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Read an Excerpt From C.M. Waggoner’s The Village Library Demon-Hunting Society


Read an Excerpt From C.M. Waggoner&#8217;s <i>The Village Library Demon-Hunting Society</i>

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Read an Excerpt From C.M. Waggoner’s The Village Library Demon-Hunting Society

A librarian with a knack for solving murders realizes there is something decidedly supernatural afoot in her little town.


Published on June 17, 2024

Cover of The Village Library Demon-Hunting Society by C.M. Waggoner, showing an archway with bookshelves. Inside the archway is the title of the novel, a red cat, and some stars.

We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from The Village Library Demon-Hunting Society, C. M. Waggoner’s new cozy fantasy mystery—out from Ace on September 24th.

Librarian Sherry Pinkwhistle keeps finding bodies—and solving murders. But she’s concerned by just how many killers she’s had to track down in her quaint village. None of her neighbors seem surprised by the rising body count… but Sherry is becoming convinced that whatever has been causing these deaths is unnatural.

When someone close to Sherry ends up dead, and her cat, Lord Thomas Crowell, becomes possessed by what seems to be an ancient demon, Sherry begins to think she’s going to need to become an exorcist as well as an amateur sleuth. With the help of her town’s new priest, and an assortment of friends who dub themselves the “Demon-Hunting Society,” Sherry will have to solve the murder and get rid of a demon.

She was already well clear of the library when it occurred to Sherry that now she’d have to go back to her own demon-haunted house and spend the next however many hours completely alone.

She occupied herself for about half an hour with placing crystals in their designated spots around her house and pouring the special salt across the windows and doorways, which she immediately regretted. The salt might or might not repel demons, but either way it would get tracked all over her house and she’d have to spend an hour trying to vacuum it out of the rugs. Then she made herself a sandwich and started reading about hauntings and possessions. She’d never been extremely interested in horror stories—they gave her bad dreams—and their sudden relevance to her personal life didn’t make them into more enjoyable reading. By six o’clock it was getting dark in her living room, and she was rattled enough to shut all the books, turn on all the lights, switch on the usually neglected television for company, and pour herself a generous serving from her dusty old bottle of brandy.

At some point she must have fallen asleep, because she woke up to the sound of a man’s voice very close to her ear. “Woman!” the voice said. “This isn’t the time for you to sleep! It’s only just gone past six, woman, and I have yet to sup!”

Sherry kept her eyes closed. Whoever was speaking to her was a demon, presumably, and she didn’t want to look at it. It was probably hideous and would give her nightmares if she survived this encounter, and opening her eyes wasn’t very likely to improve her chances of making it out alive. She’d never been a fast sprinter or learned to do kung fu, and from her experience of reading Stephen King novels, she doubted that either of those skills would do much against an evil spirit, anyway. If she was going to die, she would die without having to look at some horrible monster’s disgusting drippy face first. “Woman!” said the voice again. It was coming from very close to her face. It was a deep voice, with a Masterpiece Theatre sort of English accent. Not a particularly frightening voice, really. Sort of… jolly. “Get up! Time is passing by apace!”

Sherry cracked one eye open. There was no demon. All she could see, a few inches from her nose, was the familiar furry little visage of her fat orange cat. He was sitting on the arm of the sofa where the fabric was already pretty well shredded.

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The Village Library Demon-Hunting Society
The Village Library Demon-Hunting Society

The Village Library Demon-Hunting Society

C.M. Waggoner

“Lord Thomas Cromwell?” Sherry said, astonished. Then the penny dropped. “Oh, no.”

“If you hadn’t wanted me here,” Lord Thomas Cromwell said, “then you oughtn’t have given the beast my name.”

“You speak awfully modern English, for a Tudor politician,”

Sherry said. Her heart rate was starting to slow. She couldn’t feel that frightened of Lord Thomas. Once she’d had to rescue him after he’d gotten his head stuck in a soup can. “You talk like a Tudor whose dialogue is being written by a bad American screenwriter.” She was starting to suspect that, whatever sort of creature was responsible for the goings-on in Winesap, it definitely watched too much television.

“You’re pert above your station, woman,” the cat said. Then, more mulishly: “And I want my supper.”

“Are you actually the real Lord Thomas Cromwell?” Sherry asked. “What was being executed like?”

“Never you mind,” the cat said. He was speaking without his mouth moving, which was a relief. She didn’t want to see how the demon puppeteering her cat would attempt to adapt his lipless little mouth to accommodate human speech. “You ask questions above your station, too. Why are you talking when you could be preparing food or investigating murders?” “You’re a cat,” Sherry said. She was starting to feel less worried and more as if she was enjoying herself a little. “You don’t have a station. You can’t operate the can opener on your own. If you want to eat, you’ll have to behave yourself. Why would the tormented spirit of Lord Thomas Cromwell be interested in a murder investigation in Winesap, New York? Are you sure that you aren’t just the same… individual that I was speaking to earlier, in the sheriff’s office?”

