Providence Rider

Providence Rider

Illustration By Vincent Chong

Excerpt available

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The Providence Rider is the fourth standalone installment in the extraordinary series of historical thrillers featuring Matthew Corbett, professional problem solver. The narrative begins in the winter of 1703, with Matthew still haunted by his lethal encounter with notorious mass murderer Tyranthus Slaughter. When an unexplained series of explosions rocks his Manhattan neighborhood, Matthew finds himself forced to confront a new and unexpected problem. Someone is trying—and trying very hard—to get his attention. That someone is a shadowy figure from out of Matthew’s past: the elusive Professor Fell. The professor, it turns out, has a problem of his own, one that requires the exclusive services of Matthew Corbett.

The ensuing narrative moves swiftly and gracefully from the emerging metropolis of New York City to Pendulum Island in the remote Bermudas. In the course of his journey, Matthew encounters a truly Dickensian assortment of memorable, often grotesque, antagonists. These include Sirki, the giant, deceptively soft-spoken East Indian killer, Dr. Jonathan Gentry, an expert in exotic potions with a substance abuse problem of his own, the beautiful but murderous Aria Chillany, and, of course, the master manipulator and “Emperor of Crime” on two continents, Professor Fell himself. The result is both an exquisitely constructed novel of suspense and a meticulous recreation of a bygone era.

This signed, limited edition of this generous volume also contains a new, utterly compelling Matthew Corbett adventure, “Death Comes for the Rich Man.” This 11,500-word novella, which has never before been published and will not be reprinted anywhere else for at least two years, takes place between the events of Mister Slaughter and The Providence Rider. In the course of this startling tale, Matthew is approached by a wealthy, dying man with an urgent, if impossible, request: to keep Death itself at bay. Filled with danger, mystery, and an almost tangible sense of place, these superbly crafted narratives represent Robert McCammon at his best and historical fiction at its finest and most developed. Many devoted readers have been waiting for this book.

Lettered: 26 signed, deluxe bound copies, housed in a custom traycase
Limited: 474 signed numbered copies, bound in leather, with the bonus novella, artwork not in the trade hardcover, and bound in a custom slipcase
Trade (signed): Fully cloth bound hardcover copies, with full color endsheets

Now's also a good time to let you know that we put our heads together with Rick and his agent and worked out the framework so we'll publish the fifth Matthew Corbett novel down the road.

From Publishers Weekly:
"Problem-solver Matthew Corbett's past comes back to haunt him in McCammon's intriguing fourth historical thriller (after 2010's Mister Slaughter). Shanghaied in 1704 from Manhattan to Pendulum Island, the Bermuda home of his nemesis, criminal mastermind Professor Fell, Matthew is tasked with finding out who among Fell's criminal confederates is leaking to England Fell's plans to sell a devastating new type of weapon to the nation's European enemies. Once again, McCammon provides a colorful and well-researched depiction of colonial America, enlived by a rogues' gallery of well-drawn characters. Hair's-breadth escapes and the teasing promise that characters who appear to have been disposed of might resurface in future adventures make this a rollicking good yarn."

From Joe R. Lansdale:
"Wow, McCammon is back with a vengeance, and he's riding high with The Providence Rider. Historical, strange, creepy, and engaging as all of McCammon's work is. I highly recommend it."

From Famous Monsters of Filmland:
"The Providence Rider is an absolutely brilliant historical thriller that will keep you turning the pages at a feverish pace as Mr. McCammon takes you along on a grand adventure full of action, intrigue, violence, love and friendship... [The Providence Rider] contains the best of what I liked about the first three books, while adding substance and depth to Matthew, and introducing us to some new and interesting characters that I will be looking forward to getting to know better in future tales."

From Horror Drive-In:
"In The Providence Rider, Corbett is launched quite literally into his most exotic adventure yet. Already targeted by the nefarious 'Emperor of Crime', Professor Fell, Corbett is taken against his wishes to an island where the Doctor reigns supreme. Though Fell has previously marked Corbett for death, he now needs the young problem solver to help him with some of his own troubles... What makes this series work so, other than McCammon's flawless depiction of the past and the exquisite language he conjures up with it, is the basic decency of Matthew Corbett. The young detective is intelligent, tenacious, honorable, and simply a good human being. Yet no man can face the evils Corbett faces in these books and remain wholly innocent."

From Horror World:
"One of the best books of the year--of any genre--and hopefully, Providence Rider will be embraced by the masses for the masterpiece thriller it truly is."


