The Night Strangers

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From the bestselling author of The Double Bind, Skeletons at the Feast, and Secrets of Eden, comes a riveting and dramatic ghost story.
In a dusty corner of a basement in a rambling Victorian house in northern New Hampshire, a door has long been sealed shut with 39 six-inch-long carriage bolts. 
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New York, NY 2011 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 378 p. Audience: General/trade.

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New York, NY 2011 Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. Tight binding with clean text. New First edition. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 400 p. Audience: ... General/trade. Read more Show Less

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From the bestselling author of The Double Bind, Skeletons at the Feast, and Secrets of Eden, comes a riveting and dramatic ghost story.
In a dusty corner of a basement in a rambling Victorian house in northern New Hampshire, a door has long been sealed shut with 39 six-inch-long carriage bolts. 
The home's new owners are Chip and Emily Linton and their twin ten-year-old daughters. Together they hope to rebuild their lives there after Chip, an airline pilot, has to ditch his 70-seat regional jet in Lake Champlain after double engine failure. Unlike the Miracle on the Hudson, however, most of the passengers aboard Flight 1611 die on impact or drown. The body count? Thirty-nine – a coincidence not lost on Chip when he discovers the number of bolts in that basement door. Meanwhile, Emily finds herself wondering about the women in this sparsely populated White Mountain village – self-proclaimed herbalists – and their interest in her fifth-grade daughters. Are the women mad? Or is it her husband, in the wake of the tragedy, whose grip on sanity has become desperately tenuous?   

The result is a poignant and powerful ghost story with all the hallmarks readers have come to expect from bestselling novelist Chris Bohjalian: a palpable sense of place, an unerring sense of the demons that drive us, and characters we care about deeply.

The difference this time? Some of those characters are dead.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Chip and Emily Linton wanted to escape a nightmare. Months before, Chip had ditched the jet he piloted into Lake Champlain after both its engines failed. His decision led to disaster: More than three dozen passengers died and Linton himself had lapsed into a PTSD response that verges on insanity. Now, he, his wife, and twin 10-year-old daughters have escaped, or so they think, to a decrepit Victorian mansion in New Hampshire's sleepy White Mountains. Before long, however, the house and neighborhood around it become scenes of threatening paranormal visitations and the family is thrust into a realm where uncertainty is the only norm. This new psychologically thriller by Chris Bohjalian (The Double Bind; Secrets of Eden) brims with high intensity action and the uncertainty of high suspense.

Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Bohjalian’s latest novel (after Secrets of Eden) is a gripping paranormal thriller set in a remote New England town. Airline pilot Chip Linton is beset by survivor’s guilt after crashing his plane upon takeoff, killing all but nine aboard. His family moves to Bethel, N.H., to escape the media glare while Chip recovers from PTSD, but they soon discover that the sleepy village harbors evil things. Their new home, once the site of a young boy’s suicide, contains mysterious passageways, hidden weapons, and a secret crypt. And their neighbors, New Age gardeners and homeopaths, soon reveal themselves to be occultists with designs on the Lintons’ twins. Chip begins receiving visits from his dead passengers, including an eight-year-old and her bloodthirsty father, who demands Chip find her a friend—at any cost. Meticulous research and keen attention to detail give depth and character to Bohjalian’s eerie world, but the spookiness consistently gives way to silliness, and the Lintons’ typical response to the strange goings on, an uneasy mix of suspicion and credulity, is a problem. Still, Bohjalian is a master,, and the slow-mounting dread makes this a frightful ride. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Chip Linton, an airline pilot suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after a tragic crash from which he is one of only nine survivors, retreats with his family to a Victorian house in New Hampshire, but peace proves elusive. Why do the town's "herbalists," a group of gardening women who all have the first names of plants and flowers, take such an intense interest in the family, particularly Chip and Emily's ten-year-old twin daughters? And what is behind the mysterious door bolted shut in the basement? VERDICT Bohjalian (Secrets of Eden) has crafted a genre-defying novel, both a compelling story of a family in trauma and a psychological thriller that is truly frightening. The story's more gothic elements are introduced gradually, so the reader is only slightly ahead of the characters in discerning, with growing horror, what is going on. Fans of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones and Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye and The Robber Bride will find similar appeal here. [See Prepub Alert, 4/18/11.]—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
Library Journal
Chip and Emily Linton buy a Victorian in New Hampshire. In the basement there's a mysterious door sealed by 39 bolts—39 being exactly the number of passengers who died when pilot Chip was forced to land his regional jet on Lake Champlain. (Yes, the narrative references Sully Sullenberger's "Miracle on the Hudson," which Chip fails to replicate.) Soon Chip is haunted (literally) by the dead passengers. Rather a departure for the issues-loving Bohjalian, so I'm interested to see how it will unfold. With a reading group guide.
Kirkus Reviews

