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3.4 out of 5 stars
The Night Strangers
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 8 December 2011
A family moves to a small village in New Hampshire after the father, Chip Linton, an airline pilot, crashed his plane causing 39 people to die (and 9 to survive). As he will never be able to fly again, they want to make a new start and buy a big, old house, which he starts doing up.

His wife Emily is now the main provider for the family, who also include ten-year old twin daughters Hallie and Garnet. Chip gets obsessed with a small door in the basement that has been bolted down by 39 (!) bolts.

Meanwhile Emily and the girls are making friends with a group of women in the village that call themselves herbalists and all own greenhouses in which they grow exotic plants.
Both Emily and Hallie find them a little too overpowering and don't quite trust them.
Chip is losing his grip on reality when he starts seeing some of the people that died in the crash who are now demanding dangerous actions from him.

Is Emily right to worry about the lovely old ladies with their biscuits and other bakes? Is Chip losing it completely, or are there really ghosts in the house?

I very much enjoyed this book! That basement door gave me the creeps, and that was right at the beginning of the book. Add a small community with strange women forcing biscuits and other foods on the family and teaching the twins how to use the herbs they grow... All very oppressing and intriguing at the same time.

I liked it that the book was not overly supernatural. Most or all that happened could be explained away without referring to ghosts, magic, or witchcraft. Only near the end, the reader finds out whether "normal" explanations can account for all that happens. In that respect, it different a lot from the book's cover-sake, Her Fearful Symmetry, in

The ending was ... interesting and not quite as I had expected. After thinking about this, the ending was in fact more intriguing than the ending I had been hoping for.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Haunted by the memory of crashing his passenger plane into a lake and the resulting death-count including families and children, Chip quits his job and relocates from the city to rural New Hampshire with his wife and twin girls.

Bethel is a small town with some strange inhabitants. The new neighbours are over-friendly and full of gifts - mostly baked ones - and everyone seems to have a greenhouse. It very soon becomes apparent that Bethel is a town divided - there are those townsfolk with flowery names who have greenhouses and are obsessed with botany, and those who have normal names and no greenhouse.

Meanwhile, Chip becomes psychologically and physically haunted by the (depressingly well-described) horrors of his recent trauma and descends into an hallucinatory madness, which sees him alienating himself from, and becoming dangerous to, his own family (a la Jack Torrance in Stephen King's The Shining). The greenhouse ladies run around the rest of the family helping them out and generally making themselves indispensable.

But there's another story parallel to Chip's Jack Torrance syndrome, which involves the greenhouse people themselves and what had transpired in the past within Chip's house before he and his family moved in; and with his wife and children heading towards a ceremony where they'll be soon taking on new names, it becomes clear that it's not just Chip that will be needing help.

The Night Strangers is a genuine page-turner, well paced and competently written. While the subject matter contains a number of very familiar tropes from many a horror tale (particularly the ones involving newcomers arriving in a rural backwater town that harbours a dark secret, crazy locals, or some kind of coven), these minor derivatives are probably its only shortcomings, and I enjoyed the culmination of the various strands of the story which led to a refreshingly almost-unexpected ending.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
“… few of the agents who brought flatlanders from Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania to see the house ascribed its years on the market to the door in the basement or the thirty-nine carriage bolts that sealed it shut.”

Chip Linton is the pilot of a plane that crashes after a bird-strike, killing thirty nine passengers. Seeking to build a new life and recover from the trauma, he and his wife and twin daughters move to a house in the small town of Bethel, New Hampshire. There, Chip is intrigued, and slightly worried to find a small door in the dirt-floored basement that has been sealed up with thirty-nine carriage bolts. (I half-expected thirty nine steps to turn up next (as per John Buchan) but they didn’t.) What the family finds in the community they now live in is beyond all their imaginings.

I enjoyed this story, though I had the nagging feeling that it could have been better. The pace was slow, and I think it could have benefited from tighter editing. Nevertheless, the story had the bones of a good horror/psychological thriller. While it all seemed rather unlikely, it was a harmless and enjoyable read overall, and I enjoyed the journey of the book, apart from the small niggles above. I will definitely look for more of the author’s works, as I think his writing holds great promise.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 April 2013
Whilst I can understand the more ambivalent reviews of this, I thought it was a real page turner. I bought it on Kindle, and hadn't read the blurb beyond it saying there was a locked room. A good start for any book, and I'd read Bohjalian's Midwives which was a spectacularly good slice of New England Gothic. This is set in the same sort of area - I'm not sure if all his books are - but was weirder, spookier and slightly less satisfying. That's not to say it isn't gripping: it is, and there are some scenes (such as the dad in the blackout, looking for the kids. I won't way any more...) that were so intense that I couldn't stop reading. The ghosts and witches...hmm: sometimes it was hard to keep a straight face, but I think he pulled it off. Definitely worth a read.
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on 24 February 2015
This is the story of Chip, an airline pilot and his wife Emily, a lawyer. Following a problem with a flight that Chip was piloting they move to create a new start with their daughters Garnet & Hayley. Chip is struggling to come to terms with an accident that left 39 people dead whilst his family are trying to settle in their new home.

