The Devil's Serenade


 Maddie had forgotten that cursed summer. Now she's about to remember...
When Maddie Chambers inherits her Aunt Charlotte’s gothic mansion, old memories stir of the long-forgotten summer she turned sixteen. She has barely moved in before a series of bizarre events drives her to question her sanity.

The strains of her aunt’s favorite song echo through the house, the roots of a faraway willow creep through the cellar, a child who cannot exist skips from room to room, and Maddie discovers Charlotte kept many deadly secrets.

Gradually, the barriers in her mind fall away, and Maddie begins to recall that summer when she looked into the face of evil. Now, the long dead builder of the house has unfinished business and an ancient demon is hungry. Soon it is not only Maddie’s life that is in danger, but her soul itself, as the ghosts of her past shed their cover of darkness.

Reviews:

 "Catherine’s writing is intelligent and brings an elegance back to horror that has been missing for years. The Devil’s Serenade is a true testament to her body of work." - Beneath The Underground
 
“An excellent, back-to-the-basics haunted house story - a Gothic horror which doesn’t get too mired in on itself. The Devil’s Serenade builds a sense of dread, with genuine scares, right up to the climax.” —Daniel G. Keohane, Bram Stoker nominated author of Solomon’s Grave

 
I absolutely love Cat's books. Hers are very different from what you may be used to. If you've never read one of her books before, I highly recommend you start here” – Cat After Dark

 
“The denouement scared me pale. Read with the lights on...and ignore those noises upstairs.” – Mallory Heart Reviews

 
"This is a haunted house tale as full of memories and regrets as it is demons and spirits. More importantly, it's a story where the house itself is part of the story." - Beauty in Ruins  


"I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good creepy story." - FangFreakin-tastic Reviews
 
"Ms Cavendish weaves a mysterious and spine tingling tale." - Just a Little R&R


"Fans of gothic horror are sure to eat this book up" - Examiner.com

“There's plenty of twists, turns, and doubt… horror and ghost-loving fans will really like to sink into this one.”- The Reader’s Hollow
 
 "Great, classic horror. Keeps you turning the pages faster!" - Maddie's Book Reviews

 "The Devil’s Serenade is a great, new haunted house tale that is packed with tension and has a few fantastic surprises along the way." - 2 Book Lovers' Reviews

 "A great book to curl up with on a stormy night." - Horror Maiden's Book Reviews

  "This is definitely a must read. It was hella scary. I couldn’t get enough" - Mello and June's Book Reviews 

"Dark and strange... The Devil's Serenade will keep you on your toes and leaving the light on to keep away the shadows." - Bibliophilic Book Blog

Excerpt:

I took to Charlie the instant he turned up in answer to my phone call for help. There was something comfortable and reassuring about him that inspired my confidence. He seemed familiar somehow, even though we’d only just met, and I sensed that if Charlie told me something, I could rely on his honesty. In the past couple of hours, I’d learned that he was fifty, divorced ten years earlier, and had lived in Priory St. Michael all his life.

He picked up his toolbox off the floor by the cellar door. “If you want to know anything about anything in this town, ask me. Chances are I’ll be able to point you in the right direction. I’m sure you’ll like it here. We have our drama, but mostly it’s a nice, peaceful sort of place.” He picked his keys up off the table. “Miss Grant was your aunt, you say?”

I nodded. “Yes. I used to spend my summers with her when I was a child. I loved this old house. So many rooms to play in. A perfect playground for a child…"

A memory stirred. Hairs prickled on the back of my neck. In the summer of my sixteenth year, something happened at Hargest House. Something that existed just out of reach in my mind. Something bad. Whatever it was, my mind blocked it out. I never saw Aunt Charlotte again and never returned to the house. Until now.

Of that last summer, no memories remained. Only gaps and that inexplicable feeling of unease I now experienced afresh. I became conscious of Charlie watching me with a slightly curious expression. I cleared my throat and continued.

“You and I are a similar age, so maybe I saw you round the town back then.”

“Quite probably.” Charlie seemed about to say something else, but changed his mind. When he spoke again I was sure it wasn’t what he had planned to say. “I did a little work for Miss Grant now and again. A partial rewiring, a new strip light in the kitchen, that sort of thing. She kept very much to herself. A very private lady.” He frowned. “Right, Mrs. Chambers, I’ll see you on Monday. Eight thirty sharp and you’ll be having lashings of hot water before you know where you are.”