Bohjalian's (Secrets of Eden, 2010, etc.) latest effort finds its darkmagickin a coven of herbalists, ghosts from an air crash and the troubled history of a derelict Victorian house.

Chip Linton was an experienced pilot for a regional airline, but the aircraft he was flying one sunny August day hit a flock of geese upon takeoff. Chip's chance to duplicate the heroic flying skills of Sully Sullenberger and the miracle landing on the Hudson River are lost to a rogue wave in the middle of Lake Champlain. Thirty-nine people died during the emergency landing. Until that day, Chip's life had been the American dream: a profession he loved; a beautiful wife with a successful law practice; adored 10-year-old twin daughters. Now Chip fights posttraumatic stress and has crashed into clinical depression. Emily Linton decides the family needs a new start. She persuades Chip to move to the White Mountains of New Hampshire where she's found a gingerbread-trimmed house crying for restoration. Emily joins a local law firm. The twins, Hallie and Garnet, try to fit in at school. And Chip goes to work remodeling the house, right down to obsessing over a door in the basement sealed by 39 carriage bolts. Chip, haunted by victims of the crash, wonders if the bolts are macabre symbols for the 39 dead. Like the Lintons, numerous houses around the small town have greenhouses, each owned and lovingly maintained by one of the herbalists. And the herbalists are especially interested in the Lintons' twin daughters. The narrative develops an aura of malevolence early on, but perhaps too slowly for some horror fans. Many characters, especially all but one of the herbalists, seem one-dimensional. Some plot points are unresolved or take odd turns, perhaps in anticipation of a sequel. Chip's story is the most compelling. It's presented in the second person and closely parallels the fugue state that sometimes haunts those with depression.

A practicalmagickhorror story with a not-entirely-satisfying resolution.

Keith Donohue
Bohjalian has been a reliable bestseller of literary and historical fiction, earning praise from critics and a large audience, but The Night Strangers represents a more sinister turn. It boasts all the trappings of a classic Gothic horror story…Bohjalian turns the screw right up to the unexpected ending and an epilogue that's truly shocking. That thump thump you hear as you read is only your heart leaping from your chest.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
"Riveting. . .seamless. . .a hell of a good ghost story."—Justin Cronin, author of The Passage

“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.”—Keith Donohue, Washington Post

"Shades of The Shining make for a haunting tale. . .A modern-day ghost story worth losing sleep over."—Family Circle

"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."Good Housekeeping

"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."—Yankee Magazine

"A page-turner of uncommon depth. Guilt, egotism, and fear all play parts in the genre-bending novel."—Booklist, Starred Review

"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."—Kirkus Reviews

"A gripping paranormal thriller. . .Bohjalian is a master, and the slow-mounting dread makes this a frightful ride."—Publishers Weekly

“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.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

"You will close the book's covers totally satisfied, aware that this masterful storyteller has done it again."—Seattle Times

“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.”—Armenian Weekly

"A spellbinding, heart-pounding novel. . .this is one perfect book for Halloween."—Book Page

"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.'"—Grand Rapids Press

"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.'"—Tulsa World

" 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."—Parkersburg News & Sentinel
"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.”—USA Today

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307394996
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/4/2011
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Chris Bohjalian

CHRIS BOHJALIAN is the critically acclaimed author of fourteen books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Double Bind, Secrets of Eden, and Skeletons at the Feast. His novel, Midwives, was a number one New York Times bestseller and a selection of Oprah’s Book Club. His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages and two of his novels have become movies (Midwives and Past the Bleachers). He lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.


