Fri, Sep 30 2011

By: Nanore Barsoumian
The Night Strangers
By Chris Bohjalian
New York: Crown Publishing Group (Oct. 4, 2011)
400 pp., $25.00

Chris Bohjalian's The Night Strangers will be released Oct. 4.

The right dose of trauma can change a man. But what if his
vulnerable psyche is haunted by terrifying visions of the mutilated
and the impaled, and his life is suddenly flooded by a batch of
greenhouse-tending kooky herbalists? In The Night Strangers, New
York Times bestselling author Chris Bohjalian uses a clean-edged
pen to dice, toss, and serve a gasp-inducing plot that is ghost
story-meets-psychological thriller.

Chip Linton wasn't able to successfully land his commercial jet in a
lake, like the legendary Sully Sullenberger had before him. Having
choked on a flock of geese, Linton's plane lost both engines and
glided-nose up-into Vermont's Lake Champlain. A pilot with over a
decade of experience, Linton knew his jet could make a successful
water landing, and his passengers could walk away unscathed. But with
a last-minute twist of events, a mere wave from a nearby boat caused
the jet to flip and cartwheel across the lake, taking the passengers
on a freakish ride in a jet-turned grinder from hell. Four-fifths
of the passengers perished. Bohjalian describes this nightmarish
incident with such poignancy that you may feel the urge to cancel
upcoming flight reservations.

Thirty-nine dead bodies-not souls-weighed heavy on Linton's
conscience. It seemed there wasn't a single person who had not learned
about Chip Linton-the man who was not Sully Sullenberger. A move
from their home state of Pennsylvania to Bethel, a remote town in
New Hampshire, seemed like the best course in letting the family heal
and just be-or so believed Chip's wife, Emily. But their new, quirky
residence offered the feel of a haunted house rather than a home.

Bohjalian takes time to build this eerie three-story Victorian with
its peculiar details, enveloping much of the story line within its
walls and wallpapers: "There was a randomness to the house that
originally had seemed quaint, as if an eccentric old aunt rather
than a trained architect had designed it, but now seemed useless and
disturbing. Why was the third-floor attic inaccessible from the two
third-floor bedrooms? What really was the purpose of those rickety
stairs that ran from a kitchen nook to a shadowy corner of the second
floor? And then there was the Dunmores' absolutely horrific taste in
wallpaper: Had they chosen it consciously to terrify their two sons?

Good Lord, Emily feared she might have killed herself, too, if she'd
had to grow up near the carnivorous sunflowers in one room or the
viperlike mammals in another."

The strangest of all, however, was the door in the dank, dark basement,
seemingly leading to nowhere, secured shut with 39 carriage bolts, a
number that screamed conspiracy over coincidence. And the greenhouses,
which had sprouted wildly in nearly every yard in town-including
their own-left the Lintons puzzled, and even suspicious.

The history of the house and its previous inhabitants contributes
to the spook factor, especially after miscellaneous weapons are
discovered tucked away in various corners and closets. Meanwhile,
Hallie and Garnet, the Lintons' twin daughters, have become the
new attractions in the town's herbalist community. Emily is left
to shoulder the responsibilities of mother, breadwinner, and Chip's
support structure. Isolated in a New Hampshire town, without family
or friends, the Lintons need all the help they can get-but will that
be with no strings attached?

The Night Strangers is told through various points of view-including
that of the Linton family cat-in third person narrations. The
traumatized pilot's account, however, is recounted through a second
person narrative, which is especially powerful in leading the reader
through the disturbing episodes, both the actual and the psychotic:
"You feel a sharp spike in your lower back, as if you have leaned
against a protruding nail, and reflexively you wince. Just in case,
you sit forward and run your hand over the wood behind you. It's
rough against your fingertips, but there is nothing spiking out from
the beams. This pain is-as you presumed when you felt it-merely one
of those strange, mystery aches that have dogged you since August 11."

The book has a spellbinding clutch. A melange 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. And
you'll find yourself anxiously scanning your bedroom, fearing to find
the ghost of a child lurking quietly in some corner.

The Night Strangers will invade your world.

From: A. Papazian