This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Buy on Amazon Buy on Buy on
*This page contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date May 14 2024 | Archive Date Jun 03 2024

Talking about this book? Use #Cinderwich #NetGalley. More hashtag tips!


"Who put Ellen in the blackgum tree?"

Decades after trespassing children spotted the desiccated corpse wedged in the treetop, no one knows the answer.

Kate Thrush and her former college professor, Dr. Judith Kane, travel to Cinderwich, Tennessee in hopes that maybe it was their Ellen: Katie's lost aunt, Judith's long-gone lover. But they're not the only ones to have come here looking for closure. The people of Cinderwich, a town hardly more than a skeleton itself, are staunchly resistant to the outsiders' questions about Ellen and her killer. And the deeper the two women dig, the more rot they unearth ... the closer they come to exhuming the evil that lies, hungering, at the roots of Cinderwich.

"Who put Ellen in the blackgum tree?"

Decades after trespassing children spotted the desiccated corpse wedged in the treetop, no one knows the answer.

Kate Thrush and her former college professor, Dr...

Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9781955765206
PRICE $21.95 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (PDF)
Send to Kindle (PDF)
Download (PDF)

Average rating from 17 members

Featured Reviews

“Who put Ellen in the black gum tree?” is the question that brings two women seeking closure to the dying town of Cinderwich, TN. It’s a return, in a way, to the state and tropes that Priest first wrote about in her Eden Moore series, years ago. It’s a Southern gothic with the requisite familial issues, slight chills, hauntings both tangible and intangible, and a presence that may not be as well-controlled as the Cinderwich residents hope.

A woman’s body was found in a black gum tree, some forty years previously, by five young girls. She was never identified, and disappeared while being transported for autopsy. She was seemingly forgotten, until messages began showing up, asking, “Who put Ellen in the black gum tree?”

A newspaper story sparks new interest in the story. Judith, Ellen’s former teacher and lover, who still seeks answers, invites Ellen’s namesake niece, known as Kate, to meet her in Cinderwich to see if this is their Ellen. Kate, who never met her aunt, and who was always compared unfavorably to Ellen by her emotionally abusive mother and grandmother, has little reason to want to go, but does out of care for Judith, who was her teacher years after Ellen disappeared.

This is a nice gothic novella with many of the usual elements – a heroine who comes from a background where she was made to feel less than, the mysterious disappearance of a woman, a dying town, characters who alternately provide backstory and cryptic warnings, someone digging random holes in the woods, and a ghost who may or may not be trying to help. There are clootie wells, coin trees, and the practical magic of Appalachia.

The gothic theme of women suffering due to the actions of men is lightly explored, as there are references to a ritual performed by Masons that may have called an entity that has killed more women than Ellen over the years.

Why you should read it: It’s a good solid story in the gothic tradition. It’s just that little bit unsettling, but not scary enough to make you read it with the lights on. I would have loved to have a full-length novel, so more of the themes could be explored, and we could get more of the freemason backstory, but it’s good as is, too. If you’re a fan of Barbara Michaels, you’ll like Cinderwich.

Why you might not want to read it: Gothics are making a comeback, but I think they may be too niche for popularity. They’re typically not intense enough for horror fans. There’s no romance for romantic suspense fans, and the paranormal elements are a bit more muted than in many paranormal mysteries.

3.5 out of 5 stars, rounded to 4. Recommended.

I received an advance copy from Apex via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Before she was born, Kate's aunt mysteriously disappeared, leaving behind an ambivalent family and a grieving lover. Almost 50 years later, a possible clue to her fate emerges in the strange, small town of Cinderwich, Tennessee.

A quick and spooky read; I wish it was longer, actually, because I feel like too much is left unanswered - and the mystery is so good, I really wanted answers! While the ending does wrap up the main mystery the protagonists are investigating, far more of the surrounding story goes unexplored. I also wish there were more creepy parts, because those are done so well. I had almost given up on horror novels because nothing I read was scary or well-written, and this book re-ignited my love for the genre. The author is great at creating a sense of dread in those spooky moments.