“That’ll be super, Charlie. I’m grateful for my power shower but I do love a good wallow in a nice, deep bath. That poor old boiler isn’t up to the job. Besides, I really can’t be doing with oil. And do call me Maddie, please. ‘Mrs. Chambers’ makes me think you’re talking to my ex-mother-in-law.” I raised my eyes heavenward and he laughed.

“You didn’t get on, I assume?”

“You assume correctly. She was an absolute witch. Hated me for marrying her son and hated me even more when we split up. I couldn’t win.”

He opened the front door and hesitated. “Have you been down to your cellar?”

I shook my head. I’d been too busy sorting out the rooms on the first two floors to venture any higher or lower in this vast house. “What’s the problem?” A horrific thought hit me. “Oh God, don’t tell me I’ve got rats or mice or…something.”An image of a horde of cockroaches flashed into my mind, munching their way through anything they could get their disgusting little jaws into.

“No, no, not that I could see anyway. No, it’s not that. It’s roots.”

I blinked. “Roots? What—tree roots or something?”

He nodded. “Yes, you’ve got some growing down there. You may want to get them dealt with.”

“You mean they’re coming in under the foundation? But there’s no tree close enough for that.”

“Nevertheless you have tree roots growing in your cellar. It’s certainly odd. I mean, the cellar’s a bit damp, but not excessively so.” He hesitated, then shook his head.

His wasn’t the sort of news I wanted to hear. “Thanks for letting me know,” I said as I followed him out to his van. He left with a smile and a wave.

After he’d gone, I stayed outside, looking out over the grounds. In front of me, fifty or so yards away, stood a strangely distorted weeping willow. It had been struck by lightning many years earlier and had grown bent and twisted. The branches hung low and weaved their way across the grass in such a fashion that, as a child, I had christened it “the tentacle tree”. From my angle, I couldn’t even see the lowest one where I used to sit when I was a child. I had loved that tree, but… Some trace of a hidden memory unnerved me. I had no idea what it was and my mind wasn’t letting me anywhere near it, but my hands began to shake. I told myself I was being stupid and turned back into the kitchen.

Once inside, I marched over to the cellar door and opened it. It gave a protesting squeak and I made a mental note to oil the hinges later. Right now I was curious to see this tree phenomenon that so intrigued Charlie.

I had always been possessed of an acute sense of smell. My mother used to comment on it. From what she and everyone else told me over the years, I could detect almost anything way before it reached anyone else’s nostrils. With a pleasant aroma, this was a blessing; with a bad one, a curse. Now, my nose wrinkled at the pungent earthy smell—a sharp contrast with the warm, fresh kitchen. I flicked the light switch and a single, weak bulb illuminated part of the expanse stretching out at the bottom of the flight of wooden stairs. I grasped the banister and began my descent. The farther down I went, the stronger the smell of soil, which had taken on a peaty tinge.

A large flashlight rested on the bottom stair and I switched it on, shining it into the dark corners. There wasn’t a lot to see. A few broken bits of furniture, old fashioned kitchen chairs, some of which looked vaguely familiar, jam jars, crates that may once have held bottles of beer.

The beam caught the clump of gnarled and twisted roots that intertwined with each other, like Medusa’s snakes. I edged closer to it, my heart thumping more than it should. It was only a tree, for heaven’s sake! The nearest one was probably the willow. Surely, that was too far away? I knew little about trees, but I was pretty certain their roots couldn’t extend that far.

I examined the growth from every angle in that silent cellar. The roots were definitely spreading along the floor and, judging by the thickness and appearance of them, had been there for many years. Gray, like thick woody tendrils, they reached around six feet along and possibly four feet across at their widest point. I bent down. Close up, the smell that arose from them was cloyingly sweet. Sickeningly so. I put one hand over my nose, rested the flashlight on the steps and reached out with the fingers of my free hand to touch the nearest root. It wriggled against my palm.

I cried out, staggered backward and fell against the stairs. The flashlight clattered to the floor and went out. Only the overhead bulb provided any light, and it didn’t reach this darkest corner.

Something rustled. I struggled to my feet, grabbed the torch and ran up the stairs. I slammed the door shut and locked it, leaned against it and tried to slow down my breathing. A marathon runner couldn’t have panted more.

I tapped the flashlight and it flickered into life, seemingly none the worse for its accident. I switched it off and set it on the floor by the cellar door. Whoever came to fix those roots was going to need it.

Copyright © 2017 Catherine Cavendish
All rights reserved


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