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The Night Strangers: A Novel [Hardcover]

Chris Bohjalian
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 4 2011
From the bestselling author of The Double Bind, Skeletons at the Feast, and Secrets of Eden, comes a riveting and dramatic ghost story.
 
In a dusty corner of a basement in a rambling Victorian house in northern New Hampshire, a door has long been sealed shut with 39 six-inch-long carriage bolts. 
           
The home's new owners are Chip and Emily Linton and their twin ten-year-old daughters. Together they hope to rebuild their lives there after Chip, an airline pilot, has to ditch his 70-seat regional jet in Lake Champlain after double engine failure. Unlike the Miracle on the Hudson, however, most of the passengers aboard Flight 1611 die on impact or drown. The body count? Thirty-nine – a coincidence not lost on Chip when he discovers the number of bolts in that basement door. Meanwhile, Emily finds herself wondering about the women in this sparsely populated White Mountain village – self-proclaimed herbalists – and their interest in her fifth-grade daughters. Are the women mad? Or is it her husband, in the wake of the tragedy, whose grip on sanity has become desperately tenuous?   

The result is a poignant and powerful ghost story with all the hallmarks readers have come to expect from bestselling novelist Chris Bohjalian: a palpable sense of place, an unerring sense of the demons that drive us, and characters we care about deeply.

The difference this time? Some of those characters are dead.

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Review

"Riveting. . .seamless. . .a hell of a good ghost story."—Justin Cronin, author of The Passage

“The Night Strangers boasts all the trappings of a classic Gothic horror story, reminiscent in places of the spousal secrets in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown,’ the thrills of ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ and the psychological frights of Daphne du Maurier. . .A perfect book for Halloween. . .That thump thump you hear as you read is only your heart leaping from your chest.”—Keith Donohue, Washington Post

"Shades of The Shining make for a haunting tale. . .A modern-day ghost story worth losing sleep over."—Family Circle

"After losing passengers in a forced landing, a pilot seeks respite by moving his family to New England. But the house is haunted and local witches won't leave them alone. Good 'n' spooky."Good Housekeeping

"Put a haunted man in a haunted house. . .and you have a Halloween hair-raiser. But it's more than that. Bohjalian, with a dozen well-received novels to his credit, understands trauma: how long it takes to recover from unimaginable pain, and how people who have never experienced it rarely understand."—Yankee Magazine

"A page-turner of uncommon depth. Guilt, egotism, and fear all play parts in the genre-bending novel."—Booklist, Starred Review

"Bohjalian has crafted a genre-defying novel, both a compelling story of a family in trauma and a psychological thriller that is truly frightening. Fans of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones and Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye and The Robber Bride will find similar appeal here."—Library Journal, Starred Review 
 
"Compelling. . .a practical magick horror story."—Kirkus Reviews

"A gripping paranormal thriller. . .Bohjalian is a master, and the slow-mounting dread makes this a frightful ride."—Publishers Weekly

“A delicious and haunting tale. . .Bohjalian is a terrific writer and parsimonious in the way he issues information, slowly building an increasing sense of dread and excitement.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

"You will close the book's covers totally satisfied, aware that this masterful storyteller has done it again."—Seattle Times

“Bohjalian uses a clean-edged pen to dice, toss, and serve a gasp-inducing plot that is ghost story-meets psychological thriller. . .The book has a spellbinding clutch. A mélange of horror, thrill, drama, sex, and gore—juxtaposed against the quiet and solitude of a small New England town—it will test your courage and resolve. . .[It] will invade your world.”—Armenian Weekly

"A spellbinding, heart-pounding novel. . .this is one perfect book for Halloween."—Book Page

"Masterfully crafted. . .a suspense-filled ghost story set in rural New Hampshire. . .This is a great read filled with real-life characters, an intricate story line and just enough 'spooky.'"—Grand Rapids Press

"Compelling. . .a ghost story in the tradition of such classics of the genre as 'The Turn of the Screw' and 'The Haunting of Hill House.'"—Tulsa World

" This moody, atmospheric story chills the bones and doesn't let up until the last brutal page. It is a creepy gothic mystery just right for Halloween."—Parkersburg News & Sentinel
 
"Echoes of Rosemary's Baby and The Shining. . .Read if you dare, but keep an extra light on, and make sure your seat is in the full upright and locked position.”—USA Today
 

About the Author

 
CHRIS BOHJALIAN is the critically acclaimed author of fourteen books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Double Bind, Secrets of Eden, and Skeletons at the Feast. His novel, Midwives, was a number one New York Times bestseller and a selection of Oprah’s Book Club. His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages and two of his novels have become movies (Midwives and Past the Bleachers). He lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.

