is a business, not a charity.”

“Bullshit. You never could tell your sister no.”

Chuck threw up his hands. “All right, fine—it’s bullshit, but he’s in a bind, and I don’t care how well he gets on with Andy. I’ll have a talk with him before you go. He’ll behave himself, Dolly.”

“Don’t call me that.”

Dahlia. He’ll work his ass off, and he’ll answer to you—or he’ll answer to me. He needs the gig, now that Gracie’s gone, and he’s got Gabe to think about.”

“You say that like she’s dead.”

“She’s dead to him.”

She yawned, and didn’t try to hide it. “Jail is temporary.”

Chuck stared helplessly at his only child. More gently, this time, he tried another approach. “Look, I know Bobby’s not your favorite cousin right now, but it’s only for a few days. Let’s say four days, all in—including me and the Bobcat on the Doolittle. I’ll come up for the last day, and help load up the big stuff.”

“That sounds about right.”

“Five days, and it’s a big house. You two will hardly have to see each other, and Gabe will be glad to have you around. You’re the responsible adult he’s always wanted.”

“He’s a good kid,” she grudgingly granted. “I can work with him. And Brad’s not so terrible.”

“Brad’s not terrible at all, he’s just not a handyman—but we can fix that. He’s a quick learner. He just needs the guidance of an experienced professional like yourself.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere, and Brad’s a quick reader. That’s not the same thing as a quick learner. Now I’m supposed to provide on-the-job training, too? Maybe I need a raise.”

“Think of it as an upgrade to a supervising position.”

“One of those promotions that doesn’t come with any money? Yeah, thanks.” Then she warned, “If Brad cuts off a thumb…”

“Then our insurance premiums go up, and Brad types his thesis a little slower. Now it’s settled,” Chuck declared. That didn’t make it so—but a man could pretend. “You’ll head out tomorrow, and take the two twenty-six-footers; that’ll get you started. I’ll drive down on Friday with the forklift, and then we can take down the exteriors.”

“You think the trucks will hold it all?”

“I hope not. I hope and pray we fill ’em both up to the brim, and when I show up with the one-ton trailer, I hope it barely holds the rest—and then we have to rent another one. Or steal one. This score’s on a shoestring, honey.”

He shouldn’t have emphasized that part. He knew it by the pair of vertical lines that appeared between her eyebrows.

“Daddy, how much money did you pay out for this? Tell me the truth.”

“Forty.” It came out hoarse. He cleared his throat, and said it stronger. “Forty grand, that’s all. Drop in the bucket, on a project like this. A nickel for every penny, just like James said.”

“Forty…,” she echoed the figure. “Do we even have that much money right now?”


“Christ, Daddy. This’ll be the death of us, won’t it?”

“Think positive, baby.”

“All right, I’m positive this’ll be the death of us.”

“No, no it won’t. You have faith in me, and I’ll have faith in you. I’ll make the money work, and you’ll bring home the golden goose.”

She sighed hard. “So you’ll do the math, if I’ll do the heavy lifting. Got it.”

“Atta girl.” An idea sprang into his head, and he let it fly before he could talk himself out of it—and before Dahlia could second-guess him. “Speaking of heavy lifting, I’ve got an idea. Since we’re hanging by a thread until the Withrow loot starts selling … why don’t the four of you go camping.”

“Beg pardon?”

“You saw the pictures of the big house; it’s furnished, sort of. The contract says the power stays on through the fourteenth, so we can run the equipment, no problem. There’s no central heat or air, but that’s all right. It’s cool enough now that you won’t need the AC. If it gets too cold at night, there are seven fireplaces in that old behemoth. One of ’em must work.”


Otherwise, we’re talking four or five nights in a hotel. Three rooms, and that’s because I’m willing to bunk with you when I arrive. It adds up, darlin’. It’s an unnecessary expense, when you’ve all got sleeping bags and we’re running short.” He talked faster as he warmed to the thought. “You can wake up in the morning, make yourself some coffee, and get started. Head on down to Saint Elmo for meals, and charge it all to Barry’s AmEx. Minimal interruption, minimal downtime. Just start in the rooms you aren’t sleeping in—work from top to bottom, maybe. Better yet, start with the outbuildings, and work your way in.”

“Dad,” she said more firmly, cutting off his sales pitch. “It’s okay. I’ve done it before, remember?”

“That’s right—you stayed at the Bristol joint last year. But that was only an overnight.”

“So? Everything was fine. It’s no big deal. We can start early, work late, and get the job done fast. We’ll turn off the power and bust out the generators when you arrive, then take the windows and fixtures last. It’s totally doable.”

She gave the photos in her lap another pass, shuffling them around until her eyes caught on this detail, or that fixture. “What a beautiful place,” she said softly. “The bones look great, but maybe that’s just the pictures. Did that woman even try to sell it?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it needs too much work. Maybe it’s just not worth it, to her, or anybody else.”

She shook her head. “I don’t believe that.”

“Wait until you see it in person,” he urged. “You might change your mind. For all we know, the foundation is shot, and the walls are full of termites and rats.”

“You want to change my mind about sleeping in this place? Keep talking.”

“Oh Dolly-girl, my Snow White child,” he teased her, like when she was small. There was a children’s book he used to read her about a little girl who got lost in the woods. Even these days, they knew it both by heart. “The rats will give you gifts, and the bugs will give you kisses. The bats will stand guard as you sleep, and the owls will keep watch from their tree.”

She tried to muster a smile, and almost succeeded. “So it’s always been, and may it always be.”

Copyright © 2016 by Cherie Priest

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