Chip Linton is a professional airline pilot. He has been fortunate in that he’s never really had to face danger until the day birds fly into his engine. His water landing doesn’t have a happy story and thirty-nine lives are lost. In an effort to start anew in a small town, he and his wife buy a home in New Hampshire. The new house has a basement with a door . . . a door sealed with thirty-nine bolts. Is this a new beginning for Chris, Emily and their daughters or will this be their end? Chris Bohjalian provides a great modern gothic tale in The Night Strangers.
It has been less than a year since the unfortunate plane crash resulting in the thirty-nine deaths, but at times it seems like yesterday. Chip was not found at fault and in fact he did everything right, but no one could have foreseen the wave caused by the wake of a boat that would result in so many lives lost. Chip knows that he did the right thing but he is haunted by that day. He’s retired from the airlines and has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Chip is also haunted by much more. Is he simply allowing his subconscious mind to create these hauntingly real delusions of dead passengers or is he being visited by ghosts? Chip keeps these visitations secret from his family but they know that he hasn’t been the same since that fatal day and things seem to be getting worse.
As Emily and her twin daughters try to rebuild their lives in this small New England town, they are also struck by bizarre coincidences. Many of the homes feature greenhouses, including their own. This isn’t necessarily strange but many of the women, including Emily’s law partner’s wife and their real estate agent, bear the names of plants: Reseda, Anise, Celandine, Clary, Ginger, Holly, Sage, Valerian, Tansy and Yarrow. They want to include Emily, Hallie and Garnet into their little group and even give them botanical nicknames: Verbena, Calandrinia or Cali, and Rosemary. This little town seems to be split between those that belong to the herbal practitioners’ group and everyone else. Because of their involvement with these “herbal witches,” Hallie and Garnet are more or less ostracized by the other kids and their families. With nowhere else to go, the girls wind up spending more and more time with the herb ladies.
As Chip becomes more obsessed with the door in the basement and the history of the house, and Emily becomes more involved with work, the girls become more involved with the herb ladies. Emily and Garnet are both aware that there is something a bit off but they aren’t quite sure what. Emily and Chip know that their house has a sad and morbid history but that was years in the past. But is it possible the past is coming back to haunt them all?
Mr. Bohjalian has provided a fantastic paranormal tale of mystery, psychological horror and woe in The Night Strangers. The horror is, at time physical, but often more psychological and slowly builds to create a feeling of dread. I’m not generally a fan of horror but this story pulled me in from the beginning. The feeling of dread and horror while reading was so profound that at one point I actually felt the need to verify that my house didn’t have a coal chute (it doesn’t but hey this is West Virginia so it was possible). As you read you’re never quite sure what is going to happen and when you realize what is going to happen you actually begin to hope that it doesn’t play out as you expect and it doesn’t. The Night Strangers is part gothic mystery, part paranormal ghost tale, part horror and 100 percent worth reading.
Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”