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Speaks the Nightbird
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Speaks the Nightbird

4.5 32
by Robert McCammon

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From New York Times bestselling horror novelist Robert McCammon comes a dark and chilling tale about a witch-hunt in the seventeenth century Carolina colonies.

The Carolinas, 1699: The citizens of Fount Royal believe a witch has cursed their town with inexplicable tragedies—and they demand that beautiful widow Rachel Howarth be tried and executed


From New York Times bestselling horror novelist Robert McCammon comes a dark and chilling tale about a witch-hunt in the seventeenth century Carolina colonies.

The Carolinas, 1699: The citizens of Fount Royal believe a witch has cursed their town with inexplicable tragedies—and they demand that beautiful widow Rachel Howarth be tried and executed for witchcraft. Presiding over the trial is traveling magistrate Issac Woodward, aided by his astute young clerk, Matthew Corbett. Believing in Rachel's innocence, Matthew will soon confront the true evil at work in Fount Royal....

After hearing damning testimony, magistrate Woodward sentences the accused witch to death by burning. Desperate to exonerate the woman he has come to love, Matthew begins his own investigation among the townspeople. Piecing together the truth, he has no choice but to vanquish a force more malevolent than witchcraft in order to save his beloved Rachel—and free Fount Royal from the menace claiming innocent lives.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An excellent story, full of tension and suspense."
— Stephen King
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 Cahners Business Information.
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.

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Gallery Books
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5.31(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Matthew could hear the tempestuous sound of the sea. Breakers were hitting islands or exposed sandbars some distance away from the swamp that he was now negotiating with great difficulty. Ahead of him and almost at the limit of his perception was the midnight traveller — a dark, moving blotch within further darkness — who would have been totally lost to him had it not been for the faint orange moonlight, and even that meager illumination was jealously guarded by the streams of moving clouds.

The man had come this way before, that was a certainty. And more than once. His pace was swift and sure-footed, even without benefit of a lantern. Matthew was up to the task of following through the waist-high grasses and across the muck that pulled at his shoes, but it was a tough and laborious journey.

They had left Fount Royal far behind. Matthew estimated the distance at least a quarter mile from the watchman's tower, which had been easily circumvented by cutting through the pinewoods. If the watchman had been awake — and this Matthew seriously doubted — he'd been looking out to sea. Who would expect anyone in their right mind to venture out into this morass in the dead of night?

The midnight traveller had a definite purpose, one that gave speed to his step. Matthew heard something rustle off in the grass to his right; it sounded large and quite sinister, therefore he found a little extra speed himself. He discovered in the next moment, however, that his worst enemy was the swamp itself, as he walked into a shallow pond that closed about his knees and almost sent him sprawling. The mud at the pond's bottom seized his shoes and it was only with extreme tenacity that Matthew worked his way to freedom. Once out of the water he realized he could no longer detect his quarry's movement. He scanned from right to left and back again, but the darkness had truly dropped its curtain.

Still, he knew the man must be going in this general direction. He started off again, more mindful of where he was stepping. The swamp was indeed a treacherous place. The midnight traveller must surely have come out here many times to be able to navigate these dangers. Indeed, Matthew thought the man may have made a map of his route and consigned it to memory.

After three or four minutes, Matthew was yet unable to spy any movement in the darkness. He glanced back and saw that his course had taken him around a headland. A black line of pines and swamp oaks stood between his current position and the watchman's tower, which was probably the greater part of a mile behind. Beyond him was only more swamp. He debated whether to turn back or forge on. Everything out here was only greater and lesser shades of dark, so what was the point? He did continue on a few paces, though, and again paused to scan the horizon. Mosquitoes hummed about his ears, hungry for blood. Frogs croaked in the rushes. Of another human, however, there was not a sign.

What was there to bring a person out here? This was wild desolation, hardly a civilized soul standing between his footprints and the city of Charles Town. So what did the midnight traveller seek to accomplish?

Matthew looked up at the banners of stars. The sky was so huge and the horizon so wide that it was fearsome. The sea, too, was a dark continent. Standing on this coast with the unknown world at his back, he felt more than a little distress, as if his equilibrium and very place on earth were challenged by such immensity. He understood at that moment the need for men to build towns and cities and surround them with walls — not only to keep out the threat of Indians and wild beasts, but to maintain the illusion of control in a world that was too large to be tamed.

His contemplation was suddenly broken. Out at sea, two lights blinked in quick succession.

