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Speaks the Nightbird

(Matthew Corbett #1)

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  9,302 ratings  ·  1,050 reviews
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 con ...more
Paperback, 816 pages
Published July 17th 2007 by Gallery Books (first published September 1st 2002)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  9,302 ratings  ·  1,050 reviews

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Jonathan Janz
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My name is Robert McCammon. I don't write novels--I write masterpieces.

We need to talk, you and I. You're preparing to read a book called SPEAKS THE NIGHTBIRD, and we need to get a couple of matters straightened out before you proceed.

First of all, there'll be no need for other books while you read mine. That's right; you’ll want to be monogamous.

Not ready to make that commitment? I suppose I should explain something.

You don't have a choice.

Yes, that's right. Once you begin this tale of myst
Titus Burley
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Somehow McCammon slipped through the mass popularity cracks back in the horror heyday of the 80's. Despite writing many of the best genre novels of that era (and certainly the definitive werewolf novel ever written, "The Wolf's Hour"), he never achieved the cult status of King, Koontz, or Rice. Those who read him were avid fans and I remember the early 90's word of mouth buzz that passed from devotees in used bookstores. "If you like horror, you gotta read McCammon." Then came "Boy's Life", a bo ...more
David Putnam
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What a wonderful book, loved it. This is a historical novel set in 1699 South Carolina. Eight hundred pages of dense prose in the language and syntax of the time period. Just enough for spice, though. This is a murder mystery, and romance wrapped up in a wonderfully long novel. Did I say I loved it?
The author does a brilliant job establishing, “the fictive dream,” and holding me there. It tells the story of the early years of South Carolina, life’s hardships, and what it took to settle a hostile
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019

Where do I start to explain why this book is so great?!
Speaks the Nightbird is the first book in the Matthew Corbett series.

And I have a confession to make…

It’s the first book that I’ve read of Robert R. McCammon.
I know!! I can see you all shaking your heads, tsking me and you have every right to do it.

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read his work. His writing and characterization is bloody fantastic!! I’m so happy to finally experience his writing and storytelling. It
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is is only my second Robert McCammon novel and I have to confess I didn't love Swan Song. However I have been known to have a bit of a penchant for the historical fiction/ detective mash up and thought I'd give this a go.

Some one should have warned me I would get nothing else done in the 5 days I've been reading this. It was so good I didn't even commit my worst personal reading crime of book hopping (well- mostly). Now I've read some others' reviews I realise the warnings we
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing

The interview with the accused witch is intense. Wow. The author knows how to make a story compelling.

mage: description

This book was extremely well written and professional. Clearly this is writing in the hands of a master. Matthew Corbin, a young scribe, accompanies a magistrate to a settlement in North America that is barely getting on its feet and is dealing with a woman accused of satanism and witchcraft.
Matthew quickly decides she is innocent, but there may be another witch in town. The suspense is
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This first rate murder mystery is damned near perfect!

McCammon conjures an imaginary village that lives and breathes and seethes with a fear of supernatural forces. His characters, even the minor players, are richly drawn, complicated souls, many holding secret identities and unusual peccadilloes.

Bombastic preacher, Exodus Jerusalem, a lecherous holy crusader who seeks to cure witches with his "mighty sword" and a "laying on of hands" is a new favorite character for me. It is hinted that he m
People who sometimes pay attention to my humble opinions here on Goodreads might guess that Robert McCammon’s Matthew Corbett series is possibly my favorite detective series. But, sadly it seems like it’s still a bit underrated. I think it’s one of the most consistently enjoyable book series and full of fantastic entertainment.

This book is where it all begins, originally conceived as a historical mystery standalone in two parts. It takes place in 1699, and introduces one of my favorite book char
Oct 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Zoeytron by: Gary
Shelves: favorites
The year is 1699 and something wicked is afoot in the town of Fount Royal, a cunning evil with Satan's fingermarks all over it. We journey back to the days of witch trials, rat catchers, bloodletting, heated blister cups, and crude colonics.

Only three books into Robert McCammon's repertoire, I am amazed at his versatility. This foray into historical fiction with a dark mystery brewing is fantastic. Top 10 shelf material.
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, read-2016
5 Stars

Speaks the Nightbird is another near masterpiece from one of today's greatest authors.


I normally do not venture into the historical fiction genre.

I normally find giant novels tedious and difficult to finish.

I do not read much mystery.

I do however worship Robert McCammon.

