Audiobook Review: The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

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I have to admit: I almost passed on this book due to the relatively low rating on Amazon. It has a overall review score of 3.2 out of 5 – not stellar. Most of the 1-3 star reviews criticized the ending of the book. So of course, I had to read it–listen to it, in audio, in my case–continuing to the end to see if I agreed with this opinion. As it turned out, I did not.

Lesson learned–do NOT judge a book by Amazon’s rating.

If anything might discourage a person from flying, the opening chapters of The Night Strangers would. Told from his own viewpoint, pilot Chip Linton describes how his 70-seat regional jet hits a flock of geese shortly after takeoff, taking out both engines and forcing him to attempt an emergency landing on Lake Champlain. Unfortunately, unlike the Miracle on the Hudson, one wing of Chip’s plane crashes into the wake from a passing ferry, shearing it from the fuselage. The plane flips and breaks up, killing 39 passengers as it plunges into the water.

My father was a pilot in the Air Force in WWII. I remember him telling us about a “bird strike” when he was flying in the early 1940s. The bird–a goose or a buzzard, he never was sure–crashed into and took out the “bombadier,” the low-slung, glass appendage hanging from the belly of his plane (damn if I can’t remember the name of the aircraft) where the man in charge of dropping the bombs sat. It was shattered by the bird strike, necessitating an emergency landing. Thankfully it was, at the time, uninhabited.

Chris Bohjalian’s tale struck close to home, touching on some of my earliest memories.

In the book, Chip Linton survives but suffers horrific PTSD. His wife, Emily, decides to relocate the family to northern New Hampshire to start over. They find a rambling old Victorian in the tiny town of Bethel which immediately captivates them. There is a door, however, in the basement—a massive, wooden structure bolted shut with 39 carriage bolts. No one seems to know what’s behind the door, or why it is so securely sealed.

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39 carriage bolts–the same number of souls whose lives ended on Chip’s doomed flight. Coincidence?

Not long after Chip and Emily move into the house with their twin daughters, Chip’s mental state deteriorates. He becomes obsessed with the door and what it might be keeping in—or out. He begins to have visions of three of his deceased passengers, one of whom is demanding that he murder his own daughters. Is Chip losing touch with reality? Or are these really the ghosts of the people who died on his plane?

The town of Bethel is creepy enough, with dozens of women who are obsessed with growing herbs. Everyone has a greenhouse—there’s even one on the Linton’s property. Their twin daughters become fascinated with the structure and, when they find it difficult to make friends in their new town, are taken under the wing of the local ladies who call themselves “herbalists.”

This book is a masterpiece. Jim Bohjalian has combined so many elements of the horror genre, it boggles the mind. A disaster story, a psychological thriller, a ghost story, with elements of cultism and witchcraft lacing through this intricate tale that produce a truly unique experience. Keeping the reader guessing until the very last pages, this novel is a Gothic delight set in modern times. The audiobook narrators provide an outstanding performance.

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This book has something for every lover of the supernatural, the paranormal, and the mysterious. My only wish is that I will someday be able to write such a chilling, complex horror novel as The Night Visitors.

*****

Claire Gem is an award winning author of contemporary, supernatural romantic suspense. Learn more at her Website.

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