Recently settled in Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania, Maya Sinclair is enthralled by the town’s folklore, especially the legend about a centuries-old monster. A devil-like creature with uncanny abilities responsible for several horrific murders, the Fiend has evolved into the stuff of urban myth. But the past lives again when Maya witnesses an assault during the annual “Fiend Fest.” The victim is developer Leland Hode, patriarch of the town’s most powerful family, and he was attacked by someone dressed like the Fiend.
Compelled to discover who is behind the attack and why, Maya uncovers a shortlist of enemies of the Hode clan. The mystery deepens when she finds the journal of a late nineteenth-century spiritualist who once lived in Maya’s house—a woman whose ghost may still linger. Known as the Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill due to a genetic condition, Lucinda Glass vanished without a trace and was believed to be one of the Fiend’s tragic victims. The disappearance of a young couple, combined with more sightings of the monster, trigger Maya to join forces with Leland’s son Collin. But the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she comes to a hidden world of twisted secrets, insanity, and evil that refuses to die . . .
About the Author
Wherever her pen takes her, she flavors her stories with mystery, suspense, and a hint of romance. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and is passionate about cryptozoology, old photographs, a good Maine lobster tail, and cats.
Discover more about Mae on her website and blog at MaeClair.net.
Read an Excerpt
April 9, 1900
Charlotte Hode gathered her Dorothy bag, looped the drawstrings over her wrist, then smoothed her woolen skirt as she waited for Frederick. Water dripped from the broad brim of his hat when he opened the carriage door.
"It's a bad one tonight, Missus Hode. Foggy as all get out. Not even Thomas Edison's white magic could cut through this."
Gauging the fog, she'd have to agree. The Wizard of Menlo Park may have illuminated the streets of New York and Philadelphia with electricity, but lamplighters still saw to the lanterns of Hode's Hill each evening and morning. Edison's current wouldn't stand up to river fog.
Accepting Frederick's hand, she stepped outside, then opened her umbrella. "The walk isn't far."
Frederick rummaged inside the coach. "Let me light a lamp for you."
"No, I think not." She knew the way and didn't want the attention a light might attract. Someone would surely hail her if they saw that glow in the darkness, and she couldn't risk word getting back to Henry. Her husband had forbidden her to see Lady Glass, a troubling turnabout as he'd once attended séances with her. "I shouldn't be more than an hour, Frederick. Climb inside where it's dry."
"The least I can do is walk you to the medium's house."
"Your kindness is appreciated, but it's important I gather my thoughts for the reading. Your presence would only serve as a distraction." The lie rolled from her tongue in an effort to spare his feelings. He was too big a man, far more likely to be seen than her. If Henry learned of what Frederick had done this night, it would spell the end of his employment. She couldn't afford the loss of an ally in her quest of future visits with Lady Glass.
"But the Fiend, Missus. If anything should happen to you —"
"I don't believe in the Fiend." She hoped her defiance held true. "And even if there is a devil-imp that haunts these streets, terrifying women, he surely has more sense than to be out on such a miserable night." She pulled the hood of her cloak securely about her head. "I'll see you in an hour."
Before Frederick could protest, Charlotte strode briskly down the alley. She'd walked that path many times, though usually in daylight. Clipped echoes rang from the cobblestones beneath her heels, the sound quickly swallowed by the fog. The back stoops of homes loomed on either side, each brownstone abode invisible until she came upon doors and windows shuttered against the night.
It took several moments of braving the rain before she turned the corner onto Chicory. A gas lamp marked the junction where the narrow lane joined River Road. Lucinda Glass's brownstone squatted on the corner, the last in a row of six with a broad view of the Chinkwe River.
Gathering her long skirts in one hand, Charlotte hastened up the stone steps to the front door. Lady Glass's housemaid, Emma Dorsey, answered on the second knock.
"Hello, Emma." Charlotte smiled at the older woman whom she'd come to know through her many visits. "I believe Lady Glass is expecting me."
"I must apologize, Mrs. Hode. I have unfortunate news." Emma moved aside, allowing her room to enter. A severe black frock and tightly pinned gray hair added to the gravity of her expression.
"I hope I'm not too late." Stepping into the foyer, Charlotte closed her umbrella, conscious when it dribbled water onto the floor. The warmth of the small space surrounded her, banishing the damp of the outdoors. She inhaled the scent of lavender and sandalwood. "I had Frederick make the appointment for me, but we were slowed by the fog. I came as quickly as travel permitted."
