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A House with Good Bones
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A haunting Southern Gothic from an award-winning master of suspense, A House With Good Bones explores the dark, twisted roots lurking just beneath the veneer of a perfect home and family.
“Mom seems off.”
Her brother’s words echo in Sam Montgomery’s ear as she turns onto the quiet North Carolina street where their mother lives alone.
She brushes the thought away as she climbs the front steps. Sam’s excited for this rare extended visit, and looking forward to nights with just the two of them, drinking boxed wine, watching murder mystery shows, and guessing who the killer is long before the characters figure it out.
But stepping inside, she quickly realizes home isn’t what it used to be. Gone is the warm, cluttered charm her mom is known for; now the walls are painted a sterile white. Her mom jumps at the smallest noises and looks over her shoulder even when she’s the only person in the room. And when Sam steps out back to clear her head, she finds a jar of teeth hidden beneath the magazine-worthy rose bushes, and vultures are circling the garden from above.
To find out what’s got her mom so frightened in her own home, Sam will go digging for the truth. But some secrets are better left buried.
Also by T. Kingfisher
Nettle & Bone
What Moves the Dead
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Good heavens, here we are at the end of another book. You’d think that I’d see it coming, given that I’m the one writing the things, but somehow they always seem to creep up on me and leave me wrung out and flattened in their wake.
A House With Good Bones came about primarily because of my long-standing feud with roses. I am an avid gardener, but I do not actually like roses very much. They seem to be either finicky or murderous, without any real middle ground. Nor can you always tell which are which. I have several that I planted because I felt sorry for the poor plant on the discount table, and without exception, they have grown into gigantic murder bushes that require gauntlets to prune. The native swamp rose tried to eat the foundation and sent up runners in all directions, and I eventually had to pry it out of the ground with a pickaxe.
Thing is, I had already written a book about evil roses. It was a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” called Bryony and Roses, and I thought I’d gotten all of my anti-rose sentiment out there.
Nevertheless, I had this mental image that wouldn’t quite leave me of a family sitting down to dinner, lashed in place by rose stems, and the matriarch of the family saying, “Isn’t this nice?”
It was just a scene. It certainly wasn’t a story. I didn’t know anyone in it, or how they got there. But it stuck with me, and it kept sticking. For years. And one day the lovely people at Nightfire asked if I had anything that might turn into a horror novel, and I found myself trying to explain this scene and also rambling about vultures, and the next thing I knew, I was writing about Sam and her mom and the house on Lammergeier Lane.
I can’t say that I went too far afield for much of the material here. I live in a subdivision of exactly the sort described, I am obsessed with bugs, gardening, and archaeology—yes, archaeoentomologist is a real job that you can have, and I envy it a little—and you’ve already heard about my relationship with roses.
Which mostly leaves the vultures.
Black vultures are, in fact, wonderful birds. They’re found all over the American Southeast, and they are highly social animals, with complex family bonds. This makes them different from many other raptors, who tend to be—charitably—extremely single-minded. (The joke is that people who go into raptor rehabilitation start out excited to work with eagles and end up being passionate about vultures.) I own a little piece of land that contains a black vulture roost, and I feel honored to be allowed to host them.
A buddy of mine, Foxfeather Zenkova, has been building a vulture center in Minnesota for several years now. I was fortunate enough to travel to the Himalayas with her as part of a group of artists, and we saw a number of different vultures, including the lammergeier, also known as the bearded vulture. They’re the ones who eat bones. They are magnificent.
Fox also has a house vulture named Sev, who was the most wonderful, inquisitive ball of floof and is now a wonderful, charming adult who does not understand why humans do not want a vulture to, say, help them cook dinner. The character of Hermes is based largely on Sev, and Fox herself was incredibly helpful with all the questions about vulture habits that came up over the course of writing. Anything I got right was because of her help; anything I got wrong is on me for not asking.
Similarly, most of the good bits are probably because Lindsey Hall at Tor poked them at some point and made them better, as well as Kelly Lonesome and the rest of the Nightfire crew, who have done such an amazing job bringing these books to life. Thanks also go to my agent, without whom it would be much harder to keep writing these books.
Big thanks to my Twitter crew of entomologists, who were so helpful in volunteering bug information to round out Sam’s experience. I hope I did them proud. The ladybug swarm in England was a real event, which many people remember, generally not fondly.
Jack Parsons is also real, and his story is, if anything, even weirder than I make it out to be in the book. (Aleister Crowley told him to take it down a notch, that’s how far out he was.)
My mom is also real, and very sweet, and pretty darn cool. One of my grandmothers was awesome. The other one … Well, anyway, did I mention that one of them was awesome?
Finally, thanks to my husband, Kevin, who often has a manuscript shoved in his face at the halfway mark while I wail, “Tell me if this shames my ancestors!” He is a good person and probably should not have to put up with that, but I greatly appreciate that he does.
The next time you’re out driving and you see the vultures at the side of the road, acting as nature’s cleanup crew, give them a nod. They’re doing vital work, and we would miss them very, very much if they were gone.
- On Sale
- Mar 28, 2023
- Page Count
- 256 pages
- Hachette Book Group