It was March 1986 when Chris Bohjalian made a decision that would have an incalculable impact on his writing. He and his wife had just hailed a taxi home to Brooklyn after a party in Manhattan's East Village when they suddenly found themselves on a wild and terrifying 45-minute ride. The crazed cabbie, speeding through red lights and ignoring stop signs, ultimately dropped the shaken couple off... in front of a crack house being stormed by the police. It was then that Bohjalian and his wife decided that the time had come to flee the city for pastoral Vermont. This incident and the couple's subsequent move to New England not only inspired a series of columns titled "Idyll Banter" (later compiled into a book of the same name), but a string of books that would cause Bohjalian to be hailed as one of the most humane, original, and beloved writers of his time.

While Bohjalian's Manhattan murder mystery A Killing in the Real World was a somewhat quiet debut, follow-up novels (many of which are set in his adopted state) have established him as a writer to watch. A stickler for research, he fills his plotlines with rich, historically accurate details. But he never loses sight of what really draws readers into a story: multi-dimensional characters they can relate to.

The selection of his 1997 novel Midwives for Oprah's Book Club established Bohjalian as a force to be reckoned with, igniting a string of critically acclaimed crowd pleasers. His literary thriller The Double Bind was a Barnes & Noble Recommends pick in 2007.

Good To Know

Bohjalian's fascination with the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald extends beyond the author's prominent influence on The Double Bind. In an interview with Loaded, Bohjalian estimated that he owns "at least 42 different editions of books by or about F. Scott Fitzgerald."

. Two of Chris Bojalian's novels have been adapted into critically acclaimed TV movies. An adaptation of Past the Bleachers with Richard Dean Anderson was made in 1995, and a version of Midwives starring Sissy Spacek and Peter Coyote debuted in 2001.

In our interview with Bohjalian, he shared some fascinating and fun facts about himself:

"I was the heaviest child, by far, in my second-grade class. My mother had to buy my pants for me at a store called the "Husky Boys Shop," and still she had to hem the cuffs up around my knees. I hope this experience, traumatizing as it was, made me at least marginally more sensitive to people around me."

"I have a friend with Down syndrome, a teenage boy who is capable of remembering the librettos from entire musicals the first or second time he hears them. The two of us belt them out together whenever we're driving anywhere in a car.

"I am a pretty avid bicyclist. The other day I was biking alone on a thin path in the woods near Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, and suddenly before me I saw three bears. At first I saw only two, and initially I thought they were cats. Then I thought they were dogs. Finally, just as I was approaching them and they started to scurry off the path and into the thick brush, I understood they were bears. Bear cubs, to be precise. Which is exactly when their mother, no more than five or six feet to my left, reared up on her hind legs, her very furry paws and very sharp claws raised above her head in a gesture that an optimist might consider a wave and guy on a bike might consider something a tad more threatening. Because she was standing on a slight incline, I was eye level with her stomach -- an eventual destination that seemed frighteningly plausible. I have never biked so fast in my life in the woods. I may never have biked so fast in my life on a paved road."

"I do have hobbies -- I garden and bike, for example -- but there's nothing in the world that gives me even a fraction of the pleasure that I derive from hanging around with my wife and daughter."

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    1. Hometown:
      Lincoln, Vermont
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 12, 1961
    2. Place of Birth:
      White Plains, New York
    1. Education:
      Amherst College
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt


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 each autumn by the sugar bush to the south and the east. It was only twenty minutes from a ski resort. Still, almost no one with any familiarity with the property—and that was the right term, with its connotations of acreage (nineteen acres split between forest and meadow cut by a neighbor for hay) and outbuildings (two, including a garage that had once been a carriage barn and a small but workable greenhouse)—showed any desire to buy it. No one from the nearby village of Bethel even looked at it, viewing it as a house with (and this was the euphemism they were likely to use) a history.

At the same time, 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.

