I came to read Ghost Story not expecting too much. The blurb on the back described old men -The Chowder Society - telling each other ghost stories, and a old murder. Yet from the outset, this novel confounded my expectations. From the opening scenes with an abduction of a very strange child through to the closing scenes when a very old monster is consigned to the ocean, this is a story that deserves reading.
More than anything else, this book is a great example of plotting. Some very disparate elements of the story that a reader might question the relevance of slowly come to be essential to the story as a whole. And it is a story that takes place across many years, and across the US. And such varied plot elements mean that the numerous climatic battles in the novel are not so much warranted as necessary.
Also, the novel manages to make the threat menacing to more than just the central characters. The threat ends up consuming a whole town, and the atmospheric scenes when the snow starts to fall and a whole community falls apart are as melancholic as they are chilling. The horror is destined for far more than just the Chowder Society, and Straub gives a near perfect template for any novel that wants to portray a small town under siege. Many Stephen King novels, for example, owe a real debt to this book.
If I have one criticism of this novel, then it would be that it doesn't quite act as a traditional ghost story for me; it is more of a standard horror novel. But this is the best Straub work I have read, and one of the best horror novels I have ever read as well.