Death Comes For The Rich Man

(an excerpt from the novella exclusive to the Signed Limited and Lettered Editions)


Lord Mortimer Hopes

When December had reached the doorway of the new year of 1703, a sallow white-haired man in a black suit, black tricorn and black fearnaught coat also reached the doorway of Number Seven Stone Street in the town of New York. It was the middle of the afternoon, yet the blue light of evening lay upon the hills and streets. The sallow man began his climb up the stairs, and to his meeting with the problem-solvers above. His ascent reached the realm of Hudson Greathouse and Matthew Corbett. They had been waiting for him, alerted by his letter of the past week posted from the New Jersey town of Oak Bridge. Thus by the blue light that fell through the windows, by the eight white tapers that burned in the wrought-iron chandelier above their heads and by the polite flames that crackled in the small fireplace of rough tan and gray stones, the two associates of the Herrald Agency sat side-by-side at their desks as the sallow man removed his coat, hung it upon a wallhook and then seated himself in a chair at the center of the room. He removed his tricorn and held it between his gnarled hands, and he looked at Matthew and Greathouse with sad and watery gray eyes. He had signed his letter With Most Hopeful Regards, Jesper Oberley. Without further hesitation he answered Hudson’s first question, which was How may we help you?

“I am servant to a very rich master. Lord Brodd Mortimer,” said the sad-eyed man. “I have been so these past eleven years. It pains me to say it, but Death is coming for him.”

“True for everyone, isn’t it?” asked Greathouse, with a quick glance at Matthew. The great one was yet hobbling about on a cane after the incident at Fort Laurens in the autumn, and what pained Matthew was hearing him struggle up the stairs and then a further struggle for breath at the top before coming to his desk. Matthew had to wonder if Hudson would ever again be the rakish and adventurous hell-hound of a man he’d once been. Of course he held himself to blame for that, and nothing Hudson could say would shake from his burdened mind the thought that he’d failed his friend.

“Lord Mortimer,” said Jesper Oberley, with the faint trace of a smile that did nothing to alter his expression of solemn finality, “is nearer Death’s hand than most. His physician predicts the end will come within a few days. Lord Mortimer has been ill for some time. It is consumption. Nothing can be done.”

“Our condolences,” Matthew said. He was studying Oberley’s face, with its hanging jowls and furrowed fields. Matthew thought that Oberley resembled a loyal dog that had been much mistreated but always came back to lick the master’s hand, because that was the nature of a loyal dog. “Such an illness is a tragic thing. But…as Mr. Greathouse has asked…how may we help?”

Jesper Oberley spent a moment staring into space, as if the answer to this question hung there like a spiderweb in a corner. Finally he drew a breath and said, “My master believes…very strongly…that Death will come for him in a physical form. The form of a man. My master believes that Death, in this physical form, will enter the house and come into his bedchamber. There, Death will not hesitate to take my master’s soul and leave the husk of the body behind. Therefore, kind sirs, my master wishes to hire you to…shall we say…cheat Death.”

“Cheat Death,” said Hudson Greathouse, in a graveside tone. He had spoken it an instant before Matthew could.

“Yes sir. That is so.”

“Hmmm.” Greathouse tapped the musket-ball cleft in his chin. “Well…usually…one has not the power to do what your master is asking. I mean to say…Death is his own master and eventually master of all men, isn’t he?”

“Lord Mortimer hopes,” said Oberley, “that you might use your powers of persuasion in this instance. For certainly this would be a problem to be solved, would it not? The result being that Death—when he arrives at the manor—can be persuaded to allow Lord Mortimer a little extra time? A few days, perhaps, or even a few hours? It would be of great importance to my master.”

“May I ask why?” Matthew prodded.

“Lord Mortimer’s daughter Christina is a teacher at the school in the town of Grainger, some six miles from Oak Bridge. He moved the household from England five years ago, to be near her. But…there has been difficulty between them for many years, gentlemen. She is thirty-two years old and unmarried. She is…a free spirit, one might say.”

“Must run in the profession,” said Matthew.

Oberley of course did not pick up on this comment concerning a certain red-haired young woman who often bounded into Matthew’s world and thoughts with no warning. Oberley simply nodded as if this made perfect sense. “Lord Mortimer,” Oberley went on, in his dry and quietly raspy voice, “wishes to make peace with his daughter before he passes from this world.” The watery eyes moved from Matthew to Greathouse and back again, seeking empathy and understanding. “It is of vital importance, to the resting of his soul. Vital,” he repeated. “That Lord Mortimer sees his daughter, and settles some issues disturbing to him, before Death takes the bounty.”

Neither Matthew nor Greathouse moved for a moment. There came the sound of a creak on the staircase, which Matthew thought might be one of the office’s ghosts curious as to how this situation might turn out, and perhaps a little jealous that he had not been so valued.

At last Greathouse cleared his throat. He said, “I have to wonder if we are up to this task.”

“If you are not,” came the reply, “then who might be?”

“The daughter,” Matthew ventured. “Possibly she might not wish to visit her father?”

“I have spoken with her, four days ago. She is still pondering the invitation.”

“But the visit is uncertain?”

“Uncertain,” Oberley allowed. “Which is why you gentlemen are needed so urgently.”

“It would probably do better to use our powers of persuasion on Christina, and not any vision or illusion of Death,” said Matthew. “I would think a real ear should be more likely to listen.”

