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The Night Strangers

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The Night Strangers

A Novel
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    Prologue

    The door was presumed to have been the entry to a coal chute, a perfectly reasonable assumption since a small hillock of damp coal sat moldering before it. It was a little under five feet in height and just about four feet wide, and it was composed of barnboard and thick pieces of rough-hewn timber. Its most distinguishing feature was not its peculiarly squat visage--and if a person were predisposed to see such things in the dim light of the basement, the knobs on the wood and the character of the planking did suggest the vague shadow of a face--but the fact that at some point someone had sealed the door shut with six-inch-long wrought-iron carriage bolts. Thirty-nine of them ringed the wood and it was all but impenetrable, unless one were feeling energetic and had handy an ax. The door glowered in an especially dank corner of the basement, and the floor before it was dirt. The fact was, however, that most of the basement floor was dirt; only the concrete island on which sat the washing machine, the dryer, the furnace, and the hot-water tank was not dirt. When most prospective buyers inspected the house, this was their principal concern: a floor that seemed equal parts clay and loam. That was what caused them to nod, their minds immediately envisioning runnels of water during spring thaws and the mud that could be brought upstairs every time they did laundry or descended there to retrieve(perhaps) a new lightbulb or a hammer. It was a lot of largely wasted square footage, because the footprint of the house above it was substantial. As a result, the door was rarely noticed and never commented upon.

    Still, the basement walls were stone and the foundation was sturdy. It capably shouldered three stories of Victorian heft: the elegant gingerbread trim along three different porches, which in the greater scheme of things weighed next to nothing, as well as the stout beams that weighed a very great deal but stood invisible behind horsehair and plaster and lath. Though the first-floor ceilings were uniformly twelve feet and the bedrooms' and sitting rooms' that marked the second and third floors no less than ten, the height of the basement ceiling wavered between six and eight feet, and--underneath an addition from 1927--a mere four feet. The floor rose and fell like beach sand. Further capable of inducing claustrophobia there were the immense lengths of copper tubing for gas and hot water, the strings of knob-and-tube electrical wiring (some live, some dead), and the horizontal beams that helped buttress the kitchen, the living room, and the dining room. The den. The library. The bright, wide entry hallway and the thinner, dark corridor that snaked behind the kitchen to the back stairs and the pantry. The copper tubing looped together in Gordian knots near the furnace and the hot- water tank. This piping alone scared away some buyers; it certainly scared away many more than did that door. There were strategically placed jack posts in the tallest section of the basement and a railroad tie turned vertical in the shortest.

    In the years the house was for sale--one real estate agent attributed her inability to sell it to the unwillingness of the cantankerous, absentee owner to accept anything but the asking price, while another simply presumed it would take time for the right sort of family to express serious interest--all of the prospective buyers were from out of state. A great many were from Boston, enticed north into the White Mountains to see a house advertised in the Globe real estate section as the perfect weekend or retirement home for families that would appreciate its sweeping views of Mount Lafayette or the phantasmagoric foliage offered...

Reviews-
  • Justin Cronin, author of The Passage

    "Riveting. . .seamless. . .a hell of a good ghost story."

  • Keith Donohue, Washington Post "The Night Strangers boasts all the trappings of a classic Gothic horror story, reminiscent in places of the spousal secrets in Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'Young Goodman Brown,' the thrills of 'Rosemary's Baby,' and the psychological frights of Daphne du Maurier. . .A perfect book for Halloween. . .That thump thump you hear as you read is only your heart leaping from your chest."
  • Family Circle "Shades of The Shining make for a haunting tale. . .A modern-day ghost story worth losing sleep over."
  • Good Housekeeping "After losing passengers in a forced landing, a pilot seeks respite by moving his family to New England. But the house is haunted and local witches won't leave them alone. Good 'n' spooky."
  • Yankee Magazine "Put a haunted man in a haunted house. . .and you have a Halloween hair-raiser. But it's more than that. Bohjalian, with a dozen well-received novels to his credit, understands trauma: how long it takes to recover from unimaginable pain, and how people who have never experienced it rarely understand."
  • Booklist, Starred Review "A page-turner of uncommon depth. Guilt, egotism, and fear all play parts in the genre-bending novel."
  • Kirkus Reviews "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."--Library Journal, Starred Review

    "Compelling. . .a practical magick horror story."
  • Publishers Weekly "A gripping paranormal thriller. . .Bohjalian is a master, and the slow-mounting dread makes this a frightful ride."
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune "A delicious and haunting tale. . .Bohjalian is a terrific writer and parsimonious in the way he issues information, slowly building an increasing sense of dread and excitement."
  • Seattle Times "You will close the book's covers totally satisfied, aware that this masterful storyteller has done it again."
  • Armenian Weekly "Bohjalian uses a clean-edged pen to dice, toss, and serve a gasp-inducing plot that is ghost story-meets psychological thriller. . .The book has a spellbinding clutch. A mélange of horror, thrill, drama, sex, and gore--juxtaposed against the quiet and solitude of a small New England town--it will test your courage and resolve. . .[It] will invade your world."
  • Book Page "A spellbinding, heart-pounding novel. . .this is one perfect book for Halloween."
  • Grand Rapids Press "Masterfully crafted. . .a suspense-filled ghost story set in rural New Hampshire. . .This is a great read filled with real-life characters, an intricate story line and just enough 'spooky.'"
  • Tulsa World "Compelling. . .a ghost story in the tradition of such classics of the genre as 'The Turn of the Screw' and 'The Haunting of Hill House.'"
  • Parkersburg News & Sentinel " This moody, atmospheric story chills the bones and doesn't let up until the last brutal page. It is a creepy gothic mystery just right for Halloween."
  • USA Today
    "Echoes of Rosemary's Baby and The Shining. . .Read if you dare, but keep an extra light on, and make sure your seat is in the full upright and locked position."
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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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The Night Strangers
The Night Strangers
A Novel
Chris Bohjalian
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A Novel
Chris Bohjalian
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