Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Night Strangers

I recently finished The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian. This is a very creepy novel with some terrific twists and turns.

The story begins with a harrowing sequence in which Chip Linton, a commercial pilot, attempts a daring crash into the Lake Champlain when his plane malfunctions.  Bohjalian's detailed description of the events during this sequence alone make this book worth reading.  The attempt goes horribly wrong and Chip leaves his Philadelphia home with his wife, Emily, and twin daughters for a new start in a small New Hampshire town.  Chip's struggles with post-traumatic stress syndrome make for a good backdrop to the key elements of the story: the creepy Victorian home the family moves to and the inhabitants of the small town. 

The new home contains a lot of secrets, including small items that the family finds throughout the home and the coal chute door in the basement.  The door is shut by 39 carriage bolts, the same number of victims in Chip's plane crash.  Chip quickly becomes obsessed with the oddities throughout the home.  The town of Bethel holds its own secrets.  The family notices that most of the houses, including their own, have a greenhouse.  A good portion of the town is populated by practicing herbalists who take their craft very seriously.  Emily is also disturbed by the way the some of the inhabitants have taken a deep interest in her twin daughters.  Are the townspeople simply showing sympathy for a family that's gone through a lot, or do they have other plans?

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