Why are there so many greenhouses in the White Mountains village of Beth, New Hampshire? Are the women who tend these gardens truly interested in their health benefits or is there something sinister going on?
Chris Bohjalian, a very successful author, has written a ghost story/human drama with such a plot line in The Night Strangers. At the heart of this story is Chip Linton, an airplane pilot. His plane was downed by a flock of geese sucked into his jet engines as he flew over Lake Champlain. Hopeful of another Sully Sullenberger Miracle on the Hudson landing, Linton was unsuccessful, his plane crashed and many passengers died, 39 to be exact.
The survivor guilt was too much on Linton so he moved from Pennsylvania to a rural area in northern New Hampshire where he, his wife and their 10 year old twin daughters started a new life. They chose an older home with many nooks, crannies, hidden staircases and, of course, an earthen area of the cellar which housed an old wooden door sealed shut with 39 large bolts. What a coincidence.
Bohjalian is a master at building suspense as this story unfolds. Linton is left at home working on the house with the creepy wallpaper, the 39 bolt door and apparitions. How much of the goings on are the result of the overactive imagination of a traumatized man and how many are real is for the reader to decide.
Many of the women of the village are overly solicitous to the family and fawn all over the twins. They bring over many covered dishes, and the family is encouraged to partake of their hospitality. The brownies and cookies, however, have an aftertaste.
There were moments when I felt this book might descend into an Amityville Horror remake, but the author has a human touch combined with a psychological component that is hard to resist. He’s an excellent writer.
I recommend this book for its originality, non-formula ending, and insight into a family in crisis.
I give the book 3 9/10 sprigs of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Happy reading from Beverly!