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Fiction Contemporary

Waking the Witch

by (author) Kelley Armstrong

Random House of Canada
Initial publish date
Aug 2010
Contemporary, Suspense
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2011
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2010
    List Price

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The new novel in Kelley Armstrong's bestselling Women of the Otherworld series showcases the fascinating Savannah Levine, a powerful young witch with a rebellious past and a troublesome heritage.

The orphaned daughter of a sorcerer and a half-demon, Savannah is a terrifyingly powerful young witch who has never been able to resist the chance to throw her magical weight around. But at twenty-one she knows she needs to grow up and prove to her guardians, Paige and Lucas, that she can be a responsible member of their supernatural detective agency. So she jumps at the chance to fly solo, investigating the mysterious deaths of three young women in a nearby factory town, as a favour to one of the agency's associates. At first glance, the murders look garden-variety human, but on closer inspection signs point to otherworldly stakes.

Soon Savannah is in over her head. She's run off the road and nearly killed, haunted by a mystery stalker and freaked out when the brother of one of the dead women is murdered when he tries to investigate the crime. To complicate things, something weird is happening to her powers. Pitted against shamans, demons, a voodoo-inflected cult and garden-variety goons, Savannah has to fight to ensure her first case isn't her last. And she also has to ask for help, perhaps the hardest lesson she's ever had to learn.

About the author

When librarians finally granted Kelley Armstrong an adult card, she made straight for the epic fantasy and horror shelves. She spent the rest of her childhood and teen years happily roaming fantastical and terrible worlds, and vowed that someday she'd write a story combining swords, sorcery, and the ravenous undead. That story began with the New York Times bestselling Sea of Shadows and continues with Empire of Night.

Armstrong's first works for teens were the New York Times bestselling Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising trilogies. She lives in rural Ontario with her husband, three children, and far too many pets.

Kelley Armstrong's profile page

Excerpt: Waking the Witch (by (author) Kelley Armstrong)

For five years, I’d toiled as executive assistant slave to Lucas and Paige and now, finally, I was in charge. For the next week anyway.
The plaque still read Cortez-Winterbourne Investigations, but  that could be easily changed with the deft use of an energy-bolt spell. Levine Investigations rolled off the tongue so much more easily. At one time, I would have done it, if only as a joke, but there are things you can get away with at sixteen that just don’t fly at twenty-one.
I used my key card, then crept through the lobby, trying to squelch the click of my heels.
“Savannah!” a voice chirped behind me. “I thought I heard you come in.”
I started a cover spell, but Tina had already spotted me. I considered a knockback spell—make her trip and give me time to escape. But that would, sadly, not be a good way to launch my week playing a responsible adult.
When Paige said we were getting an accountant for a tenant, I’d thought, Great, someone nice and quiet. That was the stereotype, but apparently, no one had told Tina.
“I’m so glad I caught you,” she said. “It’s almost ten and no one’s in the office yet.”
It was 9:14.
“There was a man here looking for Lucas,” she continued. “I called upstairs and the phone rang and rang. Did he and Paige leave on vacation already? I know Adam is at a conference. In Spokane, isn’t he?”
I made a noncommittal noise. Tina might be human, but she had a supernatural sense for snooping. Adam said we should hire her. I threatened to give her his home address and that shut him up.
“I hate to tell you kids how to run your business, but you really need to have someone up there during business hours. It’s no wonder you have hardly any clients. You need a full-time receptionist.” She patted my arm. “Yes, I know, dear, you’re the receptionist, but you’re always flitting off, doing God-knows-what. I could—”
“Oh, my cell phone’s vibrating,” I lied. “Could be a client. I’ll talk to Paige about drop-ins.”
“It’s no bother, dear. I wanted to speak to you anyway. I think I have a job for you.” Tina lowered her voice, though we were the only ones in the lobby. “I started dating this man. A widower I met online.”
“And you want me to run a background check? Good idea.”
“Oh, no. A man has the right to his privacy. It’s just . . . Well, I was watching this show on private investigators, about a firm of women hired by other women to test their mate’s loyalty.”
It took me a second to catch her drift. “You want me to try to seduce your boyfriend?”
Her lips pursed. “Certainly not. Just get dolled up, talk to him, flirt with him, and see whether he’ll flirt back.”
“I’m probably half his age. I’d be worried if he didn’t flirt back.”
A muffled snort made me glance down the hall. A guy a couple of years older than me leaned out of the stairwell doorway. Light hair just past his collar, denim jacket, boots, and a pair of snug-fitting worn blue jeans. He lifted a finger to his lips, shushing me, and I tried not to stare even if he was definitely stare-worthy.
I turned back to Tina. “That guy who wanted to speak to Lucas. Did you let him in?”
“Certainly not.” She lowered her voice. “He looked a little dodgy.”
“Was he in his midtwenties? Dark blond hair? Looks like he lost contact with his razor a few days ago?”
The guy arched his brows, mock-indignant.
“Yes, that’s him,” Tina said. “Now about my job offer . . .”
“Spend the money on a shopping spree at Victoria’s Secret and make sure he’s too exhausted to look at twenty-year-olds.”
Before she recovered from that suggestion, I took off.
The guy waited until she was safely in her office, then strolled to meet me.
“Dodgy?” he said. “I’m not the one wanting a hot chick to try seducing my new boyfriend.” He extended his hand. “Jesse Aanes.”
I’d heard of him. A half-demon PI out of Seattle who’d worked with Lucas a few times. Lucas said he was a good guy, which was the only seal of approval I needed.
“What brings you to Portland?” I asked.
“Cases. One that I’m working now and a new one I wanted to run past Lucas. Two birds, one stone. I left him a message, but he hasn’t returned it, which isn’t like him.”
“He’s on vacation with Paige. I confiscated their cell phones and the only messages I’m passing on are well wishes and death notices.”
He laughed. “Good idea. They can use the break. Did that woman say Adam isn’t around either?”
“He’s at a conference. It’s just me for the rest of the week.”

