The Night Strangers by Chris Bojalian – can I just stop here and say wow! This book kept me on the edge of my seat and my heart pounding more than a few times. It has all the makings of a creepy story that I really love – noises in the night, secret ceremonies, suspected witches, and ghosts. There isn’t much more that I ask for in a good thriller and The Night Strangers delivered it all to me and more.
The novel opens with the crash of pilot Chip’s plane due to a flock of geese flying into the engines. Despite his efforts to save his passengers, many perish but some do survive. Chip is tormented by nightmares and guilt, not to mention that he can’t seem to go anywhere without being recognized. Chip and his wife Emily feel it’s best to move with their two girls Hallie and Garnet and start somewhere fresh. It is with this thought that they end up in Bethel, New Hampshire and find a beautiful Victorian home that seems perfect for them. All except for that strange door in the basement that has been sealed up forever with 39 bolts – even stranger is that is the exact number of passengers that perished in the crash.
Soon after they move in they begin to notice strange things about the house and even the neighbors. It’s not that they haven’t been welcomed because they certainly have especially after some of the townsfolk learned that the Chip and Emily had twin girls. The thing that was really strange was the interest these people were taking in their twin girls. As time goes on they discover that their girls aren’t’ the first twins to live in the home. There were twin boys at one point; one of who committed suicide. Emily seems most bothered by these women who have taken such an interest in her girls and even more she is disturbed by the reputation she is beginning to find out that these women have as suspected witches. They call themselves herbalists but their mixing of all kinds of potions for this and that along with their suspicious behavior has caused other townsfolk to label them as witches. Other than being obsessed with the twins they also seem obsessed with baking goodies for the family to eat and for some reason they focus this attention on Chip.
As for Chip he is understandably suffering from depression. He holds himself responsible for the lives lost on his plane even though it wasn’t his fault. Worse yet though is that it seems that some of those ghosts have followed him to his new home and insist on communicating with him. Most dominant is a father and daughter and what the father is demanding of Chip is unbelievably horrifying. Yet Chip feels such guilt and he feels like he needs to help these people. As time moves forward though Chip is becoming increasingly tormented by this father and he feels he is losing his mind. He begins to investigate and as he uncovers more and more about his house and the townspeople, he becomes even more scared for his family.
The Night Strangers really kept me turning those pages. It’s a story that unfolds slowly, yet steadily and keeps you completely in its grip as it does. The novel builds and builds right up to the ending that shocked the pants of me. I’m still thinking about it. I don’t think I’ve been that surprised by an ending in a while. This book is well worth reading in my opinion! Beware though of reading it alone at night with the lights out – you may get more than a little creeped out!
Source: My own copy. Review first posted on Book Trib.