                     *                                    *                                    *

When your airplane hits the flock of birds, the passengers in the cabin behind you feel the jolting bangs and the aircraft rolls fi fteen degrees to its starboard side. The birds are geese, and it is not uncommon for you to see them from the flight deck as your plane begins its climb out of Burlington, Vermont. In this particular departure corridor, you see geese, crows, seagulls (lots of seagulls), and ducks all the time. The geese are flying perhaps forty miles an hour, traveling in formation from one feeding area to another, angling south from Malletts Bay, the animals always careful to keep near their cohorts. Today your aircraft is a Bombardier CRJ700, a regional jet that seats seventy passengers, two pilots, and a pair of flight attendants. This flight has forty-three passengers and three attendants, two on duty who have been with the airline for over a decade and a half, and another who is merely commuting home to Philadelphia and has almost as much experience. Both working flight attendants are, by any standard, immensely competent. You do not know them well, but you have gotten to know them both a bit over the last four days together. Likewise, the pilots (if you may be so bold) are skilled, too, though your first officer has only been flying for three years.
(The reality is that you and Amy have not been doing your jobs as long as the flight attendants have been doing theirs.) But Amy Lynch is smart and funny, and you have enjoyed working with her the last few days, as you have flown between Washington, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, Columbus, Philadelphia, and finally Burlington. She has nearly thirty-five hundred hours of flying time, twenty-one with you over the last four days. You are a veteran who has been flying for fourteen years, and you have finally lasted long enough for there to be talk that soon you may get to start training on an Airbus simulator and begin your climb to a considerably bigger plane and a considerably bigger salary. You have twin daughters, and in eight years they will start college: That bigger paycheck matters, as does the esteem that comes with a 154-seat jet.

This afternoon you see the birds, each with a wingspan almost the length of a man, just a second after your fi rst officer does. She happens to be handling the takeoff. But the moment you fly through the drapes of geese—there it is, the sound you have always likened to a machine gun, the violent thud as each animal careens like a bullet into the metal and glass of your aircraft—the plane wobbles briefly to its side as first the left engine and then the right flame out. Most of those geese must weigh ten or eleven pounds each, and when they careen into the engines, the animals’ bones and feathers and flesh are turned almost instantly to jam and then almost as quickly incinerated. The passengers don’t know what they are smelling, but they know there is a stench in the cabin that they have never inhaled during a takeoff before, and combined with the way the aircraft has pitched to starboard, they are experiencing what even the most frequent fl yers would describe as an uh-oh sensation as they peer out the fuselage windows.

Meanwhile, you say “my airplane” and you take the controls. You flip on the APU, the backup generator in the tail of the plane, because a few years ago Chesley Sullenberger did this when his jet plowed through geese over the Bronx, and now turning on the APU is a part of the emergency checklist. You tell Amy, “Ignition on,” although you are quite sure that the wrecked blades have completely ripped the engines apart and neither will ever reignite: You can see on the instrument panel that the engine speeds are at zero. Nothing inside the turbines is spinning because whatever metal is there is now scrap and shard. But it can’t hurt to have your first officer try to restart the engines while you find the best spot to bring the plane down. “Airspeed, two hundred and forty knots,” you say, the best glide speed for this jet—the speed that will give you the longest possible glide.

And while radio communication is your lowest priority this second, you do tell the tower that there has been a bird strike. You begin with words that sound at once foreign and cinematic in your mind because you never anticipated saying them: “Burlington, we just had a bird strike and are declaring an emergency.”
   “Roger. What do you need?” a cool female voice in the tower responds.
   “Stand by,” you tell her simply, trying to focus. After a moment, she offers you a heading in the event you want to return to Burlington.

