A contemporary tale of the supernatural: fantastic/science- fictioneer Card's second mainstream outing (after Lost Boys, 1992). When Quentin Fears was a young boy, his beloved elder sister Lizzy went joyriding and ended up dead--though Quentin continued to imagine himself talking to her. After making a fortune in computers, Quentin sells out and drifts. Innocent about women, he meets a soulmate, Madeleine Cryer, at a party; perhaps because she reminds him of Lizzy, he falls in love. They marry quickly, fumble their way toward sexual awareness (with Madeleine as innocent as he), then visit Madeleine's family at their rambling upstate New York mansion. Next morning, during an elaborate breakfast, Quentin meets Madeleine's grandmother and assorted weird cousins; then, oddly, Madeleine insists that Quentin open a box that supposedly contains her inheritance. Thoroughly uneasy, Quentin refuses. Madeleine storms off and disappears--leaving no footprints in the snow, Quentin discovers, though he does come upon the graveyard where the cousins he just met are buried! Madeleine, it emerges, never existed: She's a succubus conjured by a witch. The mansion's real owner, Anna Laurent Tyler--grandmother!--lives in a nearby nursing home. Her daughter Rowena is, Quentin suspects, the witch who has set all of this in motion. He talks things over with Lizzy- -a ghost, not his imagination--and decides to confront Rowena. Unfortunately, the witch is actually Roz, Rowena's 11-year-old horror of a daughter; and Roz, having trapped Lizzie's ghost, now has the means to compel Quentin to open the mysterious box. Inside lurks an evil and powerful dragon that Roz thinks she'll control- -once it has absorbed Quentin. Beautifully orchestrated, with above-average characters, but blandly unsurprising and lacking the gritty, discomfiting feel of reality underfoot.