Bedbugs

( 15 )

Overview

FOR RENT: Top two floors of beautifully renovated brownstone, 1300 sq. ft., 2BR 2BA, eat-in kitchen, one block to parks and playgrounds. No broker’s fee.

Susan and Alex Wendt have found their dream apartment.

Sure, the landlady is a little eccentric. And the elderly handyman drops some cryptic remarks about the basement. But the rent is so low, it’s too good to pass up.

Big mistake. Susan soon discovers that ...

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Bedbugs

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Overview

FOR RENT: Top two floors of beautifully renovated brownstone, 1300 sq. ft., 2BR 2BA, eat-in kitchen, one block to parks and playgrounds. No broker’s fee.

Susan and Alex Wendt have found their dream apartment.

Sure, the landlady is a little eccentric. And the elderly handyman drops some cryptic remarks about the basement. But the rent is so low, it’s too good to pass up.

Big mistake. Susan soon discovers that her new home is crawling with bedbugs . . . or is it? She awakens every morning with fresh bites, but neither Alex nor their daughter Emma has a single welt. An exterminator searches the property and turns up nothing. The landlady insists her building is clean. Susan fears she’s going mad—until a more sinister explanation presents itself: she may literally be confronting the bedbug problem from Hell.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The man behind Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters returns with an original novel set in New York's Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, a tony enclave of young families, high-end strollers, and fancy cookware (in Winters's mind if not exactly in reality). The Wendts—infrequent artist Susan, husband Alex, and daughter Emma—newcomers to New York City, move into a suspiciously cheap apartment as a nearby mother rolls her twins off the roof, sparking a general turn to the creepy. Susan gradually becomes isolated as she encounters a "massive" stranger staring from the shadows of the yard, a noise of uncertain origin, a suicide close to home, and mysteries surrounding the apartment's last tenants. Increasingly troubling events culminate in a case of bedbugs that is demonic in scope. By turns gruesome and compelling, fueled by a slow-burn tension, and full of in-jokes about contemporary Brooklyn culture, Winters's breezy summer read will leave readers compulsively scratching. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
“By turns gruesome and compelling, fueled by a slow-burn tension, and full of in-jokes about contemporary Brooklyn culture, Winters's breezy summer read will leave readers compulsively scratching.”—Publishers Weekly

“The author of the monster mash-up hit Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (2009) offers up a chilling tale of life in the perfect New York abode gone horribly wrong…Winters expertly builds suspense in this chilling thriller.”—Booklist

"Bedbugs infest the life of a young couple who move into a peculiar brownstone in Brooklyn in Ben H. Winter's diabolical tale of paranoia and domestic unrest.”—Vanity Fair Hot Type

“I would not recommend reading Bedbugs in bed; it’s that gripping—and grotesque. . . This creepy story is expertly told, and will having you scratching imaginary itches long after you finish reading.”—Penthouse

“After reading Bedbugs you might want to fumigate any apartment you rent. You also might want to call in an exorcist.”—McClatchy Newspapers

“The book is a lot of fun and a great fall read for when you’re bundled under a pile of blankets that may or may not be full of creepy-crawlies.”—DenofGeek.com
 
“All in all, Bedbugs is a solid read, a good thriller, and I guarantee you will have the creepy ‘I need to bleach my pillowcases in hot water’ crawlies for days after.”—DaemonBooks.com

“A rich blend of classic psychological suspense and horror. If Alfred Hitchcock were still with us, this is a book he would adapt to film.”—MonsterLibrarian.com

“Bedbugs is one disgusting, fascinating novel. Be warned, and put the exterminator’s number on speed-dial.”—Sacramento News & Review

“You’ll want to crawl under the covers while reading the super-spooky new novel Bedbugs, by Ben H. Winters—but you won’t, because it does for the bed what Psycho did for the shower!”—InStyle

Bedbugs is a psychological thriller with Hitchcockian suspense.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“...the bloodcurdling Bedbugs manages to succeed in doing what rarely happens off the screen: Keep things spooky enough that it’s impossible to go to sleep without knowing how it ends. Even then, you may leave the lights on and sleep on the floor.”—NewCity.com
 