This is a very slow book. It ambles along with very little happening for around three quarters of it. Usually in a mystery/ghost story this would be acceptable as the atmosphere is building and the reader is held in suspense and anticipation for great events towards the end. I didn't feel that the author managed to create any sort of atmosphere and I certainly wasn't in suspense waiting for a fantastic ending - fortunately really as the ending wasn't particularly good.

There are two stories within this book - Chip and his attempts to come to terms with the accident, and the family's relationship with other people in the town. The story of Chip was definitely ghostly and showed promise that was never fulfilled. The saga surround the Herbalists - the women in the town who were permanently attached to their greenhouses - was rather sureal and unbelievable. The story never made these women believable and I struggled with this whole part of the story.

I found a lot of the characters quite cardboard and most of the personality that they did show was quite unpleasant. Emily was a bit of a wet dishcloth providing little support to either her husband or her children. She seemed to believe whatever people told her and was quite happy for her daughters to be extensively babysat by people she barely knew. The girls, Hayley and Garnet, had some bright points and flashes of personality - especially Garnet. The Herbalist women & the characters of the townspeople were all rather strange and difficult to get a handle on - people's personalities seemed to change as required.

The ending of this book left me feeling rather disappointed. It just did not work for me and I felt rather cheated. The promising thread around Chip and his aircraft accident fizzled out into nothing and the herbalist thread was just too way out to be believable.

I won't be in any hurry to read further books by this author.
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on 3 August 2015
If only the author had stuck with a tale of PTSD in a pilot who made a failed forced landing on water and was haunted - literally and figuratively - by the 39 people who died. Instead, he wanders off to the well trodden path of evil magick in small town America, as a neighbourly coven of 'herbalists' plot to recreate a youth serum.
Disjointed and employing a writing style that is often jarring (use of 'you' in passages as if the reader were the pilot being addressed which only serves to disconnect the reader from any chance of a fluid read) The ending left me feeling quite angry that I had bothered to persevere in reading it, and thankful I had only borrowed it from the library.
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on 26 June 2013
Ug , I hated this book. the synopsis sounded great - creepy and atmospheric. However the story was just a mess. There seemed to be two story lines going on, which jarred with each other. Then the more interesting one was pretty much abandoned. The ending was frustrating too. The prose was nice, but it couldn't cover the holes.
I really must learn to look at the reviews on Amazon.com when a book on this site has so few reviews, the far greater number of reviews on there gives a better overall balance of opinion.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 2011
Imagine yourself a pilot of a passenger aircraft, a trip you have made hundreds of times something that you become so used to doing. On one occasion you are the captain of a particular plane and not far from landing to your destination, mid-air suddenly a flock of Geese hit your turbines and all driving power is lost of the aircraft. It noses dives and time is everything with no possibility of landing the plane safely on ground the only place to land is the stretch of sea beneath you. What can you do? Your best chance is to try to land safely on the sea, which is not something you have been trained for due to being a procedure of a rare occurrence. It all ends devastatingly bad and the plane hits the water with deadly speed and impact, all is lost 39 people die and you survive. It great to survive but with the guilt of the dead on your shoulders you wish you were the 40th. The aftermath of this disaster comes with many sleepless nights and nightmares; you are bombarded with the press and newsreels showing the incident. The families only have you to blame as the pilot. This all becomes too much for you and youuproot your wife and twins from the city to a village in New Hampshire and escape to a old home near the woods. This village was to be your escape from the city but proves to become and even more greater struggle and challenge than what you left behind. With a close knit community where everyone know your business and there are no secrets, you wish that you never stepped foot on its soil.
The new home the place that was to be your solace, turns out to have a strange hatch door in the basement with 39 bolts sealing the door closed, yes that is 39 bolts as in 39 dead in the airplane incident and if that is not freaking you out enough your twins love the greenhouse which you discover has had a shady past of being used to grow some strange herbs that a group of Shamans have been growing and using and seem to be still living in the village. The nightmares you tried to leave behind become ever so worse with noises that go bump in the night.
The author puts you in a really tense atmosphere of fear in this story that flows so well, you will be hooked and read through the pages in no time at all. This is a page turning psychological tale of the highest caliber as the author takes you into the minds of the pilot, his wife, twins and the shamans. A harrowing story that has the makings of a classic horror story just right for October!
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on 12 January 2013
This is a well written page turning, psychological thriller, which I enjoyed very much. The reason for dropping a star is the ending, which I found a bit disappointing, but then I always find the endings to these kind of books disappointing, I think that the tension builds and builds and then its over and if it doesn't work out as anticipated there is a kind of deflation. But I will certainly read more from this author.
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on 6 September 2014
The start of this book was pretty good, very intriguing, simply had to stay up all night to find out what happened... Sadly the second half of the book lets it down, it seems rushed, and silly, which is gutting because it started so well!

Am tempted to try another book by Bohjalian in the hopes that the endings don't feel as rushed as this one!
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