Chris Bohjalian The Night Strangers (2011)
This was a new Vermont author for me- I was very excited to find him in the mystery section with an entire series to read. My first reaction was how had I missed him!? The first chapter was riveting, well written, and quite intriguing, especially with the local detail of my home state. I do not normally read about airplane crashes, so there was some trepidation, but after having become a pilot myself, his information was pitch perfect and interesting. I was sucked into this book, recognizing people, locations, seasons, traditions….until it hit me. He is Vermont’s answer to Stephen King….oh no! How was I going to finish this? I am often told that King’s books are “just fantasy Helen not real!” Ha. His books are peopled with characters I am very familiar with in my everyday living! Which makes it extremely scary to think my next door neighbor is an axe murderer, bodies are buried in the cellar or back yard….and I did have a car that was nearly Christine…. I like sleeping at night so often avoid King’s novels….(loved Shawshank, highly recommend his book on writing, enjoyed many of his short stories, but am NOT going to convert to horror anytime soon…).
So what was I doing in the middle of The Night Strangers??? I panicked- I went to the last three chapters, trying to avoid some of the nightmares. I did figure it out fairly correctly, but still didn’t sleep well for two nights…. I do not know what distinguishes some of the horror genre from mystery…Many of John Connolly’s books are equally disturbing with similar violence and supernatural, but I would recommend each and every one. He is an extraordinary Irish writer! His latest The Burning Soul continues the story of Charlie Parker (please read in order!!)
I loved reading Bohjalian’s bio online – recommend checking out a number of his sites. I had not made the connection to one of his first books : Midwives (1998) about a rural VT midwife Sibyl Danforth, which was selected as an Oprah Book and won the NE Book Award (2002). Bohjalian lives in a small Vermont town (pop 900) and found his writing voice here. He is known for thoughtful characters making the reader interested in their stories. Which is why I did finish the book The Night Strangers, as I needed to know what happened, not necessarily all that happened! I enjoyed reading that the Night Strangers was a ghost story inspired by a door in his own basement (definitely the kind of door that I don’t want to find, and one that he said he boarded up and hoped the walls of his house didn’t bleed). He has long been a fan of ghost stories; the only book he owns from his childhood is Edgar Alan Poe’s Great Tales.