That being said, this book is a testament to the writing genius that is McCammon that I not only loved this book, I could not put it down. McCammon who normally writes humanized horror novels wrote this histo
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
SPEAKS THE NIGHTBIRD was my introduction to Robert McCammon and Matthew Corbett as well. I've devoured all the Corbett books since. IMO, there isn't a more engaging or thrilling series in print.
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jun 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015

Came the time when the two travelers knew night would catch them, and shelter must be found. It had been a joyful day for frogs and mudhens. For the human breed, however, the low gray clouds and chill rain coiled chains around the soul. By the calendar the month of May should by all rights and predictions be charitable if not merry, but this May had entered like a grim-lipped miser pinching out candles in church.

Does anybody else like to read the opening paragraph of a novel and try to m
Paul O'Neill
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“It is not enough to love the nightbird’s song. One must also love the nightbird. And … one must eventually fall in love with the night itself.”

McCammon is this [-] close to becoming my favourite author of all time. This is such a great book, with a very relatable main character.

What really shines through in this historical fiction story about a magistrate and his assistant giving trial to a witch in 1699 Carolina, is the writer’s ability to show what each character wants. You feel every questi
David Sven
A historical mystery/suspense set in British America, South Carolina, 1699.

Magistrate Isaac Woodward and his young charge and clerk (our protagonist) Matthew Corbett, are sent for from Charleston to preside over a witch trial in the fledgling frontier settlement of Fount Royal. Matthew, with an unusually keen mind, soon discerns that not all is as it seems as he asks questions nobody seems able or willing to answer. Driven by insatiable curiosity and tenacious inquisitiveness, coupled with an in
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

I took a 1/2 star off because this book is so long and I feel that the length detracted from the story. This is still a fantastic tale but be prepared to settle in for a long ride.
Chris Berko
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ever since I first read The Alienist by Caleb Carr way back as a twenty year old in 1995 it has been my favorite piece of historical fiction. As of today I may have to rethink that honor. Speaks the Nightbird has been a joy to read from beginning to end. I liked it so much I admire the spaces in between the words!!! And while there is so much going on and so many different story-lines EVERY question gets answered and everything ends up being connected, it's a beautiful thing to behold. There was ...more
This is my second Robert McCammon book, and if comparing this to Swan Song, which was my first, then this book was leaps and bounds more enjoyable. Partly that could be because Nightbird was written about 15 years and 7 books after Swan Song, and McCammon had a lot more experience when Nightbird was written, and partly it could be that they are just very, very different stories.

Swan Song seemed to lack direction and purpose and plot, aside from the very generic "good vs evil" fight, and dragged
Feb 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"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."

I absolutely loved this book! A suspenseful mystery that really brings the tim
Twerking To Beethoven
Spectacular, magnificent, superb. Honestly, "Speaks the Nightbird" is truly amazing. I know this is going to sound awfully corny but it's one of the best novels I've ever read. This book is what story-telling is all about. There's not a single dull chapter - and everybody knows even the best books out there feature at least one of them. Seriously, it's so good it baffles me. "Speaks the Nightbird" has got everything: mystery, murder, love, friendship, Indians, and a crazed rabid one-eyed bear.

Em Lost In Books
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is my third book by Mr McCammon and again I am in awe of him. Like the other two this one too is written beautifully.

Magistrate Isaac Woodward and his clerk Matthew are called for to investigate the charges of witchcraft and murder against Rachel Howarth in small town of Fount Royal. During the trial witnesses told Isaac and Woodward about how they’d seen many sexual encounters including Rachel and her master, Satan. And how Satan was commanding them not to hurt Rachel or there would be dir
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People not bothered by bestiality and lots of crude sexual references
Ok I made it to p 404 so I'm calling this read. At times I loved this book. It became obvious early on that the author is a man having a midlife crisis who clearly isn't getting his bedroom needs met. Sadly, I've seen this enough in books that wound up being salvageable that I'd decided to look past it, because the pages kept turning.

However, at some point, one has to draw a line. I'm very disappointed with this author's choice to include (view spoiler)
Alondra Miller
5 Stars

Historical-fiction-mystery, written by Robert R. McCammon. This is the first book in the series; of which, I have the first 4. I bought these books before I read even one book. I say that to say this: McCammon is worth it. Stephen King is the only other author I have done that with, and that says a lot.

It is not the subject matter or the book cover or someones recommendation. It is based upon prior work, that I could make that commitment.