“Clean and taut with soul-baring inner monologues...Winters delivers prose that delicately piles on the novel's mounting intensity, using both light humor and doom...Bedbugs gets under our skin with the best of old-fashioned horror and newfangled gore.”—Creative Loafing’s Daily Loaf

Library Journal
Susan and Alex Wendt, along with their wee child, Emma, have finally made the move into a lovely brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. Alex's commercial photography business has just been blessed with some major-name clients, and Emma loves her new school. All sighs of relief and with settling in behind them, Susan embarks on her renewed career as a fine artist. But wait. Who's been tampering with her paintings? And what about these ever-present insects that the exterminator never seems to see? Is Susan a victim of the paresthesia phenomenon called formication? Or is something more sinister going on? VERDICT Winters, author of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman, delivers up a grand B movie-style psychological thriller complete with some genuinely creepy moments. Read it with the lights on so you can keep an eye out for those squirmy little buggers.—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594745232
  • Publisher: Quirk Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/6/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 649,643
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Ben H. Winters was nominated for an Edgar Award for his novel The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman. He is also the author of the New York Times best seller Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. He lives with his wife and children in Boston. 
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Interviews & Essays

One thing I have learned, since writing a book called Bedbugs, is that when you write a book called Bedbugs, people are very curious whether you've ever had bedbugs.

It's funny, because I once wrote a book called Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and nobody asked whether I'd had sea monsters.

Well, the answer is no, I've never had either, thank the Lord.

The other main difference between this current book and that old one (and my other so-called "mash-up" novel, Android Karenina) is that this one takes its genre responsibilities more seriously. Whereas Sea Monsters and Android were basically parodies, attempts to humorously and interestingly blend "classic" works of literature with new genre elements, Bedbugs is an honest attempt to scare and chill the reader. No one was supposed to be seriously afraid of the giant mutant lobsters that rampage through my version of Jane Austen, but you are definitely meant to be afraid of the creepy crawlers I've unleashed this time around.

Horror novelists (and filmmakers) have a lot of different ways they try to keep you up all night. Here were three of my strategies, in Bedbugs:

1. Pick the right subject matter.

Half my work was done before I started, because so many people are already so freaked out by bedbugs.

In my humble opinion, truly spooky books and films take as their subjects things that have a pre-existing inherent scariness. Sharks, giant dogs, child-like dolls stuffed in the backs of closets, a row of birds on a telephone wire. People already suspect that the soft-spoken dude checking them into their motel at three a.m. is a knife-wielding lunatic, so Hitchcock just has to press the right buttons.

I am honored that Bedbugs has been compared here and there to Rosemary's Baby, and I just like to point out that that books takes a process that is often the locus of considerable anxiety (i.e. pregnancy) and amplifies those anxieties until they enter the realm of true fear.

2. Live in the mundane and day-to-day.

Especially in the early pages, I tried to firmly ground the story in the realistic, everyday lives of the characters, stuff like grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, taking the kid to the playground, marital squabbles and make-up sex. With just occasional notes of what's to come: a smear of blood here, an unexpected noise there, an unnamed sense of melancholy and dread. This is a technique you will find abundantly in books like The Shining, the aforementioned Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, even The Amityville Horror. There's this careful creation of a realistic, familiar world before the darkness begins to seep in.

3. The Great disintegrating narrator.

Bedbugs begins from the perspective of Susan Wendt, an anxiety-prone insomniac, and it does not leave her point of view for the entire novel. This gives the reader no opportunity to evaluate the truthfulness of her experiences and opinions, and we are unsure, as her paranoia and fear escalate, what is real and what is false. In this effort to bond the reader with the narrator, and keep you in the grips of what are either delusions or genuine monsters, I am working in a grand tradition, beginning with marvelous old-school ghost stories like The Turn of the Screw and The Yellow Wallpaper, both of which tread similarly uneven psychological ground.

So there are a view of the ways that Bedbugs attempts to work its particular form of dark magic...even before we get to the blood-soaked nightmares, the bugs skittering out of wall sconces, and the intimations of demonic possession.

Whether it all works, you'll have to tell me...

Sincerely,

Ben H. Winters
www.BenHWinters.com

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 15 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(4)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(5)

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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 30, 2011

    slow creeping kind of horror

    I found this to be a slow creeping kind of horror. The kind of horror that gently envelopes you to the point where it's too late to turn back and you just have to push forward. And then you're glad you did.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 8, 2012

    Reality or Delusions of An Anxious Insomniac?