And, indeed, your first instinct is to make a wide, sweeping circle and land back at the airport. You left to the northwest on runway 33; perhaps you could loop back around and land on runway 15. But making a turn that large will cause the plane to lose a lot of altitude, and right now you’re only about twenty-five hundred feet in the air. You weren’t quite half a mile above the Champlain valley when that flock of geese darkened your windshield like a theater curtain. Your instincts tell you that you are never going to make it if you try for runway 15.
   “Not happening,” you tell the tower. “We have no thrust in either engine.” An emergency landing at the airport is impossible.
   And when you hear that voice from the tower next, you detect a twinge of panic in that usually professional façade: “Roger. State your intentions.”
You project alternate flight paths, scanning the Champlain valley.
Maybe instead of Burlington you could glide across the lake to Plattsburgh—to the airport there. The old Air Force base in upstate New York. You can see the area in the far distance to the right, and the angle of the runways looks promising. But it’s not likely you have anywhere near the altitude or the speed to make it. And even if you do coax the crippled airliner across the lake, you will still have to adjust your approach: The angle of the runways is promising, not perfect, which means you might be crash- landing in a populated area. Moreover, the CRJ has very low wings. Not a lot of clearance as you scoot along ground that isn’t a long, flat patch of pavement. It would be easy to catch a wingtip and lose control. You have seen your share of videos of planes cartwheeling along the ground into fireballs.

But you have to bring the plane down somewhere, and you have to bring it down soon. Neither engine has restarted.

You know well how that other captain managed to crash-land a powerless jet—and that was an Airbus 320, an oil tanker compared to this relatively petite CRJ—in the Hudson River one cold but crystal clear January afternoon. It was considered a miracle, but mostly it was just excellent flying. Chesley Sullenberger had flown commercially for twenty-nine years and prior to that had been a fighter jock. Twenty-nine years versus your fourteen. Arguably, a considerable difference. But you still have a boatload of hours in the air.

Likewise, you know the story of the Lockheed Electra turboprop that sailed into thousands of starlings—some people estimated as many as ten thousand—on October 4, 1960. The plane and the birds collided seconds after takeoff from Logan Airport, only four hundred feet above the water in Boston Harbor. The engines stalled and the plane plummeted into the water, no more than two hundred yards from shore. This was no gentle, seemingly slow-motion glide. There were seventy-two people onboard. Miraculously, ten survived, largely because of the flotilla of small boats that descended on the wreckage.

And now it is August, and though the sky is that same cerulean blue as it had been that January day over New York, it is downright muggy outside. Before you looms Lake Champlain, wider than the Hudson but still long like a river. You notice two ferryboats, one venturing west to Plattsburgh and the other motoring east to Burlington. There must be a dozen sailboats. And there is the crystalline surface of all that warm August water. Warm. August. Water. You will bring your plane down there—nose up so the aircraft doesn’t flip—because it is your best option. It is, perhaps, your only option. You have two dead engines and the speed of the aircraft’s descent is accelerating. You will do precisely what Sullenberger did on the Hudson. You’ve read all about it. All pilots have.

The tower is asking you again where you want to land. That voice once more brings up Burlington. She tells you that they have stopped all incoming and outgoing traffic there. Then she suggests Plattsburgh.

“I’m going to use the lake the way he used the river,” you tell her evenly, not specifying who he is because you don’t have time and, really, you were just thinking aloud when you added that to your tower communication. And already you are turning your plane from the northwest to the south and watching the water start to rise up.

You wish it were possible to dump the fuel on this CRJ, and not simply because you fear an explosion and fire; you know that the plane would float longer if there were more air in the tanks. Still, the plane should float long enough if you do this correctly. And so you descend as if you were approaching an ordinary runway, nose up, flaps full. The ground proximity warning system kicks in, and a computerized voice starts repeating, “Terrain. Terrain. Terrain.” Soon it will become more urgent, insisting, “Pull up. Pull up.” As if you didn’t know. Behind you, your passengers in the first rows hear it, too.

In a moment you will give the command every captain dreads: “Brace for impact.” Then you will skim across Lake Champlain, landing from the north a few minutes past five on a summer afternoon, and your passengers will be rescued by those ferryboats and sailboats. They will not face the frigid waters of the Hudson River but will instead wait on the wings in the gentle summer bath of a New England lake or bob on the waves in those garish orange life rafts.

“Thrust levels all idle,” Amy tells you, shaking her head, just a trace of anxiety in her usually giddy, usually playful voice.