Matthew had been about to turn his face toward Fount Royal again, but now he stood motionless. A few seconds went by. Then, once again, the two lights blinked.

What followed next gave his heart a jolt. Not fifty yards from where Matthew was standing, a lighted lantern appeared and was uplifted. The lantern swung back and forth, and then disappeared — concealed, Matthew suspected, by the midnight traveller's cloak. The man must have either crouched down to strike a match and flame the candle, or done it within the cloak's folds. Whatever and however, a signal had been answered.

Matthew lowered himself into the protection of the marsh grass, so that just his eyes were above it. He desired a closer view, and began to move quietly and carefully toward where the lantern had been revealed. It came to mind that if he stepped on a venomous reptile in his present posture, its fangs would strike a most valuable area. He got to within thirty feet of the dark-cloaked man and was forced to stop when the cover of the high grass ended. The man was standing on a stretch of hard-packed sand, just a few yards short of the Atlantic's foamy waves. He was waiting, his face aimed toward the ocean and his lantern hidden in the cloak.

Matthew also waited. Presently, after the passage of perhaps ten minutes during which the man paced back and forth but never left his station, Matthew was aware of a shape emerging from the darkness of the sea. Only when it was about to make landfall did Matthew make out an oarboat, painted either black or dark blue. There were three men aboard, all of whom also wore night-hued clothing. Two of the men jumped out into the surf and pulled the oarboat to shore.

Matthew realized the boat must have come from a larger vessel some distance away. His thought was: I have found the Spanish spy.

"Greetin's!" the man who had remained in the oarboat called, his accent as far from being Spanish as Gravesend was from Valencia. He stepped down onto the sand. "How goes it?"

The midnight traveller answered, but his voice was so low Matthew heard only a murmur.

"Seven this trip," the oarboater said. "That oughta do you. Get 'em out!" He had delivered this command to the other two men, who began to unload what appeared to be wooden buckets. "Same place?" he asked the midnight traveller, who answered with a nod. "You're a man of habit, ain't you?"

The midnight traveller raised his lantern from the folds of his cloak and by its yellow glow Matthew saw his face in profile. "A man of good habit," Edward Winston said sternly. "Cease this prattle, bury them, and be done with it!" He dropped the lantern, which had been used to show the other man that he was in no mood for dawdling.

"All right, all right!" The oarboater reached into the bottom of his craft and brought up two shovels, and then he walked up the beach to the edge of the high grass. His path brought him within fifteen feet of Matthew's concealment. He stopped at a thatch of spiny palmettos. "This where you want 'em?"

"It will do," Winston said, following.

"Bring 'em on!" the man ordered his crew. "Hurry it, we ain't got all night!" The buckets, which appeared to be sealed, were carried to the designated place. The oarboater handed the two shovels to the other men, who began to dig into the sand.

"You know where a third shovel is," Winston said. "You might employ it, Mr. Rawlings."

"I ain't no damn Injun!" Rawlings replied tartly. "I'm a chief!"

"I beg to differ. You are an Indian, and your chief is Mr. Danforth. I suggest you earn the coin he's paying you."

"Very little coin, sir! Very little, for this night work!"

"The faster they're buried, the sooner you may go."

"Well, why bury 'em anyway? Who the hell's comin' out here to find 'em?"

"Safe is better than sorry. Just lay one bucket aside and put the others under with no further argument."

Muttering beneath his breath, Rawlings reached carefully into the palmettos and pulled out a short-handled shovel that had been hidden there. Matthew watched as Rawlings fell to digging at rhythm with his companions. "What of the witch?" he asked Winston as he worked. "When's she gonna hang?"

"Not hang. She'll be burned at the stake. I expect it shall be within the next few days."

"You'll be cooked too then, won't you? You and Danforth both!"

"Just concern yourself with your digging," Winston said tersely. "You needn't put them deep, but make sure they're well covered."

"All right! Work on, my lads! We don't want to tarry long in this Satan's country, do we?"

Winston grunted. "Here or there, it's all Satan's country, isn't it?" He gave the left side of his neck a sound slap, executing some bloodsucking beastie.

It took only a few moments for a hole to be opened, six buckets secreted within it, and the sand shovelled over them. Rawlings was a master at appearing to work hard, with all the necessary facial contortions and exertions of breath, but his shovel might have been a spoon, for all the sand it moved. When the buckets were laid under, Rawlings stepped back, wiped his brow with his forearm, and said, "Well done, well done!" as if he were congratulating himself. He returned the implement to its hiding place amid the palmettos and grinned broadly at Winston, who stood nearby watching in silence. "I expect this'll be the last trip, then!"