    Bedbugs is a horror novel narrated by an insomniac, unemployed mother who has anxiety problems. Told through Susan Wendt’s impressions, the reader is never sure what is truth and what is imagined by this woman who is so influenced by media and her own insecurities. The novel blurs the line between reality and imagination at every turn – it is not until the very last chapter that the reader learns the true story and knows who to believe.

    The story begins with Susan Wendt searching for the perfect place for her family to live. Susan has recently quit her job at a law firm to pursue her painting. Her husband Alex makes decent money photographing jewelry and watches for a commercial company. Their daughter Emma is a well-adjusted child who is watched by a young nanny in the mornings and early afternoon. After months of searching, Susan has found a place that sounds too good to be true – it is a charming, two-story home in Brooklyn with a bonus room in which Susan can paint. The house is everything they have been looking for and they can afford it; they fall in love with it on sight. Susan even loves their landlord, an eccentric old woman named Andrea Scharfstein. Susan and Alex decide to move in.

    During the first night in the house, the reader learns that Susan is not as care-free and happy as she lets on. After her husband and daughter are fast asleep, Susan continues to unpack because she has terrible insomnia. She is sure that her husband resents her for not working and staying home to paint while he is stuck in a lousy job instead of taking artistic photographs, she chastises herself for not being able to paint and for wasting money on a nanny when she doesn’t work, she thinks about her mother’s untimely death…all these self-deprecating thoughts make her unable to sleep. That first night she is sure she sees a man standing outside her daughter’s window.

    Then things start to go very wrong with the house and her marriage. Alex is stressed about work and Susan blames herself; she starts having horrible nightmares filled with blood and gore. Susan begins to notice little problems with the house – there are cracks, loose outlet covers, uneven floorboards, and most bizarre of all – a faint pinging noise with no discernible source. When Susan finally steps into the bonus room to paint, there is a horrendous smell and a strange photograph with a bloody fingerprint. Andrea tells her the story of the couple who lived there before them, but something doesn’t seem right to Susan. One day, Susan meets Louis – the elderly handyman and friend of Andrea’s – and learns that there was a tragedy in the basement and a subsequent darkening of the houses’ atmosphere. But all of this is just the beginning of Susan’s terror-filled journey…how much is reality and how much is a product of her anxious brain? Is she losing it or is there a menace in her home?

    Bedbugs is an intense and suspenseful narrative told from the perspective of a likable woman with glaring psychological issues. From the very beginning, the reader connects with Susan and feels like he truly knows her. He wants to trust her and believe her reality, but at the same time, his objectivity is constantly questioning her perceptions. This novel does a fantastic job of keeping the reader guessing - any time another clue is revealed it only adds to his confusion. This story is a real page-turner – the reader will be hooked until the very last page!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    It Will Leave You Checking Your Sheets Before Bed

    Normally I love to read horror books once the weather starts to get a little chillier. There is something about having that nip in the air and the shorter days that makes me want to curl up on the couch, with as little light as possible, and delve into something that will scare the hell out of me. Sadly, due to time constraints, I had to read this one when it was over 100 degrees outside and not getting dark until after nine o'clock. For once, that didn't bother me, I was still able to forget about my surroundings and get so lost in the story, that I would be checking my pillows for any scurrying creatures before I would set my head down for bed.

    I'm addicted to a lot of the horror novels written in the 60s and 70s, and this one has that retro vibe for me. Two of my favorites, Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin and The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz, even start off the same way. Young couple/single woman moves into a new apartment and everything seems to being going right at first. Of course there are always subtle hints that not everything is as it should be. Eccentric neighbors always seem to be around, strange occurrences that only happens to one of them (normally the woman), and a miasma that seemed to hang in the air, slowly suffocating the inhabitants of the apartment.

    This book had all of that and so much more going for it. The author had an almost supernatural ability to balance the home life of the Wendt's with the growing sense of apprehension. A lot of horror books I've read will sacrifice the characters for the story. Thankfully Bedbugs isn't one of them. A story that asks the reader to believe in something so personal as a malignant presence that attacks you in the bed, has to have characters that you not only believe, but care about it. As a reader, you have to be able to relate to them. Susan, Alex, and Emma are fully functional, 4D characters that were a treat to know.

