Audie Award Nominee, Fiction, 2013
Judgment of the Witch
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.
©2002 Robert McCammon (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
“Edoardo Ballerini performs this story of accusation and fear flawlessly. He effortlessly switches his pitch, accents, and timbre to suit the unfortunate Rachel Howarth, the endless curious Corbett, and the various determined characters, good and evil.” (AudioFile)
"a compelling story that should find a wide readership. Highly recommended for popular fiction collections." (Library Journal)
"An excellent story, full of tension and suspense.” (Stephen King)
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
I got through to the end of this one more out of dogged commitment to finishing a book than from thinking it was very good. While the story is entertaining enough in a "fun mystery to read at the beach" sense, it's filled with pretty much every predictable trope you can think of for a novel set in the American Colonies in 1699. There's an _Accused Witch Who Isn't Really a Witch_. There's a _Pompous, Self-Interested Town Father_. There's a _Firebrand Preacher_. There are some _Pitchfork-Waving Villagers_. There's a _Too-Smart-For-His-Britches Young Man_ who suspects that _Something Fishy Is Going On_ and applies _Logic and Reason_ to the situation. There's a _By-the-Book Judge_. There are _Helpful, Earthy Indians_ and negro slaves. There are several characters who are _Not What They Seem_. There are _Convenient Coincidences_.
While I expect novelists to take creative liberties with historical accuracy, there are so many flagrant anachronisms here, it gets a bit ridiculous. For example, not only does one character say to another, "put that in your pipe and smoke it", but there's actually a scene where two characters light up some joints. I wouldn't have been surprised, at that point, if they'd wheeled out a steampunk microwave and cooked some burritos. Where McCammon does get in some plausible detail, there's rarely a sense that his research went much deeper than the level needed for a theme park.
I wouldn't go so far as to call this novel TERRIBLE; the characters, despite their cliche, are well-drawn. The first half of the book is reasonably entertaining. The author seems to mean well. But, I'm bumping what might have been a three star rating down to a two because the resolution to the mystery was so phoned in. If all you care about in an audiobook is that it provide diversion during your commute to work, Speaks the Nightbird might be worth your while, but if you're looking for any kind of complexity or depth, it's thoroughly mediocre.
I can't fault audiobook narrator Edoardo Ballerini for his performance, though. He does as capable a job with the material as can be expected.
I read a lot of historical mysteries and I expect a lot. This book supplies it - accurate period detail, complex mystery, surprising twists and turns; but what made this stand out for me is the protagonist, Matthew Corbett. Robert McCammon actually put a heart and mind into Matthew Corbett, the "detective" of the story. He runs into his share of villains, but not every single person is rotten to the core (another one of my pet peeves. How can every single person be sick and twisted? Every single one?)
McCammon gave me every reason to keep rooting for Matthew, even when I thought he was making a terrible mistake. See what I mean? That's a protagonist.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
This was a most unexpected surprise. I selected the book because of the narrator - Edoardo Ballerini - and the amazing job he did with "Beautiful Ruins." He does an equally superb job with this book ... a dark, historical thriller.
If you want to pick it apart, you can. Historically speaking, it's flawed. For mystery readers in general, there's no surprise in the end. But none of that matters. This book has a distinct pace and storyline - one that moves along and takes you for quite a ride. It is perhaps one of the best one-credit values on Audible.
I was reminded of a couple other books while I was listening. The comparison to Gabaldon's "Outlander" series is inevitable. There are similar characteristics. If you combined that with "Fingersmith" and "Mistress of the Art of Death," you have some idea of what it's like. Dark, grisly and utterly compelling.
I am a historian of this period and of witchcraft, usually enjoy fictional treatments even if they're not historically accurate. But the first couple of hours of this were so excruciatingly drawn out -- every thing in the scene has to be described, with six adjectives and two adverbs -- and the story line already is so predictable (the travelers in the storm, the sinister tavern, the psychotic landlord -- good grief!!!) and overwrought for the introduction to the real story, that I gave up. The performance was fine, the problem was the book. I guess the original must be a thousand pages of words and about three pages of actual plot.
Not by this author!
He's pretty good with voices -- if the writing were worth hearing (had some meaning), I think I would enjoy his presentation.
If you like details then you will like this book. I personally was not so crazy about listening to a story that could have taken place in 3 or 4 days stretch over many more - with details that strained my patience.
I'm only giving an example here to what the extent that the detailing was like, not a quote from the book, let's say that the main character was going to hand someone a book - it would read like this:
His hand started to lift from his right coat pocket and his finger's muscles began to contract as they readied themselves to start to open and extend towards the book, as his hand was raised his dark blue wool three buttoned coat sleeve shortened on his arm exposing his white linen shirt cuff that needed to be cleaned and have a new button sewed on with some white thread that might be taken from an older button that did not need the thread, and then as his fingers started to grip around the edges of the book his thumb rested on the top and his pinkie underneath and he felt the leather with all of his fingers tips and just to make sure he had a good hold on the large book he brought his other hand out of his left pant's pocket but his broken fingernail on his thumb caught for a moment on the leather pouch that was resting inside that pocket and he thought of his dog who had black fur, and then with the book in both hands he held it in the direction of the woman who had asked him what he was reading right before she had finished wiping her chin with a laced handkerchief.
Do you see what I mean?
Addicted to Audible!
