the family plot

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

I've been vaguely aware of Cherie Priest for a while now - I mean, her Clockwork Century series is steampunk set in Seattle for God's sake. But somehow, until now, I haven't managed to read her. When Tor offered this book for early review, though, I fell in love with the gorgeous cover and the synopsis before I realized the author. Because this is a stand-alone novel and not part of a series, and also because it would be categorized as an adult instead of a young adult novel, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to introduce myself to Priest. 

Let me pause, here, and qualify that little aside about young adult. I've absolutely no caveats about young adult - I am, in fact, deeply, deeply jealous of my niece and nephew who have this amazing world of novels at their disposal in their young adult years while my reading choices at that age were severely limited - it's simply that I have so, so many books on my both literal and mental TBR stacks that sometimes - frequently to my detriment, I'm aware - young adult simply isn't the strongest blip on my radar.

So, sometimes, if there's a young adult series in the periphery of my reading choices and the author writes an adult novel like this, it can be the perfect opportunity to explore whether their style and stories match up with what I like.  

And, oh yes, I like what I see.

I've been leery of the categorization/genre of horror for the last couple of years, while exploring some novels that have been described as such.  With every genre, the elements that distinguish particular novels to be within that genre can vary wildly. As with horror-genre movies, I'm disinclined towards horror-genre books that seem to include extreme levels of violence and gore either simply, apparently, for the joy of doing so without justification to the plot, or seemingly, sometimes, because the plot is maybe lacking a bit and all that blood and gore seems included to try and shore it up (which doesn't work, of course). 

But in Priest, I've discovered a horror writer who not only doesn't mask over a lack of substance with brain matter but actually does the opposite - a large portion of Family Plot isn't bloody at all, which means her ability to have me closing the bedroom door as I was reading for fear of seeing a dark shadow there if I looked up by the end of the second chapter is awesome. Though her seeming intent to have me afraid to take a shower, as well, never really materialized for me, it wasn't for lack of trying and be warned that she may well ensnare you in this dark fear. Especially if you happen to have pink bathroom tile.

The build up of tension is subtle but isn't delayed. I enjoyed the cast of characters, though I'm not sure I ever felt deeply invested enough with anyone if them to truly lament a death that may or may not have occurred. There weren't any unexpected twists (to me, anyway) and actually, these days where it seems a book without some sort of "shocking twist" can't manage to be published, I appreciated this element (or rather, lack of). 

One of my very favourite things about Family and its characters was the reality, the sense that they behaved towards the things that were happening to them in a logical, grounded way (and when they didn't, their response was attributed to being out of their control). They acted, much of the time, the way I felt like I would in the situation (not a lot of, "No, you idiot, don't go into that room... especially alone... in the middle of the night, no less!").

"If this was an invitation, she had zero problem ignoring it. If the door wanted to lock itself back up again before morning, that was fine. She’d cut it open with a power saw, just like Bobby had planned. But if the house, or Abigail, or whoever, thought she was dumb enough to accept that summons, those things or people were beyond wrong."

Yay, for the discovery of a new (to me) author, particularly one who has a strong backlist! If you're already a Priest fan you know you'll love this. If you've always wanted to try her out, this seems a great way to do so, and if you couldn't care less about the author, this is still a strongly recommended treat for autumn/Halloween. 

The Family Plot will be published, perfectly timed, in the United States by Tor on September 20th.