"I think we should continue one more month," Winston said.

Rawlings's grin collapsed. "What need will you have of any more, if she's to be burned?"

"I'll make a need. Tell Mr. Danforth I shall be here at the hour."

"As you please, your majesty!" Rawlings gave Winston an exaggerated comical bow and the two other men laughed. "Any other communications to the realm?"

"Our business is concluded." Winston said coldly. He picked up by its wire handle the seventh bucket that had been laid aside, and then he abruptly turned toward Matthew — who instantly ducked down and pressed himself against the earth — and began to walk through the grass.

"I've never seen a burnin' before!" Rawlings called after him. "Make sure you take it all in, so's you can describe it to me!" Winston didn't respond, but kept on walking. His course, Matthew was relieved to see, took him along a diagonal line perhaps ten or twelve feet to Matthew's west. Then Winston had gone past, holding the lantern low under his cloak to shed some light on where he was stepping. Matthew presumed he would extinguish the candle long before he got within view of the watchman's tower.

"That tight-assed prig! I could lay him out with my little finger!" Rawlings boasted to his companions after Winston had departed.

"You could lay him out with your bloody breath!" one of the others said, and the third man guffawed.

"Right you are, at that! Come on, let's cast off this damned shingle! Thank Christ we've got a fair wind for a change tonight!"

Matthew lifted his head and watched as the men returned to their oarboat. They pushed it off the beach, Rawlings clambered over the side first and then the other men, the oars were taken up — though not by the big chief — and the vessel moved out through the lathery surf. It was quickly taken by the darkness.

Matthew knew that if he waited long enough and kept a sharp enough eye he might see some evidence of a larger craft at anchor out there — possibly the flare of a match lighting a pipe, or a stain of mooncolor on a billowing sail. He did not, however, have the time or the inclination. Suffice it to know that an oarboat was not a vessel suitable for a sea voyage.

He looked in the direction Winston had gone, back toward Fount Royal. Satisfied that he was alone, Matthew got up from his defensive posture and immediately went on the offensive. He found the disturbed area beside the palmettos where the buckets had been buried, and — two painful palmetto-spike stabs later — gripped his hand on the concealed shovel.

As Winston had specified, the buckets were not buried very deeply. All Matthew desired was one. The bucket he chose was of common construction, its lid sealed with a coating of dried tar, and of weight Matthew estimated between seven and eight pounds. He used the shovel again to fill the cavity, then returned it to the palmettos and set off for Fount Royal with the bucket in his possession.

The way back was no less difficult than his previous journey. It came to him that he was most likely locked out of Bidwell's mansion and would have to ring the bell to gain entrance; did he wish to let anyone in the household see him with this bucket in hand? Whatever game Winston was up to, Matthew didn't want to tip the man that his table had been overturned. He trusted Mrs. Nettles to a point, but in his opinion the jury was still out on everyone in the damned town. So: what to do with the bucket?

He had an idea, but it would mean trusting one person implicitly. Two persons, if Goode's wife should be counted. He was eager to learn the bucket's contents, and most likely Goode would have an implement to force it open.

With a great degree of thankfulness Matthew put the swamp at his back, negotiated the pinewoods to avoid the watchtower, and shortly thereafter stood before John Goode's door. Upon it he rapped as quietly as he thought possible, though the sound to his ears was alarmingly loud and must have awakened every slave in the quarters. To his chagrin, he had to knock a second time — and harder — before a light blotched the window's covering of stretched oilskin cloth.

The door opened. A candle was pushed out, and above it was Goode's sleepy-eyed face. He'd been prepared to be less than courteous to whoever had come knocking at such an hour, but when he saw first the white skin and then who wore it he put himself together. "Oh...yes suh?"

"I have something that needs looking at." Matthew held up the bucket. "May I enter?"

Of course he was not to be denied. "What is it?" May asked from their pallet of a bed as Goode brought Matthew in and closed the door. "Nothin' that concerns you, woman," he said as he lit a second candle from the first. "Go back to sleep, now." She rolled over, pulling a threadbare covering up to her neck.

Goode put the two candles on the table and Matthew set the bucket down between them. "I followed a certain gentleman out to the swamp just a while ago," Matthew explained. "I won't go into the particulars, but he has more of these buried out there. I want to see what's in it."