The Plot: Matthew Corbett is a young law clerk wo
Benjamin Thomas
I am new to the author, Robert McCammon, but he came highly recommended from another blog I follow so I thought it worthwhile to give him a shot. The results? Speaks the Nightbird will be a very strong competitor for my best-of-the-year list and now that I think about it, will probably make my best-of-all time reading list.

Yes, it's that good.

This is an historical novel set in the Carolina territory in 1699. Mathew Corbett is a clerk to a magestrate (judge) based in Charles Town and together the
Wayne Barrett
Nov 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Robert McCammon is a great story teller. This was a long novel, but it kept me entertained throughout.
Spoiler Alert
Book I in a historical series, this book had a little of everything; witches (or supposed witches), devils (or supposed devils), pirates treasure, Indians, a crazed, one-eyed bear, circus freaks, murder and even a jaw dropping dose of beastiality.
I'm sure the horror genre will come to mind when anyone sees McCammons name attached to the novel, but this was actually a classic myster
Feb 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Only Robert McCammon could have written such a wonderful tale. McCammon portrays an extremely intriguing mystery involving a witch trial in 1699 Carolinas. It would infuriate you towards the superstition and ignorance of the times. Should I have been a time traveler, I doubt if I would have ventured into the 17th century world. No, thank you.

Matthew Corbett (the protagonist) is the clerk of magistrate Woodward who is conducting the trial of Rachel Howarth accused of being a witch. Only Matthew b
Jason Parent
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! I do not think I'd call it horror though - more of a murder mystery, though it does have elements of horror. Excellent prose, beautiful description - a work of art.

Highest recommendation for any fan of well-crafted storytelling, though perhaps a bit slow for fans of high-speed gore fests (though I like both this and also high-speed gore fests)
Joe Valdez
Speaks the Nightbird was Robert McCammon's return to publishing after a decade long hiatus that ended in 2003, a period in which the author struggled to break free of the horror genre and find a publisher to go to bat on a different sort of novel. The first in a series of colonial mysteries following inquisitive law clerk Matthew Corbett, it takes place in 1699, with Corbett a twenty-year-old ward to Magistrate Isaac Woodward.

The magistrate and his young clerk are en route to Fount Royal in the
Best book I have read in the past few years. Unputdownable. I kept saying to myself - just one more chapter....
To top it all off I normally don't read books that are 800 pages long. This story just whizzed by and I couldn't believe it was over so quickly. It didn't feel long at all, in fact, I was sad it ended and really look forward to reading more stories of Matthew Corbett.
If this book were a movie I could see Benedict Cumberbatch playing the role of Matthew. Also, I enjoyed the historical
Mar 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: widows accused of witchcraft, curious clerks, sinister schoolmasters, horse-lovin' colonists
Robert McCammon is better known as a horror author, and he brings his horror-novelist sensibility to this big, thick historical novel: it's gritty and dark and full of bloodshed and perversion, kind of schlocky and gratuitous in places (like the almost irrelevant subplot about the dude who really, really loves his horse...), and yet entertaining enough to keep me going through the entire massive length of it.

Matthew Corbett, our protagonist, is accompanying his employer, Magistrate Isaac Woodwar
Thomas Strömquist
DNF at 8 % (that's four full chapters in this inflated thing)

Due to the overwhelming number of positive reviews for this book, I can only assume that the story within is quite something. Unfortunately, I won't be finding out more about it, since I found the faux 'old style' writing to render it utterly unreadable. First, I would need the thesaurus that McCammon used during writing if I wanted to learn some of the massive amounts of words herein - which I don't, for two reasons; I won't ever find
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Robert Rick McCammon was a full-time horror writer for many years. Among his many popular novels were the classics Boy's Life and Swan Song. After taking a hiatus for his family, he returned to writing with an interest in historical fiction.

The sixth book in his Matthew Corbett historical fiction series, Freedom of the Mask, was published in May 2016.

His next novel, a standalone book called The Li

Other books in the series

Matthew Corbett (7 books)
  • The Queen of Bedlam (Matthew Corbett, #2)
  • Mister Slaughter (Matthew Corbett, #3)
  • The Providence Rider (Matthew Corbett, #4)
  • The River of Souls (Matthew Corbett, #5)
  • Freedom of the Mask (Matthew Corbett, #6)
  • Cardinal Black (Matthew Corbett, #7)

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