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1.0 out of 5 stars Too Predictable Jan. 29 2012
Format:Hardcover
[Spoiler alert] Chris Bohjalian is uneven at best. He's trying, with his various genre experiments, to be Stewart O'Nan, but he really doesn't have the writing chops. In this one, he dabbles his toe in the very deep waters of Stephen King, but everything about the formula is wrong. From the moment our mentally unstable pilot confronts the basement door in his new house--with exactly the same number of bolts as the number of people who died in the plane he crashed--we know what's going to come through that door. But why only 3? And the motivation of the ghostly father is haphazard at best.

A kind of a poor-man's version of "The Shining" isn't all Mr. Bohjalian aims at; as well he gives us an ancient New England coven of nature witches and warlocks. But it's not enough that everybody and his brother/sister is part of that coven, or that they have to have the blood of traumatized twins, as our protagonist happens to be the dad of, but in case we still don't get it, everyone of them was given/has taken obscure plant names. The author is virtually pinning a sign to their backs saying, "I'm evil." But though he's established (weakly) multiple conflicts in the protagonist, he decides, of a sudden, to make one of the witches a defector to add person vs person (witch vs witch)to the mix.

Most of the characters are brought in and dropped out without significant character development. Each could be typified with a single line of description: the crazy witchy therapist; the dapper old warlock; the obsessed-with-blood villainess. The protagonist's real therapist is dispatched in an all-too-easy car accident which no one cares enough to investigate. Bohjalian must've flipped a coin to see which twin they would take or whether the ending would turn out badly or well.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Weird and unsettling Nov. 19 2011
Format:Hardcover
Started out okay. But eventually drifted into weirdness. Usually I like his books so was disappointed that this was so odd. Didn't finish it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  280 reviews
113 of 118 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Started Great, Ended Horribly Sept. 27 2011
By Scott William Foley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
The Night Strangers begins with a bang and draws the reader into a story that cannot be denied. Unfortunately, everything that works in the first half of the book is abandoned to an inferior sub plot and finally ends in one of the most dissatisfying conclusions that I've ever read.

Chip Linton suffers extreme depression after failing to land his passenger plane on a lake. This failed attempt results in thirty-nine people dying. Bohjalian depicts an incredibly captivating and horrifying crash, and he won me over right then and there thanks to his mastery of both tension and pacing.

The Linton family moves to a new state and a new home in northern New Hampshire. A ghost story ensues, one that is smartly written and enticing. Is it the house that is haunted, or is it Chip himself? Will this haunting cost Chip his marriage, life, or perhaps even the lives of his twin daughters? I honestly couldn't wait to see what happened next. Bohjalian captured the tone of a family in distress; he delivered a suffering father; he made me care about the Lintons.

And then, sadly, Bohjalian deserted this family to focus upon a group of herbalist/witches that need the twin girls for their own nefarious intentions. The Night Strangers, at that point, became a boring, genre-driven work that failed to connect to the reader on any emotional level. The author gave far too much attention to these herbalists, their green houses, and he became too preoccupied with getting each and every herb just right. Frankly, I didn't find the herbalist the least bit interesting and their herbs were of absolutely no concern to me.

I wanted my story focusing upon the Lintons back, but Bohjalian refused. In fact, after striving so hard to make us relate to them, to see ourselves in them, to love them, he turned them into nothing more than tools to provide an insipid, heartless ending that proved to be extraordinarily inconsistent with previously established characterization.

The first half of The Night Strangers was an amazing, creepy, disturbing read that I couldn't put down. The last half of The Night Strangers was an utter contradiction of the first, and I've never felt more cheated and disappointed by an ending in all my years of reading.

~Scott William Foley, author of Andropia
73 of 79 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing... Sept. 14 2011
By Tracy L. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I am a huge Chris Bohjalian fan and have read most of his books. As with any author with multiple works, I have enjoyed some more than others. I truly thing NIGHT STRANGERS is his weakest work to date.

There is a great set-up to this story. A plane has a bird strike right after take-off and the captain, Chip Linton, tries to make an emergency water landing, but unlike the "Miracle on the Hudson", thirty-nine people die. Based on this, Chip, who is traumatized and depressed, moves with his wife Emily and twin daughters Hallie and Garnet to a small northern New Hampshire town to begin a new life in an old Victorian house they have recently purchased. Chip finds an old door in the basement of his new home that is sealed with, coincidentally, thirty-nine bolts. Okay, this sounds like this is going to be great idea for a ghost story, right? Well, not so fast.

