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Speaks the Nightbird Paperback – July 17, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 315 customer reviews
Book 1 of 6 in the Matthew Corbett Series

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Editorial Reviews

From 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 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From 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, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 816 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books; Reprint edition (July 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416552502
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416552505
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (315 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Fletcher on January 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Robert McCammon is back, with one of his best novels ever. "Speaks the Nightbird" is the kind of book that really deserves a grass-roots, word-of-mouth campaign. If you read "Boy's Life" and it meant something to you, you owe it to yourself to pick up "Speaks the Nightbird."
The story concerns an aging legal magistrate and his young clerk who come to the small Carolina village of Fount Royal at the close of the 17th century to decide the facts in a case of reputed witchcraft.
Matthew Corbett, the magistrate's sharp-minded young clerk, is not sure he believes in witches, despite the accepted wisdom of the day. Corbett is a young man determined to see the world with his own set of eyes. This is good news for Rachel Howarth, the alleged witch, but not such good news for the young clerk himself. Matthew's determination to make up his own mind about the case runs him afoul of many of Fount Royal's most prominent residents. The villagers, who have come to blame recent deaths and failing crops on the accused witch, would like nothing more than a speedy, fiery solution to their troubles.
What Matthew wants is the truth, no matter how slippery and elusive it proves to be. A boy on the cusp of adulthood, Matthew suspects that the decisions he makes in Fount Royal will ultimately be the proof of the man he is to become. What Matthew soon discovers, however, is that the road to truth and decency is bound to be a hard and lonely one. Even the magistrate, a normally fair and level-headed man who has often served as a father figure for the boy, is so mired in the "facts" of the case that he is unable to lend Matthew a helping hand.
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Format: Hardcover
McCammon fans will be surprised and entertained by his latest novel about a witch trial set in North Carolina in 1699. The characters are developed, it is rich in detail and the pace is quick. All the qualities that earned him such a loyal fan base are here. His use of dialog has never been used for effectively. Prepare yourself for some late night reading. Those worried that this is not a scary book, be at ease. McCammon creates some wonderfully intense and macabre scenes and proves that some aspects of humanity are more frightening than anything supernatural. In retrospect, it's similar aspects and the attention to relationships in his stories that made "Mystery Walk", "Wolf's Hour" and others that much better. After reading this, I looked on his website where he states that he "got bored" with writing horror. This latest entry is a great way to cross over into historical fiction. I just hope his publisher and fans allow him to do so. Great reading and I look forward to his next, whatever the genre.
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Format: Hardcover
I've been waiting for this book for awhile now and man, was it worth the wait. McCammon draws you into his world from the beginning and you spend several days and nights immersed in the story. I read the whole book in one long weekend, as I couldn't stop myself. As usual, he does a great job with descriptions of the characters. The plot is so intricately woven together, and the ending is fantastic. He's definately become my favorite writer of today. This book is my 3rd favorite of all time, behind Boy's Life and The Stand. Can't wait till his next book, hope the time interval isn't so long next time. I may have to re-read this one.
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Format: Hardcover
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.Read more ›
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