Goode ran his fingers around the tar-sealed lid. He picked up the bucket and turned it so its bottom was in the light. There, burnt by a brand into the wood, was the letter K and beneath that the letters CT. "Maker's mark," he said. "From a cooper in Charles Town, 'pears to be." He looked around for a tool and put his hand on a stout knife. Then he began chipping the tar away as Matthew watched in eager anticipation. When enough of the seal had been broken, Goode slid the blade under the lid and worked it up. In another moment the lid came loose, and Goode lifted it off.

Before sight was made of what the bucket concealed, smell gave its testimony. "Whoo!" Goode said, wrinkling his nose. Matthew put the sharp odor as being of a brimstone quality, with interminglings of pine oil and freshly cooked tar. Indeed, what the bucket held looked to be thick black paint.

"Might I borrow your blade?" Matthew asked, and with it he stirred the foul-smelling concoction. As he did, yellow streaks of sulphur appeared. He was beginning to fathom what he might be confronted with, and it was not a pretty picture. "Do you have a pan we might put some of this in? A spoon, as well?"

Goode, true to his name, supplied an iron pan and a wooden ladle. Matthew put a single dip of the stuff into the pan, just enough to cover its bottom. "All right," Matthew said. "Let us see what we have." He picked up one of the candles and lowered its flame into the pan.

As soon as the wick made contact, the substance caught fire. It was a blue-tinged flame, and burned so hot both Matthew and Goode had to draw back. There were small pops and cracklings as more flammable additives in the mixture ignited. Matthew picked up the pan and took it to the hearth so that the fumes might be drawn upward. Even with so little an amount, the heat on his hand was considerable.

"That's the Devil's own brew, ain't it?" Goode said.

"No, it's made by men," Matthew answered. "Diabolical chemists, perhaps. It's called 'infernal fire,' and it has a long history of being used in classical naval warfare. The Greeks made bombs from it and shot them from catapults."

"The Greeks? What're you goin' on about? Uh...beggin' your pardon, suh."

"Oh, it's all right. I think the use of this material is very clear. Our swamp-travelling gentleman has a zest for fire."


"Our gentleman," Matthew said, watching the flames continue to burn brightly in the pan, "likes to see houses alight. With this chemical, he is sure of setting fire to even damp wood. I expect he might paint it on the walls and floor with a brush. Then the stuff is touched off at several strategic places...and the firemen will inevitably be too late."

"You mean..." The truth of the matter was dawning on Goode. "The man's been usin' this to burn down houses?"

"Exactly. His last strike was against the schoolhouse." Matthew set the pan down in the fireplace's ashes. "Why he would wish to do so, I have no idea. But the fact that this bucket was fashioned in Charles Town and was brought by sea bodes ill for his loyalty."

"Brought by sea?" He stared long and hard at Matthew. "You know who the man be, don't you?"

"I do, but I'm unprepared to speak the name." Matthew returned to the table and pushed the lid down firmly on the bucket once more. "I have a request to make. Will you hold this in safekeeping for a short time?"

Goode regarded the bucket with trepidation. "It won't blow us up, will it?"

"No, it needs a flame to ignite. Just keep it closed and away from fire. You might wrap it up and treat it with the same care you treat your violin."

"Yes suh," he said uncertainly. "Only thing be, I don't believe nobody ever got blowed up from fiddle music."

At the door, Matthew cautioned, "Not a word to anyone about this. As far as you should be concerned, I was never here."

Goode had picked up both candles to remove them from the immediate vicinity of such destructive power. "Yes suh. Uh...you'll be comin' back to get this here thing, won't you?"

"I will. I expect I'll need it very soon." But not until he determined exactly why Edward Winston was burning down his employer's town, he might have added.

"The sooner I'll like it," Goode said, already looking for a piece of burlap with which to wrap the offensive visitor.

Matthew left Goode's house and walked to the mansion, which was a relatively short distance but a world away from the slave quarters. He knew he should get to sleep quickly, as there was much to do at daylight. But he knew also that sleep was going to be difficult in the few hours of dark that remained, because his mind would twist this new revelation into every possible shape in an attempt to understand it. Banished now from his thoughts was the equine lust of Seth Hazelton; the crimes of Edward Winston loomed far larger, for the man had set those fires and willingly ascribed them — as did Bidwell and everyone else — to Rachel's pact with the Devil.

