Author Chris Bohjalian, who wrote "Midwives" and "The Secrets of Eden," has penned his 14th novel, "The Night Strangers," a psychological horror/thriller/mystery sure to keep you flipping pages until the early hours of the morning, if you can stomach reading it through the night.
Chip Linton is a pilot whose life has just been flipped upside down... literally. He remained calm when a flock of geese were sucked into the engine of his commercial jet. He had a clear head full of sharp determination when deciding a water-landing on a nearby lake was the safest bet.
Linton never anticipated a crash so severe that 39 of his 43 passengers would die. Bohjalian brings the reader front and center through the gruesome crash and the aftermath where "the floating bodies of people in short-sleeved sport shirts and summer-weight business jackets" are bobbing buoys, with his unique use of second-person point of view.
Rarely used in novels, especially for any length of time, this intensely intimate point of view allows readers to see the accident through Linton's eyes, as the captain of a fallen plane. Chip Linton is a dynamic character with multiple layers of humanity that strengthen the novel's believability.
His characters could be standing next to you in the grocery aisle as well as flying you across the globe. Trusting Bohjalian's authority on planes, and therefore Linton's, becomes second nature. It's evident that much research went into the writing of this book-no detail is skimmed or spared.
After the crash, Linton's wife Emily believes they need a change of scenery to avoid the swarming media. With twin daughters preparing to begin fifth grade, both parents feel their girls need a measure of stability to return to their lives. The family is soon offered this opportunity by a realtor who suggests a perfect escape, one that does not, in fact, exist.
The large, circa 1800 Victorian stands alone on a hill in a small New Hampshire town. The house draws the Lintons in with its historical character and charm. The neighbors are overly friendly, and everyone has a greenhouse on their property.
Emily overlooks minor details such as badly dated wallpaper, a staircase that leads to nowhere, and a small door in the basement that has been bolted shut with 39 carriage bolts; the exact number of passengers that died on Linton's flight.
Reminiscent of Gillman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," the bolted door becomes a character in its own right, slowly driving Chip mad with curiosity and anguish. Is he losing his mind or is he being pushed over the edge?
Their realtor belongs to a local group nicknamed "the herbalists" that inspire fear in local townspeople while wearing a mask of loyal friendship. Items such as food and medicine are not purchased at the grocery store or pharmacy, but grown and mixed in the greenhouses spread across town. Bohjalian builds on the mystery constantly questioning I if the town folk are friend or foe.
"The Night Strangers" bends the rules of genre with a dash of eerie romance, a pinch of mystery and a heavy helping of cult-classic, blood-red horror. If reading a scary story gives you butterflies in your tummy, no worries, the herbalists have the cure.