House of Reckoning

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Book
  • Copyright: 2010-11-23
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
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In Saul's newest work of psychological terror, an adolescent girl must unleash the ghosts in an old prison to right a small town's many wrongs.

Author Biography

House of Reckoning is John Saul’s thirty-sixth novel. His first novel, Suffer the Children, published in 1977, was an immediate million-copy bestseller. His other bestselling suspense novels include Faces of Fear, In the Dark of the Night, Perfect Nightmare, Black Creek Crossing, Midnight Voices, The Manhattan Hunt Club, Nightshade, The Right Hand of Evil, The Presence, Black Lightning, The Homing, and Guardian. He is also the author of the New York Times bestselling serial thriller The Blackstone Chronicles, initially published in six installments but now available in one complete volume. Saul divides his time between Seattle, Washington, and Hawaii.

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter One

Sarah Crane breathed deeply of the Vermont air as she quickly counted the chickens to make certain they were all safe in the coop before she closed the door for the night. Twelve. Perfect. She secured the door against any raccoons or weasels that might be out looking for an easy midnight snack, and with a last backward glance at the barn to make certain she had locked the door, she carried the egg basket up to the house, just as her mother had done every night for the past fifteen years. Fall was Sarah's favorite season; there was something about the light—maybe the way it filtered through the golden leaves of the maples surrounding the small farmhouse, or just the angle from which the sun shone down on her. Whatever it was, it always made her skin tingle and filled her with a sense of pure exuberance. Or at least it had until her mother got sick almost a year ago, and then died six months later. Since then even the fall twilight couldn't quite fill her with the joy of earlier years.

Nor did it help that there were only six eggs in the basket, and with the late September chill in the air, Sarah knew that the hens were about to stop laying until next spring. That, though, was nothing compared to the other thing worrying her tonight: how were she and the animals and the farm going to survive the winter with her father going into what her mother used to call "his cycle," without any preparation at all for the cold months ahead. He hadn't chopped any wood, he hadn't hunted deer, he hadn't even sold the calves, and now they were too old to bring the best price.

Instead he started drinking, and the vague unease Sarah had been feeling for the past few months was blossoming into a gut-churning fear as she scraped the bottom of the feed barrels. Now, with winter quickly approaching, the rats were taking over the barn, the hay was rotting in the field, and the woodpile, which should have been at least four cords by now, was pitifully small.

But she couldn't do it all herself.

The last of her exuberance fading as she stepped back into the warm kitchen, Sarah tried to unwind her worries as she unwound the wool scarf from around her neck. She put the eggs into the refrigerator and began cleaning up after supper, even though her father was still sitting at the kitchen table.

He hadn't eaten any of the corned beef hash she'd made for him; instead he pushed his plate aside and was staring morosely down at a photo album open on the table in front of him.

Sarah quietly cleared the table, careful not to bother him. She scraped the leftover hash into a dish, covered it with plastic, and put it next to the eggs in the refrigerator, then began running hot water into the sink.


Her father's voice was hoarse with the grief he'd been carrying for half a year, and the sound of it pulled tears to her eyes. Those tears were never far away, but most of the time she could control them.

Unless her father began to cry.

Then she wouldn't be able to stop them. How many times in the past six months had she and her father held each other on the sofa and just cried together? But when were they going to move away from all that? Her mother had told her—told her over and over again—that she wasn't to spend her life grieving. You keep living, understand? You have a whole life ahead of you, and I don't want you wasting any of it crying about me going and dying on you.

"Yes?" Sarah said, in response to her father, gritting her teeth against the cold fear in her heart.

"Bring me another beer, honey."

She felt a fist close in her belly. Before her mother died, her father never had more than one beer, even on the hottest days. But lately the first beer led to the second, and then on and on. And it did no good to argue with him—he'd just tell her to stop worrying. She pulled a beer from the refrigerator and put it on the t

Excerpted from House of Reckoning by John Saul
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