This is a book that grabs your attention from beginning to end! A wonderful historical novel that features all kinds of interesting characters, situations and details. It is never slow or boring. It has great,well crafted characters. The details of daily life, medical treatments, food, law, religious beliefs, witchcraft,slavery, piracy, etc were all fascinating. The murder mystery was surprising and built tension throughout the story. It did not have a predictable ending. Edoardo Ballerini is an amazing talent, I have not listened to anything he has read that didnt keep me mesmerized by the sound of his voice. I was sorry when this book ended and hope to find another by this author.
Obviously several people liked it from the reviews. I love historical fiction but was not impressed with this one. I bought it because of the favorable reviews. Guess my taste is different from most of the other reviewers.
No. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres.
Loved the magistrate. Such a sad character. Did not like what happened to him.
I just did not like the resolution to the plot. I had to make myself finish the book. Once the magistrate was out of the picture, I didn't really care what happened.
My favorite genres are absurdist humor, Sci-fi & modern fantasy, but, as you can see, I'll read just about anything. Don't mind the typos.
Another reviewer said this book was like Outlander. I seriously disagree with that. It was an interesting tale but nothing like Outlander. I found little difference between the depictions of the characters of the towns people, the story dragged on far too long and not always believable. Not bad, i was just expecting better.
I can find a book to love in any genre -- a beautifully written classic, an interesting mystery or sci-fi, a trashy romance. Bring it!
STORY (historical mystery) - Speaks the Nightbird is a great book. The main plot line follows a witch trial to its conclusion. It's interesting to see how it unfolds -- the investigation, the trial and learning the beliefs/motives of those involved. There are lots of characters and lots of clues, but it's still very easy to keep things straight. Don't try to figure out the ending because you probably won't be able to.
The book has some very dark characters and some very endearing ones. The main character, Matthew, grows from a young adult to a mature one during the span of the story. I really liked the way the author addressed his relationship with the accused witch.
I considered rating the book a 5 but made deductions for three small things: (1) a few scenes make me wonder about the sexual inclinations of the author, (2) some scenes were too dark and/or gross for my taste, and (3) even though it's never, ever boring, it's bit long for my personal taste.
PERFORMANCE - Wow! Wonderful expression, timing, foreign accents, perfect portrayal of an evangelist and a character on his deathbed. I'm going to check for more books read by this talented narrator.
OVERALL - (Actual rating 4.5) I've read some harsh complaints about this book, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable and recommend it highly. There is sex, language and some gore, though, so it might not be for those who are sensitive.
Overall this is not a bad story, but if you are a historian of 17th century colonial America it may well drive you mad. It appears that everyone has matches (not invented in usable form until the 19th century), wears tricorn hats (exceedingly unlikely for backwoods Carolina and a 19th century word to boot), and are citizens, (a term not in general use until Revolutionary times). I eventually made a small game of find the historical anachronism. But if you don't care about accuracy of detail you may well enjoy this story.
"Wonderful historical, mystery, thriller"
This slowly developing, detailed and descriptive novel brings alive an historical period while weaving a web of mystery. Drawing pen portraits of a collection of frontiers people, all with an unusual history, McCammon introduces the reader to witchcraft and ignorance, murders and an underlying sense of threat. But striding through this grim and frightening landscape is the determined and morally sound Matthew Corbett, judge's clerk. The reader sees the characters and the new town through Matthew's eyes, shadowing his perseverance as he investigates the crimes being blamed on Rachel's witchcraft. Beautifully read too. I will be looking out for the other books in this series!
A very enjoyable story with an unusual setting and interesting characters. Well written and sympathetically narrated.
I was so excited to learn of this book because I enjoyed Swan Song so much, however it didn't live up to what I'd hoped it would. It's basically a who dunnit but it just goes on and on. In the end I didn't really care who did it! I am not sure how much time this book covers but it just seems an age.
The author uses beautiful language in his descriptions, almost poetic, but unfortunately this was not enough to redeem this book for me. I would definitely recommend Swan Song but not this one.
I have had a couple of duds lately from audible, think I need to choose more wisely next time!
Loved the description in this novel, the characters were well drawn and the narrator was ideally suited to this book. Difficult to put down and didn.t want to end!
"So grim I can't continue..."
the descriptions of physical suffering are so visceral and go on and on... it's ultimately too distracting from the rather good story... I cannot make myself finish it and will be returning this book. A relentless parcel of suffering... mood alteringly awful.
"Bloody good book!"
Good historical premise, riveting plot and excellent denouement ! Read it! The characters are engaging and some plot twists were quite unexpected and refreshing.
"An excellent read!"
Not having read anything by Robert McCammon I wasn't sure about this book however I was impressed with the narrator in the sample and decided to give it a go. It is long winded that I must admit however it's well worth getting to the bottom of the mystery and sticking with it, which I'm very glad I did.
"My Fine Companion"
This audiobook has kept me company on and off for two weeks and a couple of thousand miles of car travel. It has proved to be a finely wrought story told by a confident author and read by, for me, so far, the best of American narrators.
The narrator's ability to differentiate faultlessly and credibly a large array of characters is inspiring. I have been in good hands on this journey.
I am delighted to see that there other books by this author and I look forward to more long travels in his company.
"Thoroughly amazing story line!"
In the barn with the horse and harness, It quite shocked me but I saw the funny side to it
I loved the performance
Too long, but I just found I couldn't stop listening
I wasn't sure what to expect but I really enjoyed this book. The characters were so brilliant and the Magistrate and his sidekick made a real impression on me! Just so brilliant, the sort of book I really enjoy
"A damned good listen..."
Well-written, well-plotted and well-narrated. A very entertaining tale with just 2 instances of anachronistic speech that I picked up. Full marks to the author and the narrator
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