“Timely and tantalizing, C.S. O’Cinneide masterfully blends domestic suspense with a touch of black magic in this bewitching thriller” — Erin Ruddy, author of Tell Me My Name
After losing her young son in a tragic accident, Eve struggles to protect the one child she has left, a teenage daughter who just might be pure evil.
The dark side of magic is where the Ragman dwells. Nobody knows that better than Eve. Desperate for a child, she called on that cunning conjurer eighteen years ago. Her daughter, Abbey, was the result.
After Abbey’s younger brother dies in a fall, Eve fears the worst about her daughter. Five years later, she still battles her guilt and grief over what happened the day she lost her son. Her husband, Richard, doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know the truth about Abbey; and besides, he has secrets of his own to keep.
But when terrible things begin to happen to those who get in Abbey’s way, Eve must overcome her own pain and loss and find the strength to deal with what she fears most — a teenage daughter she can no longer control and a past that could come back to haunt her in the most monstrous of ways.
About the author
C.S. O’Cinneide is the author of the Candace Starr crime series, as well as Petra’s Ghost, a semi-finalist in the Goodreads Choice Awards. On her blog, She Kills Lit, she features women writers of thriller and noir. She lives in Guelph, Ontario.
Excerpt: Eve's Rib (by (author) C.S. O'Cinneide)
Eighteen Years Later
Eve tried to rest her book on the rib that wasn’t broken. She looked around the emergency waiting room, saw the cop stationed at the door, the nurse behind the bulletproof glass. A man with one shoe snored softly in the corner cradling his hand in a blood-soaked T-shirt like a red, angry newborn.
“This is quite the place, isn’t it?” the elderly woman in the plastic chair next to her said. She was well dressed, with salt-and-pepper cropped hair. Eve and the older woman sat in a lineup of grubby orange seats placed against the wall across from triage.
“Yes, it is,” Eve said. She knew the older woman was only trying to be friendly, looking for conversation to pass the time, but Eve was hurting too much for small talk. She returned the friendly lady’s smile while simultaneously attempting to silence her with an incantation of muteness. Unfortunately, the woman’s coke bottle glasses were too thick. Eve couldn’t initiate enough eye contact to get the spell to personalize and stick.
“I was in here last week.” Salt and Pepper shook her head. “And it was something, let me tell you. People screaming — and the language.” The woman made a short series of tuts, possibly as a form of Morse code for the language she was too dignified to repeat.
“Hmm.” Eve winced in lieu of another smile as she turned back to her book, hoping the social cue would work better than the incantation. She was usually a kinder person than this, but the pain was making her less of one. Despite looking down at the book, she managed to keep track of what was going on around her with a well-developed mind’s eye. This was one of the few gifts she could still execute with any mastery. Through the window to the triage room, she watched a nurse question a sleepy-eyed prostitute who slouched in a chair. A yellow, viscous liquid that looked like an egg thrown at Halloween had dried on the bulletproof glass. It distorted the nurse’s and the prostitute’s faces so that Eve couldn’t read them for signs.
“Don’t you think I know that!” The prostitute’s raised voice reverberated against the smeared glass. Eve looked up from her book. The woman was perched on the edge of her moulded seat as if she were afraid of catching something nasty from it through her short skirt. When she leaned too far across the desk toward the nurse, a burly orderly arrived, causing her to crumple back into the chair. She cried softly. Eve turned both her primary and secondary sight away, not wanting to pry.
“They shouldn’t have a window like that,” the woman beside Eve said. “People deserve their privacy.”
Eve nodded, but she knew why windows were necessary. The hospital staff were doing their work in a fishbowl so no one would think they were out for a smoke break or getting laid on a gurney somewhere. A wall could hide the possibility that there was no one behind the wizard’s curtain, would prevent them from discovering that they were all waiting for nothing and no one. Such situations tended to breed anarchy. That was why the world developed religion, as well as witchcraft. They were both ways to help us punch through the wall to get a better look at what was on the other side.
“I’m here for a urinary tract infection. Can’t seem to get rid of it. My daughter’s got a bad chest cold.” Salt and Pepper indicated a woman a bit younger than Eve in the chairs reserved for those already processed by triage. The woman’s daughter managed a weak smile in their direction before coughing into her sleeve.
Eve shifted in her tacky bucket seat of plastic. The slight movement sent a searing pain from her lower rib into her spine. She wished she could wrap it in some healing magic, but she wasn’t powerful enough. She was once. But a witch’s power was only as strong as her spirit, and hers had been broken five years ago.
“I feel like I live here,” the woman beside her continued. “My husband died this spring and then I had a stroke and then this.” She peered over at the book that Eve had balanced on her lap. It was a murder mystery set in Glasgow. A lot of fucks stood out on the page. She wondered if the chatty lady would notice and complain about language again. Eve was a writer. A few years ago she’d quit her tech job to write full-time, with limited success. Her own gritty crime novels had a lot of fucks in them as well.
“So, what are you here for?” Salt and Pepper asked her after a short interval. “If you don’t mind me asking.”
Guessing what was wrong with other people was the only game to play in an emergency waiting room. Everyone tried to figure out the reasoning behind a young healthy-looking man being taken ahead of an ancient Filipina woman in a wheelchair. But judging books by their covers was rarely accurate when assessing other people’s pain. Eve had tried to assess the maladies of other patients as she’d waited, but without using any of her special capabilities. She could open certain people up, but they were rarely pretty inside. She tended to focus on the covers, just like everybody else.
“Rib,” Eve said, indicating her clutched side. “I fell.”
The door opened on the nurse’s bulletproof cage, and the young prostitute walked out with a brave smirk on her face as she tugged at her tube top. She took a seat next to the coughing daughter and pulled out a phone sporting a bright pink case encrusted with rhinestones and ten-dollar-hand-job spunk.
“Eve Knight!” the triage nurse called through the open door. Eve stood up, stifling a gasp as her rib shifted unnaturally. She tucked the book with the bad language into her large purse, holding it to her left side where the bones behaved better.
“Well, good luck, dear,” said the little lady who lived in the emergency ward.
“Thanks,” Eve said, turning to look back and address her, even as her right side flamed in disagreement. “Good luck to you too.”
An unflinching portrayal of a family torn at the seams. Timely and tantalizing, C.S. O’Cinneide masterfully blends domestic suspense with a touch of black magic in this bewitching thriller about a mother and her bad-seed daughter. Rife with secrets and tension, you’ll be glued until the haunting last page.
Erin Ruddy, author of Tell Me My Name
Full of secrecy and dark magic, C.S. O’Cinneide expertly weaves the differing voices of a grieving family into a story that is both creepy and atmospheric, with an ending that will haunt the reader far beyond the last page.
S.M. Freedman, award-winning author of The Faithful series, The Day She Died, and Blood Atonement