Line-by-line, the prose varies a bit for me. Mostly it's quite well-written, but I would say the author struggles with action; not, like, action sequences, but just characters going about their day, doing things. I highlighted many segments where an entire paragraph is composed of sentences that go, "I did this and this. Then I did this and this." The same structure over and over, without variation in sentence length or composition. To be fair, I don't know how final of a draft this ARC is, because there are a lot of formatting issues, so another round of editing might fix the syntax. Otherwise I really like the writing style. There are a lot of elegant and poignant turns of phrases over all that I appreciate.

Was this review helpful?

This is a quick and enjoyable read by Cherie Priest! Kate Thrush and her ex-college professor, Dr. Judith Kane, journey to Cinderwich, Tennessee, hoping to uncover the truth about Ellen, Katie's missing aunt and Judith's past lover. However, they encounter resistance from the town's inhabitants, who are reluctant to discuss Ellen's disappearance and the circumstances surrounding her death. As Kate and Judith delve deeper into the mystery, they unearth long-buried secrets that threaten to unravel the fragile fabric of Cinderwich's community.

Spooky in places and entertaining. Solid four stars! Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

Was this review helpful?

This was an unsettling story about the secrets of a small town in Tennessee. As outsiders, Kate and Judith have a hard time finding anything solid about the mystery they’ve come to solve, and things only get stranger the more they explore. I would have liked to see the supernatural elements a bit more, but overall this was a solid gothic story.

Note: ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoyed reading this book, it had everything that I was looking for from this type of book. It had that mystery element that I was looking for and thought the overall feel worked with everything that I wanted. I thought the characters worked with this package and thought the overall feel worked with everything. The cover worked with the plot and loved how mysterious the cover was and how it worked in this story. Cherie Priest has a great writing style and left me wanting more.

Was this review helpful?

I loved this creepy little novella. Excellent description and characters for such a short read, felt like I knew Kate, Judy, and Ellen and like I was in Cinderwich myself. I’d have loved more history of the town and why it is the way it is but that’s just me.

If you want a quick spooky read grab this, it would be perfect during Halloween.

Thanks to the author and NetGalley for the e-arc I received via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

I loved this until I didn't, and then I loved it again.

It was easily close to five stars for the majority of the book, super creepy, dug the Appalachian Gothic vibes, ties to local magic and rural folklore. And then the thing happened that made me say "oh, for FUCK'S sake" out loud...and then the last few pages bumped it back up.

Was this review helpful?

Cinderwich by Cherie Priest  is a fantasy/horror novel.

First, let me thank NetGalley, the publisher Apex Book Company and of course the author, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

My Synopsis:    (No major reveals, but if concerned, skip to My Opinions):
Dr. Judith Kane has never gotten over the loss of her girlfriend/lover, Ellen Thrush.  She has searched for her for decades.  Judith is friends with Ellen's niece, who goes by the name Kate (although she was named for her Aunt Ellen).

When Judith sees an article about a town called Cinderwich, where an unknown woman was found many years ago in a tree, Judith asks Kate to join her on the hunt.  Apparently, now and then, graffiti is written around the town asking the question "Who put Ellen in the blackgum tree?"  Could this be "their" Ellen?

But getting answers is not so easy, as the people in Cinderwich aren't keen on visitors.  However, the girls who found the body so many years ago, agree to talk to Judith and Kate.

Kate feels something is off, and she thinks she is seeing a ghost.  The deeper they look, they start realizing that this is not an ordinary town.

My Opinions:
This was a fairly fast and enjoyable read.  A little spooky, a little mystery, and a little more supernatural. Other than one scene near the end, there was no real horror.  But that's okay.  Everything worked well.

I loved the characters.  They were all a little quirky, and I loved the banter between Judith and Kate.

I'm not sure if I missed it, but I don't think the freemason plot line was fully explained, and I'm not sure what happened to Meredith.   However, the actual plot...finding out if the Ellen in the tree was "their" Ellen was answered, so that's all that really matters.  The only other problem I had was the really abrupt ending!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  A very "atmospheric" read.  I'll be looking for more by this author!

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: