The Night Strangers

By Chris Bohjalian

(Crown, $25, 375 pages) 

Who is this author?

Chris Bohjalian, the Vermont-based author of 14 novels, knows his way around the best-seller, having scored a New York Times No. 1 spot with “Midwives.” His “The Double Bind,” Secrets of Eden” and “Skeletons at the Feast” also made the coveted list.

Having interviewed and met Bohjalian, I can also attest that he is a genuinely nice and thoughtful guy.

Bohjalian often garners inspiration for his fiction from actual events — here, the amazing feat in 2009 when airline pilot “Sully” Sullenberger safely landed his crippled jet in the Hudson River. Bohjalian studied water-landing survival techniques at Survival Systems in Groton to learn what such a crash might feel like. Also, when he bought his 1898-era home in Vermont, he found a crypt-like room in the basement sealed with long carriage bolts. That odd discovery also figures in “The Night Strangers.”

What is this book about?

Chip Linton, a pilot without Sullenberger’s skill or luck, ditches his plane in Lake Champlain but not without fatalities: 39 passengers die. When Chip and his family escape to northern New Hampshire to start over, he finds a door in the old Victorian house’s basement sealed with…wait for it…39 bolts. Uh-oh. Worse, some strange women in the small community who call themselves herbalists take an interest in Linton’s 10-year-old twins, and that disturbs his wife. Are the women crazy, or is she? And are the Lintons being stalked by vengeful – and dead — victims of the sunken plane?

Why you’ll like it:

Bohjalian is a born storyteller, and a master of the sneak-up-on-you switch ending. His dialogue rings true, and his method of using a real-life event to hook the reader is a good one.

He insists that he will never “write the same book twice” and says of this one:

“So, why a ghost story?  Well, I love them. They’re fun to read – and yes, fun to write. And when I imagined the subject matter of a plane crash and a pilot’s post-traumatic stress disorder, ghosts seemed as good a way in as any.”

What others are saying:

“Bohjalian flings himself into a full-blooded romance with the paranormal. In doing so, he earns a place alongside Stephen King as the master of the Halloween beach book. This ghost story is expertly and, at times, beautifully written, deliciously creepy, and, like a bag of trick-or-treat loot, silently calls out to you when it’s languishing on the night table,” says Julie Wittes Schlack in The Boston Globe.

“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,” says Library Journal in a starred review.

Publishers Weekly says: “A gripping paranormal thriller. . .Meticulous research and keen attention to detail give depth and character to [the] eerie world. . .Bohjalian is a master, and the slow-mounting dread makes this a frightful ride.”

When is it available?

The Hartford Public Library has it now.

Comments are closed.