Matthew had every intention of going to the door and ringing the bell to gain entry if necessary, but between intention and deed he shifted his course a few degrees and soon found himself standing again on the grassy bank of the spring. He sat down, pulled his knees up to his chin, and stared out across the smooth water, his mind turbulent with questions of what was and what might be.

Presently he decided to stretch out, and lying on his back in the grass he looked up at the streams of stars that showed between the moving clouds. His last conscious thought before he drifted to sleep was of Rachel in the darkness of her cage; of Rachel, whose life depended on his actions in the hours that remained.

Of Rachel.

Copyright © 2002 by McCammon Corporation

Meet the Author

Robert McCammon is the New York Times bestselling author of Boy's Life and Gone South, among many critically acclaimed works of fiction, with millions of copies of his novels in print. He is a recipient of the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award, the Grand Master Award from the World Horror Convention, and is a World Fantasy Award winner. He lives in Alabama. Visit the author at RobertMcCammon.com.

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Speaks the Nightbird 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
nprfan1 More than 1 year ago
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A welcome return for a great horror writer, June 1, 2004

I have always maintained that there are three great modern American horror writers: Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Robert McCammon. King and Straub, of course, have been churning out books of varying quality for the last twenty-five years - but McCammon inexplicably vanished from the scene ten years ago and hasn't been heard from.

Until now.