The cat was silent for a moment. She couldn’t glean much from his expression, because he was a cat. It was possible that he was trying to scowl at her but failing due to a lack of eyebrows. Eventually he cleared his throat, which struck her as somehow an even stranger thing for a cat to do than speak English and demand murder investigations. The sound was definitely too deep to have come from his precious weensy little throat. “It’s a bit complicated,” he said. Then he stood up onto all four paws and said, “And what of my supper, woman?” “You won’t get any supper if you keep calling me woman,”

Sherry said. “It’s Miss Pinkwhistle to you.”

“Do you really see yourself as fit to make demands of me, woman?” the cat said.

“Yes,” Sherry said. “Don’t you test me, Lord Thomas. I might run the vacuum cleaner.”

As far as a cat could be said to ever look alarmed, Lord Thomas Cromwell did. “There’s no need to resort to violence!” he said. “I’m sure that we can come to some satisfaction, Miss Pinkwhistle. What do you want from me?”

“What do you want from me?” Sherry countered. “I’m not the one possessing your cat. You can’t just come into a woman’s home, possess her cat, demand supper, and then demand that she issue demands. Who are you, and what are you doing here? It’s complicated doesn’t count as an explanation.”

“Convincing you to investigate the murder,” Lord Thomas said. “Why won’t you just do as you’re told?”

“Because I don’t want to,” Sherry said. “Why do you care so much? What’s going on here? Who are you? Is it some kind of—human sacrifice cult? But why do you want me to find the murderer?” It sounded insane. It was insane. She was talking to a cat.

I don’t care about your petty human murders,” said the cat.

Then he lowered his voice. “This is all at the behest of her.” “Her?” Sherry repeated. She found herself almost whispering, which would have probably felt less ridiculous if she hadn’t been whispering to her cat. “Who do you mean?”

“She doesn’t have a name,” Lord Thomas said. “To call her her is a mere convenience. Creatures like her don’t have a sex. When she takes a form, it’s often that of a beautiful young woman, but sometimes it’s an old man or a lost child. She’s an old thing, and a cruel one. She used to steal pretty children or handsome young men and take them as her playthings. Now she has found a new dollhouse to amuse herself with.”


“Winesap,” the cat agreed. “And you, Miss Pinkwhistle.”

Sherry resolutely didn’t allow herself to shiver. “And where do you come in?”

Lord Thomas shifted uncomfortably. It was adorable. Then he said, “She has conscripted me into her service after I, through no fault of my own, unwittingly earned her ire.”

Sherry raised her eyebrows. No one used that many words to say that something wasn’t their fault when they were completely innocent. “What did you actually do, Sir Thomas?”

He did more shifting back and forth between his sweet little orange paws. Then he muttered, “I tried to eat her.”

Sherry blinked. “What?

“She had taken the form of a gleaming white moth,” Sir Thomas said with enormous dignity. “I can’t be held responsible for my actions.”

“Are you usually a cat?” Sherry asked, momentarily distracted from trying to find out more about the malevolent spirit who’d taken over the town. Cats did seem as if they struggled to resist trying to eat moths, gleaming white or otherwise.

“I am Lord Thomas Cromwell,” Lord Thomas Cromwell said grandly, then lowered his voice and said, “I am more frequently a Lord of Cats.”

“Oh,” Sherry said. She didn’t feel as if there was much else that she could say, really. The cat was looking at her expectantly, though, so she tried: “You must be very important.”

“I am, yes,” the cat said, and took a moment to polish his ears. Then he lowered his voice again and said, “Have you any more of that salt?”

Sherry started to say yes. The cat hissed at her. Sherry blinked. “What—”

The cat shook his head, then nodded, then, surreally, held his paw up to his lips.

“Oh!” Sherry said, then winced, put a hand over her own mouth, and scurried to her bags of New Age supplies to get the special salt. She held it out to the cat, who narrowed his eyes and pawed at the air to remind her that he didn’t have hands to take it with. She blushed. He jumped off the arm of the sofa and began trotting around the coffee table counter-clockwise. Around and around. She stared. He stopped, gave a disgusted yowl, then stared pointedly at the salt. “Oh, right!” she said. He started trotting in his circle again. She followed him, pouring salt as she went, and thinking sadly about how she was going to have to move the coffee table if she wanted to drag the rug outside to really shake all the salt out. Once the circle was complete, the cat jumped onto the coffee table. Sherry eyed it, then very carefully sat, hoping that the legs would hold up.

The cat cleared its throat. “Now that we have blessed this altar,” he said, “we may speak more freely.”

“Oh, good,” said Sherry. She waited for a moment. The cat stared up at her with his lemon-lime eyes. She stared back at him. “Well?”

The cat hunkered in closer. “I would like to suggest that we strike a bargain.”

Sherry frowned. “What kind of bargain?”

“She has tasked me with making sure that you play your part in her game,” Lord Thomas Cromwell said. “She wants you to investigate her latest little killing.”

Excerpted from The Village Library Demon-Hunting Society by C. M. Waggoner Copyright © 2024 by C. M. Waggoner. Excerpted by permission of Ace. All rights reserved.

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C. M. Waggoner


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