"I don't doubt your sincerity." Emma took the umbrella and placed it in a cylindrical stand to the right of the door. "Please come in and sit for a moment out of the chill."
"Is something wrong?"
"Lady Glass is indisposed this evening." Emma led her to a parlor where lanterns and tall candles kept the night at bay. It was common for Charlotte to wait there before being escorted to Lucinda's séance room where the medium conversed with sitters from her spirit cabinet.
"Indisposed?" The word rolled from Charlotte's lips with a tremor. She lowered the hood of her cloak. "But I had so looked forward to tonight's session." Sinking to the edge of a tufted chair, she tugged off her gloves. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't speak so inconsiderately. Is Lady Glass ill?"
"I'm afraid so. She asked me to make her apologies." Emma folded her hands at waist-level, her long fingers crinkled like aged parchment. "Communicating with the spirit world commands a toll, especially for one as sensitive to Summerland as Lady Glass. I'm sure you understand." Straightening her shoulders, she plucked a piece of lint from her skirt.
"May I get you some tea? Something to ward off the chill?"
"No, thank you." If she needed to venture back into the dreary night, Charlotte preferred to address the task sooner than later. The faster she and Frederick returned to the manor, the quicker she could banish the dampness. The quicker she could cradle little Reginald in her arms. "I'm not sure how soon I'll be able to return, but I'll send Frederick to arrange something when I have a better grasp. Mr. Hode has taken exception to my visits as of late."
Emma's mouth thinned as if she found the observation unpleasant. "That is unfortunate, but perhaps just as well. It is difficult to say how long this spell will last." Taking Charlotte's arm, she steered her toward the foyer, a trace of apprehension darkening her eyes. "A medium takes much upon herself, but Lady Glass carries a greater burden than most. Her gift is a costly one."
Charlotte raised her hood and tightened the ribbons. "I didn't realize the difficulty inherent with her abilities." She felt foolish, even selfish, imagining her own sessions had contributed to the seer's frail health. "Please give Lady Glass my best."
"I will, dear." Emma passed her the wet umbrella.
Within moments, Charlotte was outside in the dismal weather. The drizzle had steadied into a light rain, pattering in a ceaseless rhythm against the cobblestones. The gas lamp on the corner was barely visible through the thickening fog. It would be a rough ride back in the carriage, bordering on miserable, now that she'd lost the opportunity to communicate with her deceased mother and share the news of Reginald's birth. Drawing the collar of her cloak about her throat, Charlotte hurried down Chicory toward the alley. How far to the carriage? The fog played tricks with the distance, shapes materializing from the mist with an abruptness that made her regret not taking the lamp Frederick offered. When a cat shot out in front of her, she gasped.
"Silly animal." Pressing a hand to her heart, she breathed deeply. The feline darted across the alley, vanishing into the mist. Were those footsteps behind her?
She glanced over her shoulder, but it was impossible to see more than a few feet. Rain trickled from the edge of the umbrella and splattered onto her gloves. Quickening her pace, she scurried forward. She'd only managed a few steps when the footsteps echoed again.
Once more she looked over her shoulder. "Frederick." Perhaps he'd left the carriage in search of her when the rain grew heavier. "Frederick?"
The footsteps quickened, lengthening into a fleet run. Hair prickled on the back of her neck. She hesitated, torn between fleeing and needing to see who followed. Within seconds, a painted face bobbed in front of her from the fog. The macabre mask hung disembodied, a leering devil with ice white eyes and cadaverous grin.
The Fiend! Dear God, the monster was real.
Charlotte screamed and tried to run, her long skirts twisting about her ankles. Stumbling, she dropped her umbrella. "Frederick!" Her frightened cry echoed through the night, swallowed by the fog. "Oh, Frederick, please help!"
Fingers fisted on the back of her cloak and yanked hard, wheeling her around and tugging, until she was pressed up against the hard body of the Fiend. Trapped mere inches from that demonic face and hateful gaze, she swooned. Her vision spun into a funnel curtained with fog and rain as if the night had blindfolded her. A stinging flare of heat ripped across her stomach, chased by something sticky and damp. She tried to find her breath and wheezed out a faint bubble. "Oh!"
Pain ruptured upward from her navel. Fire seared her voice and left her choking soundlessly on cold air. Her knees buckled. The Fiend released her, and she wilted to the cobblestones, conscious of a dark stain spreading beneath her.
The stench of hot metal and damp wool clotted her nostrils. She choked on tears, overcome by the realization she would never cradle her baby again or see the husband who had given her such a precious gift. A foolish woman, she'd paid for her folly. Why hadn't she heeded Henry and stayed safe at home? Blood plastered her bodice to her skin, sticky heat against the rain. She folded to the side — down to the damp press of cobblestones against her cheek, the thick gathering silt of the dead. The Fiend stepped closer. Hunkered down near her head.
Charlotte forced herself to grip the hand that clutched the bloody knife. Twisting her neck, she stared up into the awful leering face. "Why? Please ... tell me why."
The slice of the blade across her throat paid her passage to Summerland.
* * *
Maya Sinclair was undecided if she should laugh or scream at the man's silly howl. The fiend leaped in front of her, quickly dropping into a Quasimodo-type squat. It wasn't every day she encountered a black-cloaked figure wearing a painted devil's mask, but it was her third of the evening. She'd lost count of how many roamed the festival grounds. This one wasn't as convincing as some, but his sudden appearance gave her a start.
"That's pitiful, Graham. You sound like a cat in heat." Her friend, Ivy McDowell, pinched the straw on her Diet Coke, sipping from a tall paper cup.
Straightening, the fiend lowered his hood. He tugged off the mask to reveal short blond hair tousled in a sweaty mop and heavy brows pinched into a vee. "How'd you know it was me?"
Ivy pointed to the half-moon tattoo on the back of his right hand. "Dead giveaway."
"Oh." He grinned sheepishly. "Not that it matters. I'm just here having fun, not competing in the contest."
"This town takes its festivals seriously." Of all the "fiends" Maya had seen threading between the food and craft booths dotting the riverbank of Hode's Hill, Graham was by far the least threatening. Tall and bony, he wore a simple black cloak over a dark T-shirt and jeans. His bright blue Nike sneakers screamed air-sole comfort.
Others took the situation more seriously, decked out in period clothing that included black sack coats with matching waistcoats, trousers, and boots. Some had even opted for elaborate face paint rather than the plastic and latex masks hawked at the vendor booths. Early June wasn't unbearably hot, but even with the light breeze from the Chinkwe River, she imagined most of the costumed fiends were roasting in their inky getups.
Graham turned appraising hazel eyes on her. "I don't think we've met." "Graham Kingston, Maya Sinclair." Ivy waved a hand between them. "Graham's company did the interior painting on your brownstone, Maya."
"My dad's, actually." Graham rolled his shoulders in a shrug. "I mean ... my dad's company."
Maya smiled. "Nice to meet you." The tag-on explanation was every bit as awkward as his mannerisms.
Ivy used her straw to poke the ice chips in her cup. "I thought you'd be here with Tina Sanford." The spark in her eyes bordered on amused.
"Nah." Stuffing his hands in his pockets, Graham shifted from foot to foot. On a shorter person, it would have looked like waddling. "We just bum around sometimes." A flush stole over his cheeks. "I'm headed to the food tents to grab some barbeque and fries. I heard Brook's helping out." He flipped a parting wave. "It was nice meeting you, Maya. I'm sure I'll see you around."
Ivy watched him leave, the humor in her gaze hooded by affection. "I almost hate baiting him." She brushed chestnut hair from her eyes. "Almost."
Maya felt like she'd missed something. "What was that about?"
"Me stirring the kettle." Ivy hooked her arm through Maya's and steered her farther down the riverbank. Several masked fiends had gathered in front of a portable stage draped with a curtained backdrop. Rows of folding chairs lined the space in front of the platform and small white lights dangled from a wire around the base. A few of the chairs were occupied, people camped out with pizza or hot dogs, cans of soda and cups of lemonade planted in the grass at their feet. Several festivalgoers had brought their own lawn chairs, stationing them beneath the trees to take advantage of the shade. The air smelled of sun-warmed grass, wet river stone, and hot bubbling cheese. The tempting aroma of fresh-baked pizza made her mouth water.
"Graham's besotted with Brook Tyler," Ivy explained as two school-aged boys darted past, black fiend cloaks flapping behind them. "Tina is his standby. Sad, because I'm not sure Brook knows he exists."
"Our Brook?" Maya's mind shifted from pepperoni and oregano to the pretty blonde who worked the circulation desk at the Hode's Hill Library. Maya, a transplant from South Central Pennsylvania, had only been employed at the facility for a little over two weeks, but she knew Brook as a chatty twenty-something who favored broom skirts, herbal tea, and books on spiritualism. "Isn't he a little too ..." She struggled for the right word — Awkward? Mundane? Ungainly? — to convey her initial impression of Graham. Stumped, she motioned helplessly.
"And all that. I've known Graham since high school, but he's an acquired taste." Ivy dismissed the subject with a shake of her head. "Look." She pointed to the portable stage. "If you're going to live in Hode's Hill, you need to know what makes us tick. Later tonight they'll choose one of the contestants as the Fiend."
Maya followed her direction. "Aren't they all fiends?"
A fiftyish man with a clipboard had climbed up on stage. He sat down on the lip, then swung his legs over the edge. Costumed fiends lined up to his left, most jostling in a good-natured manner. The man with the clipboard motioned to someone on the ground, and a box containing large white squares with black numbers was shoved onto the stage.
"I'm talking Capital F." Ivy made air quotes with her fingers. "The embodiment of the legend. The original Fiend goes back to the turn of the twentieth century. All these people dressed in costume — they're hoping to be as spooky and terrifying as the legend."
Maya nibbled her thumbnail, watching as numbers were passed out to those who wanted to compete in the contest. Graham wasn't there, but he'd said he'd only thrown on the cape and mask for fun. "Sorry, but none of them seem very terrifying."
"Sure. Not now." Ivy tossed her empty soda cup into a trash bin. "What's spooky about a bunch of people in Halloween costumes on a hot June evening? But imagine encountering one of those guys on a dark night when the only light is from a gas lantern that can't penetrate the fog. Imagine walking through a deserted alley, then having a cloaked, masked figure leap from the shadows."
"Okay." Maya re-evaluated her stance. "Definitely worth a scream." She wished she'd taken the time to learn more about the Fiend of Hode's Hill. Ivy had told her the story years ago when they'd been college roommates, but her memory of the tale was spotty. A masked demon, murder, a body in the river. She couldn't remember and hated to admit the truth. She'd meant to delve into the legend before getting settled in Hode's Hill, but there had beenso much to do.
When Ivy had first told her about the opening for a reference librarian, she'd been hesitant to act. She'd only recently returned to work after a car accident had left her incapacitated for eight weeks. By the time she'd finally decided to apply, she'd been certain the position would be filled, but the opening had remained as if waiting for her.
Ivy had turned her onto a rental, an old brownstone a few blocks from the library, enabling her to walk to work. Her physical therapist had recommended daily walks to strengthen her muscles, and she'd come to enjoy the time outside. Not only was walking good exercise, it gave her the opportunity to reflect, something she'd been doing a lot of since the accident.
She'd signed the lease on the brownstone by e-mail, sent her deposit check to Hode Development, Inc., and arranged for a moving van to arrive the weekend before she started her new job. The town was small, located on the Chinkwe River, an offshoot of the Ohio. Caught somewhere between quaint and struggling for expansion, Hode's Hill was a blend of old homes, converted factories, cozy eateries, and civic buildings.
Maya's gaze wandered across the river to the opposite shoreline where a sprawling home jutted above the trees. The Hode Estate. She had a clear view of the property from her brownstone on the corner of Front and Chicory.
Ivy had pointed it out the day Maya moved in. "You'll get to know the name Hode. It's attached to more than just the town."
Excerpted from "Cusp of Night"
Copyright © 2018 Mae Clair.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I will definitely read more from Mae Clair. Excellent writer.
Very good read. Interesting and easy flowing. None of the glaring editorial errors you find out n so many free ebooks.
Cusp of Night is the first of the Hode's Hill Mystery/Thrillers by Mae Clair, and though it establishes a grounding for those books that follow, it is completely stand alone. Hode's Hill, Pennsylvania is a very small town even today, and Cusp of Night is set in two time periods, Beginning April 9, 1900, and a following tale set in the present day. The generations of several families bridge these times, and carry the tale with them. And it is an exciting tale, filled with mysteries and monsters and things that go bump in the night. Nice people - good people and those that - aren't. I very much enjoyed this novel, and can't wait to read the next installment. Mae Clair is an author I can heartily recommend to friends and family.
This story has everything that intrigues me - ghosts, mediums, seances, buried secrets. And that cover! I've read several other books by this author, and couldn't wait to dive into this new series. The timelines blend seamlessly in this intricately plotted supernatural mystery, and the gradual reveal of Lucinda's life is both fascinating and heartbreaking. Maya is also a compelling protagonist, and I enjoyed her reaction upon realizing she wasn't the only resident in her house - entirely believable. A well-drawn supporting cast rounds out the character list, but don't go making assumptions while reading - not everything is what it appears on the surface, and characters may surprise you. There are a few chilling moments in the novel that gave this horror lover warm fuzzies. I also loved that one of the characters was reading Salem's Lot (one of my fav King books) at 2 am in the morning while waiting for a supernatural event to occur or not occur. I could totally be friends with this person. If you're a fan of supernatural mystery/suspense, you can't go wrong with this series, and I'm excited to see what the next book brings.