Jesse hesitated and I knew what he was thinking—he needed help, but I wasn’t what he had in mind.
“Why don’t you come up to the office,” I said. “Tell me what you’ve got.”
I used my key card to unlock the stairwell door. Yes, we have key card entry everywhere, plus a shitload of protective spells for the second floor. I undid them under my breath as we walked.
As Tina said, we don’t get a lot of drop-in clients. We don’t want to. While we rarely turn away paying human customers, our clientele is almost exclusively supernatural and they don’t need an ad in the Yellow Pages to find us. Given that Lucas is heir to the Cortez Cabal, though, not everyone who finds us wants to hire us. Hence the heavy security.
Jesse followed me up the stairs. “I guess the daughter of Eve Levine and Kristof Nast doesn’t need to worry about strangers attacking her in an empty office.”
“If they do, I can always use them for my next ritual sacrifice. Volunteers are so hard to come by.”
It’s not the sort of crack you should make when you have a notorious dark witch for a mother and an equally notorious cutthroat sorcerer for a father. It was a test of sorts, and Jesse passed, just laughing and saying, “I’ll watch my step then.”
“So what’s your power? I know you’re a half-demon.”
Telekinesis, then. Agito was the second of the three levels, meaning he had mediocre abilities. Having dealt with a high-level Volo before, I was much more comfortable with an Agito.
His powers explained how he’d snuck past Tina. Using telekinesis, he’d caught the door before it closed. I’d have to talk to Lucas about that. Yet another argument against human tenants.
I led Jesse into the meeting room. He didn’t sit down—didn’t even take off his jacket—just strode straight to the table and pulled files from his satchel.
He set a crime-scene photo on the table. “Six months ago, two young women were murdered in Columbus, Washington, about an hour over the Oregon border. I doubt it made the Portland news. Nothing all that hinky about the killings. No sign of a serial killer or sexual sadism. Just the shooting death of two twenty-five-year-olds who led the kind of lives where you sort of figure, sooner or later”—he gestured at the photo of the two women—“this is how they’re going to end up.”
He shook his head. “Just not exactly sterling members of society.”
“Drugs?” I said. “Booze? Petty crime? All of the above?”
“You got it. Nothing you haven’t seen a million times before. I was on that path myself until Lucas got me out of some trouble and persuaded me there were legal ways to use my skills. Anyway, these girls didn’t run into a Lucas. They were high school dropouts. Never held a job more than a few months. One had a kid at sixteen. Both had short rap sheets, and a string of boyfriends with longer ones.”
I lifted the photo to take a closer look. The two bodies lay on a floor. Both were fully dressed, T-shirts covered in blood, each bearing a hole. Single gunshot wounds to the chest. One was on her back, eyes open, arms akimbo, legs twisted, a pool of blood under her. The other was stretched out, arms and legs only slightly bent, eyes closed. The blood under her was smeared.
“Both shot, as you see,” Jesse said. “A through-and-through for the first, the bullet apparently lodging in the wall over there.” He pointed to the edge of the photo. “They recovered another bullet from inside the second victim. The first one died immediately. The second didn’t.”