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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fantastic book with many twists and turns. You will not be able to put the book down once you begin. The descriptions of the town and the characters will come alive for you and you will be cheering for the good guys! Great historical fiction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Part Agatha Christie, part Robert Lewis Stevenson, part Stephen King, part Joseph Conrad morality tale, but written wholly in Robert McCammon's unique voice, this can only be described as a rip-roarin' good yarn. For a breathless and thoroughly entertaining read, it can't be recommended too highly.
harpchild More than 1 year ago
This was the first fictions piece I read after finishing the Outlander series, so maybe my bar was set a little too high. (If you enjoy historical fiction, the Outlander books are the best there is in my opinion.) The author of Speaks the Nightbird did an excellent job of developing each character during the first part of the book. I've read some reviews that felt he over-developed the characters, but I enjoy thorough story telling. The story had great potential until about three quarters of the way through... I got the feeling the author needed to wrap the story quickly.... like something came up or he lost interest...? It was very odd. The ending plot was very involved and the story could have had a great conclusion, but it was hastily summarized instead. The ending didn't do the first part of the book justice at all and left me very disappointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
At the end of book one, several key issues are left unresolved. The trial ensues and the woman accused of withcraft is set to be executed. The assistant does not believe this, and sets off on his own investigation. The turns and twists in this novel are incredible. I really did know if she really was a witch, or if it was a red herring. Just when you think that you have this story figured out, the author leads you down another path, excellent as I hate trite and predictability. I read the first book in a week, bit I got so wrapped up in this book that I finished it in three days. The call of the Nightbird still haunts me.
BamaProud More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I felt as if I could "feel" the humidity and the bugs around in the thick Southern summer air. McCammon crafts such great characters that I couldn't wait to catch up with the next situation and set of characters in the next chapter. In the end it was such an AHHA moment when it all wrapped up. I loved it that while some things were not "fair" they still seemed to be "just". Great book with amazing characters. I have recommended (and purchased) this book for many of my friends and ALL have loved it. Can't wait to continue to watch Mathew Corbit grow up and mature.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Speaks the Nightbird is a turn of the century, the 17th century, novel that is more than just a story about a witch trial. Robert McCammon has brought together a profound and believable story that delves into the medical, social, and judicial system of the times. This book has a ton of twists and turns making it a definite thrill ride from cover to cover. The characters and plotlines are so well developed that you feel like you are right there in Fount Royal. Even though this book is considered historical fiction instead of horror you will not be disappointed because many of the situations and events that come about during the telling of the story, are at times very gruesome. But if you know anything about this time in American history you will understand all the hardships that our forefathers went through to make our country what it is today. If you read only one book this year, Speaks the Nightbird should be the one!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I dont beleieve there is a book by this author I did not enjoy.McCammon,is without question my favorate writer.I just finished this book (In 4 days I might add),and all I can say is,WOW!No one delivers such compelling character's ,and an amazing plot like McCammon.He is so gifted to take you on a journey with his in depth desciption and storytelling that almost confuses the reader with fantasy and reality.The mystery surrounding the plot will have you guessing to the very end.I will not go into the story ,other reviews already have.All I can say is to stop whatever your reading now,and go get this book.I only wish it did'nt take ten years to finally read it!I loved this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nightbird is one of the few 700 page books I've read in one week; the characters, setting, story, and plot, all keep the reader engrossed in the book. This book reads like a Gothic--and at points one of the characters seems like Sherlocke Holmes. The book is set in a town called Fount Royal, outside of Charles Town. Fount Royal has had problems with a witch, and Matthew Corbett and Magistrate Woodward are called from Charles Town to try the accused witch. What seems like an open-and-shut case to Magistrate Woodward, quickly becomes much more. Matthew, the magistrate's clerk, quickly finds himself trying to debunk an enigma inside a whopper of a conundrum. This is a VERY good book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It¿s been ten long years since Robert McCammon¿s last published book, but I¿m happy to say that the author is finally back in full form with SPEAKS THE NIGHTBIRD, a novel that tackles the injustice of the witchcraft trials in Colonial America and how one young man dares to resist the mob mentality in order to save the woman he loves. It begins in 1699 when Magistrate Isaac Woodward and his clerk, Matthew Corbett, are called to the small town of Fount Royal, which is on the coast of the Carolinas, to investigate the accusations of witchcraft and murder against the beautiful Rachel Howarth. She has been accursed of killing her own husband, Daniel, and the Reverend Grove, as well as having sexual intercourse with the Devil, and causing the slow demise of the community. The town¿s people are ready to lynch Rachel, but Magistrate Woodward uses the power of his position to insist that a fair trail takes place before anything is done to the woman. As the witnesses are called forth during the days ahead, each one describes in explicit detail how they saw Mrs. Howarth in the throes of passion with her supposedly dark Master. Woodward firmly believes that the witnesses are telling the truth, but young Matthew begins to suspect that there¿s someone else behind the scenes¿someone who¿s pulling the strings of the local town¿s people, intent of destroying Fount Royal and making Rachel the scapegoat to divert attention from his evil plans. When Rachel is sentenced to burn at the stake, Matthew¿s left with only a few days to prove her innocence and to find out the identity of the real murderer. SPEAKS THE NIGHTBIRD clearly surpasses any of Robert McCammon¿s earlier novels in sheer scope and craftsmanship. In fact, I consider it to be his crowning achievement in the field of fiction. Unlike his previous work in the horror genre, this is a historical novel of grand proportions (729 pages of small print) that delves into the hardships of day-to-day living during Colonial times, along with the fears and superstitions that caused many people to behave in the most hideous manner toward their fellow brothers. Mr. McCammon takes us into this desolate world, creating a murder mystery of such complexity that the reader is kept on his toes in a futile effort to guess who the killer really is. One can¿t help but be delighted in the multitude of characters that come alive within this story, each with their own uniqueness, perversity, and hidden agendas. It isn¿t long before you realize that almost everyone living in the town has something to hide and a strong reason for wanting Rachel to be convicted. Of course, it¿s Matthew Corbett who¿s the real star of the story as he quickly makes the journey into manhood, trusting his own instincts for discovering the truth and refusing to give up when faced with the impossible, believing in the power of justice and love. But, is he strong enough to take on the whole town and risk being burned at the stake with Rachel? SPEAKS THE NIGHTBIRD is a true masterpiece of literary fiction that¿s filled with nail-biting suspense and hard-hitting intrigue. This is the kind of novel that¿s sure to keep you up till the wee hours of the night, turning the pages in a hurried frenzy to find out what happens next. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once again the reviews led me to a great read by one of the finest story tellers you'll find. What a great talent. The main chacters are well described and your heart will race along with there experiences. Twists galore.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Outstanding historical fiction - one of the best I have read. Looking forward to reading more books by this author - Highly recommended!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Speaks the Nightbird. This is the 1st novel I've read about Matthew C. And I am pleased to learn Robert McCammon has (I believe) written 2 more w/this character. Not the supernatural I was expecting, but I forget all his works are not supernaural horror. The author may have topped out w/A Boy's Life and/or Swan Song, but this early American novel (1600/1700 ) at 690 some pages is well worth the read with young man Matthew as the hero.
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JeffreyC More than 1 year ago
Gives a good history of a Witch Trail in NC. Very detailed and a great read!
Mouser More than 1 year ago
This is the kind of book you find once in a while that makes it worthwhile to read the mediocre stories. It gives you a good feel for the setting and well developed characters. It provides mystery, human weaknesses, romance, suspense, history, good and bad characters. Well, it has everything you'd want in a great read.
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