Maya Sinclair has just moved to Hode’s Hill, PA and has discovered the town is rich in history. The first being a creature called the Fiend that has a history of brutally killing people. The town folk dress up in what they think the Fiend would look like and have a festival to celebrate it. On Maya’s first Fiend Festival she witnesses the attack of Leland Hode. Maya decides to look into this attack and find out who the attacker really is. At the same time Maya has strange, paranormal like occurrences happening in her house at 2:22 am. When she looks into this she learns that The Blue Lady, Lucinda Glass. Lucy was afflicted with an illness that made her an outcast and freak. But it was her dabbling in the paranormal that made her special. When Maya and Leland’s son Collin discover Lucy’s journal, they learn that much more is happening in Hode’s Hill than they thought. I really enjoyed this story. It is the first book I have read from Mae Clair but it won’t be my last. I easy got into the story and was very curious about both the Fiend and Lucy. My heart did break for her and all that she goes through. Maya and Collin are a great couple and amateur sleuths. This story has a great paranormal twist to keep it interesting along with great mystery that had me guessing until the end. I can’t wait to read more about Hode’s Hill and other stories from Mae Clair. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
The truth may hide in dark places, but Maya WILL go there! Mae Clair is one of my go to authors and she did not disappoint in this riveting supernatural thriller that takes us from the present to the past and back again. More missing people and more monster sightings has Maya Sinclair determined to find answers to the mystery. She teams up with Collin Leland and he takes her places she never would have went on her own. The danger is very real, but that will never stop Maya from seeking the answers and doing what is necessary to stop the monster. I love when urban legends come to life on the pages and the mystery keeps me guessing. Where the dark and unknown keep me on the edge of my seat, wondering…WHY? WHO? It is not always apparent in Mae Clair’s novels who is the bad ‘guy’ and who is the good ‘guy’. In Cusp of Night, there is plenty of blame to go around and plenty of emotion wrung from me as I read along, sometimes shocked, sometimes disgusted, and sometimes down right teed off. I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of Cusp of Night by Mae Clair.
If you’re reading a novel that’s thick with atmosphere, rife with lore, fraught with tension, and chock full of characters you adore or despise, there’s a good chance you’re reading a novel by Mae Clair. This novel, CUSP OF NIGHT, ticks all of the boxes. And then some. Maya Sinclair is a perfect heroine. She’s flawed, but in a likable way, and is the perfect vehicle to carry the contemporary timeline in this novel. I loved learning the history of the town—and the histories of spiritualism and freak genetic disorders—through her perspective. Her cohort in this story is Collin Hode. He’s an enigmatic town figure, a perfect blend of stoic, rational, honorable, and open-minded. His character arc kept me on the edge of my seat. And now I have a book crush on him. I really hope we see more of him in later novels in this series. The other town characters are just as vibrant—some I despise, others I love. The cast is rich and varied and more than capable of carrying the plot. The historical timeline is equally riveting. I learned so much history in such a short space, and I did so without noticing because I was utterly enthralled. The characters in the past are as compelling and interesting as those in the present timeline. And speaking of two timelines, Clair merged them beautifully. The threads combined in a perfect yet unexpected way. I was on the edge of my seat throughout, and the climax was swift and satisfying. Clair has a way with language that’s unparalleled, and she uses her sizeable talents to depict worlds that are so vivid, the settings become characters in their own right. I didn’t ‘read’ about these places. I was there. It was literally like I was walking through my hometown. And I loved it. This story offers something for everyone—mystery, romance, suspense, history, paranormal entities, medical anomalies—all tied up in an expertly-crafted bow. This is one book you don’t want to miss.
CUSP is the Turning Point of one period to the next. Clair visits the life of a nineteenth century spiritualist known as the Blue Lady. Fear is realized and life secrets are revealed when Maya Sinclair, a modern day librarian comes to live in the abode once inhabited by the Blue Lady now long dead. Hode's Hill Pennsylvania has its history shadowed by murders committed by THE FIEND. Haunted telling by Clair of what happens when the Fiend returns to kill and a spirit reaches out to Maya for closure. Anxious to see where this series will go. No cliff hangers just a spell binding read. "A copy of this book was provided by Kensington Books via Netgalley with no requirements for a review. Comments here are my honest opinion." THIS AUTHOR DOES GREAT PLOT AND CHARACTERS!!