THE FAMILY PLOT by Cherie Priest – Review

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

THE FAMILY PLOT by Cherie Priest – ReviewThe Family Plot by Cherie Priest
Published by Tor Books on September 20 2016
Genres: Adult, Horror
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher

The nitty-gritty: An eerie and heart-stopping ghost story, with unexpected depth. If you love haunted house stories, and especially if you love old houses, you won’t want to miss this one.

She took the stairs slower than she could have, stalling the inevitable every step of the way. She didn’t want to let them in. She didn’t want to start work on the Withrow house. This wasn’t some favor she was doing for an old friend; this wasn’t a restoration gig to preserve a landmark. This was a vivisection, a slow slaughter of a thing on its last legs.

I can’t believe this is my first Cherie Priest novel! I even own copies of Boneshaker, Maplecroft, and Chapelwood, which I fully intend to go back and read as soon as possible. The Family Plot was a breath of fresh air, a haunted house story that was so much more. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but I finished with a sense of giddiness that I had just discovered a favorite new author. There are plenty of chills and scary moments in this story that made me jump out of my seat, but Priest also delivers a tale full of complex relationships and family ties. The main character, Dahlia Dutton, works for her family’s salvage company, and so the story was full of delightful details about antique plumbing and lighting fixtures, lead glass transoms, and the joy of finding intact chestnut floor boards. Priest takes great care in showing the love and respect the characters have for old homes and gives a fascinating glimpse into the world of salvaging.

But of course, this is first and foremost a haunted house story, and I’m happy to say the pacing and tension are excellent. Chuck Dutton owns Music City Salvage, a company that buys and sells old house fixtures and furnishings. but unfortunately, the company is nearly bankrupt. When Augusta Withrow walks into his office one day and offers Chuck the deal of a lifetime, he knows it’s his last chance to bring the business back to its former robust state. Augusta wants forty thousand dollars for anything Chuck and his crew can drag out of the Withrow house, her family estate. The house and surrounding buildings are about to be torn down by the city, but Chuck knows the house, which was built in 1882, is bound to be a veritable gold mine. He’s sure he can at least quadruple his investment, and so he agrees to the deal, even though he’s barely got enough money in the bank.

Chuck puts his daughter Dahlia in charge of the salvage operation, and sends his nephew Bobby and Bobby’s son Gabe along to help out. The crew has only four days to complete the salvage, and in order to save time and money, they decide to camp out in the house while they’re working. Right away, Dahlia senses an otherworldly presence in the house, and not long after they arrive, she sees a wisp of a girl in a yellow dress, who disappears right in front of her eyes. When Dahlia discovers an old photo album in the attic, she spots the photo of the girl in the yellow dress. Little by little, the pieces of the Withrow ancestors’ lives start coming together, and a terrifying picture of what happened to Abigail begins to appear. It’s a race against the clock as Dahlia and her crew try to finish the salvage, but with the storm of the century bearing down on them and an angry ghost making physical threats, Dahlia simply wants to survive this job and go home.

I have to give a shout-out to Dahlia as a character, because I adored her. The story takes place in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and it’s full of Southern slang and charm. Dahlia is a take-no-shit kind of woman in her late thirties. She’s been salvaging for a long time and really knows the business, so it was fun to see her enter the Withrow house for the first time and immediately sense the historical and economic value of the house and its contents. She’s also the boss of the operation, and she has to contend with three men, some of who want nothing to do with her and her bossiness, but she handles them pretty well, even Bobby, a man she’s known since childhood and isn’t on great terms with when this story takes place. Dahlia’s been recently divorced from her ex Andy, and she bears a grudge against him because part of the divorce agreement was that they had to sell their old house—a house Dahlia was in love with—and split the profits. This has left her feeling bitter against Andy and especially Bobby, his best friend.

As for the other characters, I liked Bobby the best. Even though he’s a drunk and seems to hate Dahlia, once he gets to the house and sees his first ghost, I began to sympathize more with him. The other character that really stood out for me was one of the Withrow ghosts, a mild-mannered woman named Hazel who ends up protecting Dahlia against the wrath of the terrifying and dangerous Abigail.

What I liked about this ghost story is that we know right up front that yes, there are ghosts, and the characters acknowledge this fact almost from the start. There’s no “is it real or not?” about it. Dahlia’s been in enough old homes to see her share of spirits, and the ones that reside in the Withrow estate are just par for the course. Priest captures the eeriness of the haunted house story beautifully, and the fact that she’s got an old Victorian home to work with certainly doesn’t hurt. The flickering electricity, the dark shadows on the stair landing, dusty footprints on the floor boards, and the vague shapes of shadowy figures flitting by all add up to an atmosphere of unease, and Priest’s lovely prose creates a sinister feeling that had my heart racing throughout the story.

Priest sets the stakes high for her characters. By the second day they are scared to death and want nothing more than to abandon the house and head home to safety. But unfortunately, they can’t. Chuck’s invested the last of his money into the house, and it’s up to Dahlia to keep the salvage going, ghosts or no ghosts. What could have been nothing more than your standard haunted house story becomes something much more. Dahlia’s love of old homes shines through, and her sadness at such a grand old estate being torn apart, board by board, is heartbreaking. I’d like to think that the ghosts are just as sad as she is.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.