“Vision?” Oberley’s white eyebrows went up like signal flags. “Illusion? Oh, sir…my master is utterly convinced Death will come wearing the costume of a man, and that this man will not hesitate to end Lord Mortimer’s life. I should say…it has been a fitful life, both for himself and others. He has many regrets.” A thin smile surfaced. “He should.” The smile faded. “Nothing I, any of the other servants nor Vicar Barrington can say will change his mind or alter his belief. He is convinced Death will come in this fashion, and—gentlemen—he greatly fears the moment of his reckoning.”

“I suppose you’re saying he’s not only rich,” said Greathouse, “but less than saintly?”

“His riches have sprung from the fountain of his greed,” answered Oberley, his face displaying no emotion. “Many others have drowned in it.”

Matthew and Greathouse both glanced at each other, but neither commented on this damning statement.

“I am empowered to offer you money.” Oberley reached into a pocket of his velvety black waistcoat and brought out a leather pouch. “One hundred pounds, sirs. I should hope that Christina will come to the house tonight or tomorrow. Later than that will be, I fear, too late.” Greathouse made a sound between a grunt and a whistle. Matthew knew that one hundred pounds for two nights’ employ was quite the golden sum, and yet…it was a preposterous deed to be done. Intercept Death on his way to Brodd Mortimer’s bedchamber? Convince such a tenuous phantasm to allow a few extra hours of life? It was absolutely—

“A fine problem to be solved,” said Greathouse. His face was as serious as granite, but Matthew could sense the wolfish smile beneath. Greathouse’s black eyes sparkled.

“We’ll do it. Or…rather…let me say that Mr. Corbett will do it, as I am not yet able to travel comfortably and this wet cold in the air tells me trouble is coming.”

“Oh yes,” said Matthew tightly. “Trouble is coming.”

Greathouse’s laugh was not merry. He kept his focus upon Jesper Oberley. “We accept this worthy challenge, sir. And may we have delivery of the money now?”

“Fifty pounds now,” Oberley said, as he leaned forward to put the pouch into Greathouse’s outstretched hand. “Fifty pounds when the task is done.”

“Well done,” said the great one.

“Burnt to a crisp,” said Matthew.

“A few papers to be signed.” Greathouse retrieved them from a drawer of his desk and pushed forward the quill and inkpot. Done way too eagerly, Matthew thought. Oberley got up from his chair and gave his signature on the necessary forms. “I have a coach down the street.” His attention was fixed upon Matthew. “If you’d care to pack a bag for one or two nights, I will have the coachman take you to your house.”

“That would be fine, thank you.” Matthew also stood up. Oberley retrieved his fearnaught and began to shrug into it. The black tricorn went atop his head and the fearnaught’s bone buttons were fastened. “Mr. Oberley,” said Matthew, “may I send you down to your coach and spend a moment speaking to my associate?”

“Of course. I shall be waiting.” The sallow servant departed the room and a moment later came the sound of his boots on the stairs.

Are you insane? Matthew started to ask, but Greathouse’s voice was there first: “Calm down, now. Settle yourself.”

“Settle myself? You’re sending me on a trip to have a talk with Death? On behalf of a dying man who must be at least half as moon-struck as you are!”

Greathouse was already opening the pouch to inspect the gold coins within. “Nice. Look how they shine in this light.”

“I’ve been blinded by such glitter once before. Hudson, are you serious? This is like… highway robbery!” A job for which Greathouse seemed to be well-suited, Matthew thought.

“Wrong.” Greathouse aimed his black gun-barrel eyes at Matthew. “It’s a worthwhile task to be undertaken on behalf of a dying man. Put yourself in his position.”

“I’d rather not.”

“For the moment.” The great one found the temptation too great not to spill the handful of coins across the green blotter on his desk. “You—being Lord Mortimer—fear the coming of Death in physical form. You wish to speak to your daughter, to correct past ills. It will be a comfort to you in your last hours, Matthew, to have yourself there at your bedside.” He frowned and shook his head as if to clear his ears of cotton wads. “You know what I mean. Anyway, you have experience with lunatics. So go heap pride upon the banner of the Herrald Agency.”

“I think it’s wrong to—”

“Tut, tut!” came the reply, along with the aggravated wave of a hand. “Off with you!” Being dismissed had never pleased Matthew’s hackles. He therefore felt the rising of said hackles as he put on his gray cloak, black woolen gloves and black tricorn hat with a thin red band. He was aiming himself toward the door when his more mercenary associate said, “Getting colder outside. Ice may be coming. Guard yourself so you don’t have to speak to Death on your own behalf.”

“When I get back from this,” Matthew said with a little crimson heat in his cheeks, “I’ll be going to dinner at Sally Almond’s as your guest. From wine to crumble cake.”

“A pleasure. Now stop whining and go crumble the problem.” 

(Continued in the Signed Limited and Lettered Editions)

Click thumbnail to see artwork

Vincent Chong
Robert McCammon
416 pages
United States
Out of Print