>> Tuesday, October 25, 2011
The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian
Genre: Paranormal/Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication Date: 2011
Source: Copy provided by publisher through NetGalley
The Short Version:
Rebuilding his life after a crash, a former airline pilot and his family move to a small town in New Hampshire where the living residents are nearly as creepy as the ghosts in the basement.
Why I Read It:
I enjoyed Bohjalian’s The Buffalo Soldier and this one seemed like a good ghostly story that would fit the season.
Chip Linton was a pilot for a small regional airline. When he’s forced to try to land his damaged plane he’s sure he can re-create Sully Sullenberger’s successful Hudson River water landing. Unfortunately Chip isn’t as successful and the crash leaves 39 passengers and crew dead.
When Chip and his wife Emily move to New Hampshire with their ten year old twin girls they hope to rebuild their lives away from the publicity and find their way to a peaceful normal life. They move into an old Victorian home that they later learn has a bit of a past. There’s a mysterious door in the dark dirt floored basement that attracts Chip’s curiosity. It’s sealed shut with 39 carriage bolts and it doesn’t escape Chip’s attention that that the same number of people who died in his ill-fated attempt to land his plane in Lake Champlain.
Before long Chip is haunted by his past while Emily and the twins attract the attention of a group of herbalists in town. The attention of these people becomes increasingly odd and disturbing. What’s not certain however is who the greater threat to the family is – the locals in town or the ghosts in the basement?
This was a dark, moody and suspenseful ghostly book that reminded me at several different points of some of my favorite horror and thriller favorites from many years ago. At various times I found myself remembering The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin, The Shining by Stephen King, and Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon. These are some of my favorite books and I liked how Bohjalian was able to remind me of them yet keep his story completely different than any of them.
At times this is a ghost story with Chip struggling to deal with his survivor’s guilt and PTSD. At the same time it’s also the story of the increasingly creepy inhabitants of the town of Bethel. As the motivations of the local group of herbalists became more and more clear the story began to take a completely different path than what I originally expected, while at the same time not dismissing the initial storyline focused on Chip.
The gradual building of both major storylines was well done and created a increasingly tense atmosphere. I wasn’t totally sure how it would all play out until the final pages.
There were a few elements that didn’t quite work for me but they are minor quibbles and ultimately didn’t keep me from enjoying the creepiness of this paranormal and psychological thriller.