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Posted September 19, 2016 by Tammy in 4 stars, Reviews / 51 Comments


51 responses to “THE FAMILY PLOT by Cherie Priest – Review

  1. Frances Cristina G

    I was hiking in the woods of the mountain behind where I was living. I was with my guy, my little guy and our black lab. It was a beautiful day, sunny for change. I had my camera with and was taking photos. We came upon a small bridge that had a small clearing on the other side of it. Several paths led in different directions from it. This was a surprise so I snapped three pictures quickly. We finished up the hike with me taking more photos, mostly of my guys and KC. Afterwards we stopped at the store. I dropped my roll of film in and did the shopping. I picked up my photos and was looking through them while standing in a line. I was shocked when I got to the photos of the bridge. The first photo was a nice clear shot of the bridge and clearing. The next one had what looked like fog rolling in even though it was sunny and clear, which you could see by the previous picture. The last one was the biggest surprise. You could see the smoky image of a woman running with what looked like a bouquet. My guy looked at them and then popped the cd copy into the computer. He took the images and kept breaking them down to see if it was something that happened in the development. He became convinced it wasn’t. He called over some friends of his and they all agreed the smoky fog was the image of a woman in a long gown holding a small bouquet and running. I didn’t see her when I took the photos, not with my eyes nor with the camera. But she was clearly there in the photos.
    Since that time, I have taken photos and had faces appear in them or in one case the body of a woman getting water from a well. I was at an old ranch in Arizona, near Sierra Vista, and I took a couple photos from inside the kitchen. I captured the window, with the well outside it, in one. When I looked at the picture you could see the shadow of a woman in a long dress getting water from a bucket in the well. I have never seen the actual ghosts though. My brother has been buying ghost hunting equipment and wants me to go on hunts with him. So maybe in the future I will get to see one.

  2. I have read Maplecroft and I have Chapelwood but just not gotten to it yet. So I am curious about The Family Plot. I have never seen a ghost but my mom had a dead guy help her change her tire when she had a flat. He pulled up in a car, he was an old man, they both worked on the tire. She said, “God bless you,” and he smiled and said thanks. Got in his car and went down the drive that was near where she pulled over. One day she saw a young man getting mail and asked him about the old guy and he said that sounds like my dad and he has been dead for ten years but you are not the first person to tell me that. So she call him her highway angel. 🙂

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  3. My husband has seen a man smoking in our home several times when he was up late. We’ve also had a tennis ball roll across the carpeting with no interference at all so we tend to think there is a pet presence there as well. I just finished this book this weekend and I loved it as well. That ending! Do you think there will be another?
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    • Tammy

      I kind of feel like the story is over, even though the ending makes you think otherwise. Sounds like your house is haunted, so cool!

  4. Tammy

    OMG I LOVE these stories, people! I’m going to reply individually, but please, keep these ghost stories coming. SO. COOL.

  5. Anita Yancey

    No, I have never seen a ghost. But I once lived in a house where we could hear a women screaming every night. But we could only hear it in one bedroom, and not the rest of the house. We think that maybe a women was killed in that room.

  6. Tammy V.

    No, I haven’t but my granddaughter says she talks to her great-great grandpa and says and does things he used to do when he was with us kids. She also says he plays hide and seek with her. My Nan is still alive and Sophia calls who she sees Nanny’s Papa.

  7. Bonnie Franks

    I have. More than once. When I was 16 my boyfriend died in a motorcycle accident. He came to visit me once and told me I couldn’t touch him or he wouldn’t be able to stay for awhile. I realize I was a teenager and that could be some form of teenage angst under the circumstances, but I have seen my great-grandfather driving down the road in the lane next to me in his old Packard, and he waved to me. I also believe I have lived in houses with ghosts for various reasons. I am a definite believer.

  8. Rene

    I’ve never seen a ghost, but I love ghost stories. I lived in Savannah, GA, for three years and it seemed like practically every building had a ghost attached.

  9. Barbara Elness

    I have not ever seen a ghost, but I’d like to. That’s the only way I could convince myself they are real – to actually witness one, so that would be pretty awesome (and slightly terrifying).

    • Tammy

      I really loved it, and although Dahlia’s southern voice was a little jarring, I ended up

  10. Brian

    I go back and forth, there was an old cemetery (abandoned in the late 1800’s) that I used to believe I had seen things age.

  11. Lynda

    Never seen any ghosts myself, but my BFF lived in a haunted apartment, and co-existed peacefully with the ghost (who she nicknamed ‘Tillie’). When I helped her move from that place (not because of Tillie), I kept seeing things out of the corner of my eye, but never actually SAW anything. I still don’t know if I really wanted to see her or not.

  12. Sounds like we’re pretty similar on the Cherie Priest front: I own a number of her books too, but they all remain unread. Sounds like The Family Plot is a great entry point to her work, though. I love ghost stories (although I’ve never seen one and consider myself a sceptic…but hey, anything is possible) and Southern settings, so this one sounds perfect!
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  13. Ann

    No, I have never seen a ghost but I did have a weird experience a few years after my grandma died. In the middle of the night, I got a leg cramp and I woke up to the cramp and to feel a hand rubbing my leg where the cramp was. There was no one else in the house that night. My grandma was a nurse so I’ve always felt it was her way of telling me what to do. 🙂

  14. Penny Olson

    I’ve never seen a ghost, but I love reading about them. Thanks for the giveaway!

  15. Anne C

    No, I haven’t seen a ghost. I don’t believe in ghosts but I love horror books and movies. 😀

  16. Dan Denman

    I haven’t seen one but, I sure have wondered if I heard ghosts a few times in my life.

  17. Rhonda Greig

    I have not seen a ghost but on occasion I have awoke to our bed shaking in our old house and I wonder. My husband things I’m crazy…lol

  18. Burma Turner

    This book sounds amazing! No, I have never seen a ghost, but I do believe they exist. 🙂

  19. Tia

    i have never seen a ghost, but I did live in a house where all kinds of strange things happened!