“Doesn’t look like she tried to get away, though. Drugged?”
“I don’t have tox screens.”
“No sign of rape or torture, like you said. Looks execution style. A classic case of ‘Hey, bitch, you gonna pay for that dope or what?’ The answer, apparently, being ‘or what.’ ”
“Yep, that’s what it looks like.”
When he didn’t go on, I glanced at him. “So what’s your interest? Is one of these girls a supernatural?”
“Not as far as I know.”
He set a second photo on the table. It was another murdered young woman, also early twenties, though one glance told me this girl didn’t sell herself for dime bags.
I put the two photos side by side. All three bodies had been left in the same place.
“Basement?” I asked.
“Of an abandoned building.”
I could hear Lucas’s voice. The fact that the deceased are found in a common location may speak less to a connection than to a simple matter of convenience. Yes, Lucas really did talk that way. Drove me nuts, especially when I found myself slipping into the same speech patterns. On the plus side, I may not be an A student, but I sure as hell can sound like one.
When I told Jesse my theory—small town, not a lot of places to put a body, someone had already used this one, so the second killer followed suit—he shrugged. “Possible, but in this particular small town, there’s no shortage of abandoned buildings.”
“What’s the local murder rate?”
“You’re looking at it. This double killing last fall, then the single one ten days ago. Before that, the last homicide was a domestic incident in 1999.”
“Lot of drug activity in town?”
“It has its share, maybe a little more. You can blame that on a depressed economy, though. It’s not exactly a hotbed of gangsta activity. Mostly kids selling pot from their lockers, the laid-off guy down the road dealing out of his garage, that sort of thing.”
“Do the police think it’s the same killer for all three?”
“Yep, but only because otherwise they’d need to catch two murderers, and that’s more work than they care to contemplate.”
“You’re going to make me guess what the supernatural connection is, aren’t you.”
“I was just seeing if you’d pick it up. It’s—”
I lifted a hand to cut him off. “Is the answer here?” I asked, pointing at the photos.
He nodded.
“Give me a minute.”

Editorial Reviews


“Like Stephen King, . . . Armstrong not only writes interesting page-turners, she has also achieved that unlikely goal, what all writers strive for: a genre of her own. . . . This is not The Call of the Wild; it’s Nora Roberts meets The Sopranos by way of Henry David Thoreau.”
— The Walrus
“Armstrong’s prose has a punchy, easy flow.”
— The Globe and Mail
“Armstrong is quite deft at making Savannah simultaneously formidable, sympathetic and real. . . . A quick and fun read, Waking the Witch is . . . a good starting point for readers new to Armstrong.”
— The Miami Herald
“Kelley Armstrong must have decided one day to throw every genre she could imagine — mystery, horror, supernatural thriller, romance and chick lit — into her writerly cauldron. What she conjured up is the hilariously hip Women of the Otherworld series.”
— Calgary Herald
“Mesmerizing . . . the ‘other-worldly’ atmosphere conjured up by Armstrong begins to seem strangely real. Armstrong is a talented and original writer whose inventiveness and sense of the bizarre is arresting.”
— London Free Press

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