    The horror was built slowly, it worked it's way towards a simmer, and then boiled over in such a way that the sheer violence of the climax left me holding my breath and gasping for proverbial air. I was horrified, and thrilled by the conclusion even though I saw it coming a mile away. A good horror book doesn't have to throw out an ending that comes out of left field. A good horror novel will allow the reader to figure out the ending, but still horrify them in the end. It's needs to be believable no matter how outlandish the plot points. It's hard to write a credible story that will leave a reader altering their bedtime habits. Bedbugs not only pulls it off, but it pulls it off in such a way that you won't know what hit you until you are going to bed the night after and you are still checking for telltale signs of an infestation.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Lilac Wolf and Stuff Review

    Remember those Quirk Books that literally redefined the classics of Sense & Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice by adding sea monsters and zombies? Ben Winters even wrote/rewrote Android Karenina...which I did enjoy as much as I did the classic Tolstoy version.

    Anyway here is a book he wrote all by himself. A thriller with bedbugs at the core of the plot. It was heart-wrenching watching Susan lose her sanity inch by inch. No one close to her believed she had bedbugs but then people farther away started shutting her out just in case. I have heard they are making a comeback so that made this book extra creepy. You will get itchy reading it. And I don't recommend reading it in bed.

    Fast paced, well written, and most important very scary. Characters are all well developed and either likable or creepy...whatever they need to be. Susan finally finds and ally who comes to her aid after Susan loses it and attacks her husband. The "exterminatrix" comes to her aid, and when Susan tells her what she did the lady laughs and says "Well, you know, infestations place extraordinary strain upon a relationship."

    Great ending that will have you on the edge of your seat until the very end. I'm so very grateful to Quirk Books for letting me read this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 9, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I had Bedbugs on my reading list for awhile before I spotted it

    I had Bedbugs on my reading list for awhile before I spotted it in my local Goodwill last month. I quickly snatched it up and I'm so happy that I did. This novel is deliciously creepy and haunting. It's told in the third person limited POV of Susan, so at times you question her judgement and perception of what is true and imaginary. Perhaps I was meant to doubt Susan, but I really did believe her throughout the book. Maybe I'm just gullible or perhaps Susan's character is extremely convincing. Either way, Ben H. Winters is a wonderful writer, and he writes the story beautifully with depth and emotion. This isn't just a story to keep you up at night. This one pushes you, makes you think and feel. It's a shame that it has such low ratings when it should have much more exposure. Even though it was a rather quick read, the writing is on point and the story is enthralling. Also, the ending surprised me because I was expecting it to end way differently. I definitely recommend this one. I'll be checking out his other books, too.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2012

    A good afternoon read.

    Bedbugs certainly had me reading. Too bad it didnt live up to my expectations. It wasnt until the last couple chapters where things really picked up and got good. Still left with questions though. The one part i didnt like was when Susan was describing her 3 yr olds body. I also didnt care for Susan all that much. What kind of stay at home mom has a nanny that watches her kid all day?! Nobody i know. I didnt feel sorry for her. I also saw some people mentioned they itched when reading this. Not me. I guess it takes alot to get me scared.... or itchy. Lol .... overall it did have some good parts too and i did enjoy reading it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    Creepily good!!

    Warning: this book will make you itch!!!!

    There's not much that's more haunting than a realistic mystery, and Bedbugs fits the bill. A few little minor details pulled me out of the "dream" briefly, but that's only because I live in Brooklyn and know both the cable company in Brooklyn and the true location of Trader Joe's. :)

    Yes, I saw the ultimate ending coming, but for once that didn't detract from the story for me. Definitely recommended.

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  • Posted October 22, 2011

    Good creepy read

    Great fun and creepy story with a twist at the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2011

    Itching to read

    It takes a lot to creep me out, and there were some good moments in Bedbugs. The main character irritated me, so I found her difficult to like. Still, there were some good twists and it does psychologically play with your mind a bit.

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    Posted October 20, 2011

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    Posted November 3, 2011

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    Posted September 30, 2011

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    Posted April 26, 2013

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    Posted October 7, 2011

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    Posted October 27, 2011

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