Enter the "Herbalists." Now, I'm sure it's difficult for authors to come up with unique and creative ideas for their stories, but this aspect of the book is what truly makes the story weak. These are the lamest "Bad Guys" I have ever read in any book, and how Emily seems to willingly turn her girls over to these people seems like an all too-convenient plot point. Emily is by far the weakest, dumbest character in the story.

All the female herbalists are named after some sort of herb or plant or flower (cute, huh?), and I'm curious as to why Bohjalian decided this couldn't also be true of the male herbalists. Are the women more "sinister" than the men are are? No, not really. The thirty-nine bolts equaling the number of people dying on Chip's flight never ends up being of any importance to the story. Also, there is one scene in this book that I found gratuitous and totally unnecessary Involving Emily and Reseda. I realize that this was supposed to make the reader understand that Reseda has the ability to read minds, but it was totally out of place and never ended up being relevant to the story in any way. It seemed like a cheap ploy to get a little sex in the book.

The best part of the story is Chip's interaction with the "ghosts." This is where the story shines and where I think Bohjalian should have concentrated more of his efforts. I also like how Bohjalian wrote Chip in the second person voice. That worked very well.

Without giving away the ending, I'll just say it was very unsatisfying for me and left some unanswered questions that genuinely do not make sense. This book was ultimately a real disappointment.
100 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Are You A Good Witch or A Bad Witch? Sept. 11 2011
By Gayla M. Collins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Several other reviewers gave you plotline, so I will add my two cents tempting you into this psychological novel that terrifies. I usually avoid this genre like wasps at a picnic. I am so easily frightened which gets my PTSD going.(a prominent subject in this read) However, because I have read all books Bohjalian, I went to the edge and hung on, excitedly reading his latest effort. It was so brilliant that I ended up on the cliff, dangling my feet, shivering, shaking but also acknowledging I made it through and it was worth every ounce of fear!

This book involves the occult? Witches covens? Ghosts? Demonic possession? Crazed herbalists? Derangement of the mind? Read for your own conclusions of what is going on in Bethel, N.H. and why half the town is living in terror of greenhouses. "Are you a good gardener or a bad gardener?" *evil grin*

Research into multiple subjects had to be vast. In all of Bohjalian books he roots out the subject matters, demanding of his work plausibility and passion. The prose is simply spellbinding.

Here is the potion I would concoct to describe "The Night Strangers." Pinches of Stephen King's(The Shining) John Updike's (Witches of Eastwick) William Peter Benchy's(The Exorcist)Alfred Hitchcock's (Psycho) get stirred into Bohjalian's rich imagination, creating a recipe of terror no one else could create. It is Chris's savory dish if you enjoy blood in your stew.

I dare you to read it.
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars VERY disappointing Oct. 24 2011
By Scott Boucher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I downloaded the free Kindle sample of this book and, even though I thought the pace was a bit slow, I enjoyed the premise and writing enough to purchase the full book. Not only did the pace never really pick up but the characters I initially liked became ridiculous at best and completely implausible at worst. The worst case was Emily. Supposedly an attorney in a high end law firm in downtown Philadelphia but, once she and her family moved to New Hampshire, she becomes a mental and emotional basket case completely incapable of recognizing the fact that a group of creepy locals are trying to manipulate her and her family. The entire story is made up of a series of incidents where Emily the lawyer and her husband, a former airline pilot, are toyed with like a couple of puppets by the locals.

SPOILER ALERT

The absolute worst part of the story is the climatic ending that falls with an absolute thud as the evil, manipulative, murderous cult members get away with all their misdeeds and are actually befriended by Emily and her dolt of a husband, Chip.

Do NOT, under and circumstances, waste a single penny on this rubbish. It's a tedious, aggravating story with a maddeningly silly ending. I was actually angry that I wasted so much time reading it. Please learn from my mistake and stay away from this book.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A major disappointment Oct. 21 2011
By B. Tracy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The premise of the story -- a pilot and a plane crash that kills 39 people, then a move to a new house that has a mysterious door with 39 bolts -- sounds intriguing and I was so excited to read it. The idea of the pilot being haunted by the deaths of these passengers has so many elements it can explore and I couldn't wait to see how the "ghosts" manifested into the overall storyline. However, this part of the story seems to fall to the wayside as Bohjalian shifts to other characters and their fascination with twins and herbs. The only parts of the book I enjoyed were the parts about Chip, which were written in the second person voice. This style works for me, as Tom Robbins has done it masterfully, but others might be bothered by it.

The book could be compelling and create a grander storyline than it actually does, instead going for a campy climax. I was very disappointed, having read all of Bohjalian's books and always finding the endings satisfying. In this case, I was reading as fast as I could just to get it out of my hands.
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