Without thrust, landing the plane will be all about pitch. Lowering the nose will give you more speed and a longer glide; raising it will slow the aircraft and shorten your time in the air. You want to belly into the lake as gently as possible, though gentle is a relative term. The water can feel like granite to the underbelly of a jet if you hit it at the wrong angle.

“No relight,” Amy tells you, essentially reiterating what she shared with you just a moment ago, speaking louder now because, in addition to having to be heard over the synthetic Cassandra telling you to pull up, pull up, pull up, your flight deck is alive with emergency chimes and bells and a controller who wants you in Burlington or Plattsburgh or (Did you hear this correctly?) the interstate highway in New York that runs parallel to the lake. But the asphalt linking Albany and Plattsburgh is no more an option than the asphalt on the runways at the airports on either side of the water. No, you will use the lake the way Chesley Sullenberger used the river, and soon your passengers will be wrapped in blankets on the decks of the ferries.

                     *                                    *                                    *

The plane is eighteen rows long along one side but only seventeen on the other so there is room for a second lavatory at the front of the aircraft. There are two doors at the front of the plane and two over the wings at row fourteen (though that is actually the unnamed thirteenth row). Everyone in the passenger cabin is agonizingly aware of their proximity to those four exits, but perhaps no one is more focused upon them right now than Ethan Stearns as he sits in an aisle seat in the very last row, barely a foot and a half from the rear lavatory. It is not his own safety that has him calculating in his mind the speed with which he will be able to fi ght his way through the chaotic, merciless swarm to those exit windows, assuming the plane actually remains intact after it hits the surface of the lake; it is the safety of his young daughter, Ashley, who is sitting in the window seat beside him. His wife, Ashley’s mother, is ten rows ahead of them. The plane is not full, but it seemed like a lot of work to have the gate agent reassign their seats so they could be closer together on the short trip to Philly. So, instead of his wife in the row ahead of him, there is a man he knows nothing about and a woman who, based on something she said into her cell before the doors were locked and armed, had just interviewed at the IBM facility in Essex Junction, Vermont.

His wife, he realizes, is five rows from the exits over the windows and just seven from the front doors of the plane. He and Ashley are five rows from their only real shot from the aircraft, the window exits. His mind has already done the triage and the odds: His wife is more likely to survive than either he or their eight-year-old daughter. His eyes meet his wife’s when she turns back to glance at Ashley and him. He smiles; somehow, he smiles. He reminds himself as he gazes around his lovely little girl’s head—which is pressed so close against the glass that he can barely see out of it—that the guy who landed an Airbus in the Hudson got everyone out alive. It’s not like they’re about to slam into a mountain or a skyscraper. He makes sure that her life jacket is tight around her waist and he understands how to inflate it once they are outside the plane. He had barely had time to find it under her seat and figure out how to pull it from its bag and unfold it. He never did find his. He guesses no more than three or four other passengers have donned life jackets.
   “Brace for impact!” the flight attendant is telling them. “Brace for water landing! Heads down, heads down, heads down!”
   “When we come to a stop in the water, we are going to race for that window exit,” he tells his girl gently, whispering into her ear, trying to sound as serene as the flight attendant sounds urgent. “Okay? I am going to lift you up and carry you like we’re racing through the crowds on Main Street in Disney World. You remember, when the park’s closing for the night after the fireworks and we’re racing for spots on the monorail?”
   “But I can’t swim that far,” she stammers, her voice a little numb.
   “That’s why you have a life jacket,” he tells her. “The key is to scoot out of the plane with me, that’s all. Your mom will already be waiting for us because she’s a little closer to the exit.” Then his eyes go back to his wife’s, and her terror is like an electric shock. The cabin is eerily quiet because the engines aren’t working, and the passengers are mouthing their prayers or texting or staring in mute wonder as the plane seems to be descending beneath the Burlington skyline to the east and the Adirondack foothills to the west.
   “Do not wait for us!” he finally says to his wife, uncaring that it is like shouting in a cathedral during silent prayer. “I’ll have Ashley! Just get out of the plane!”

Once he has spoken, broken the spell, others start offering advice. Someone, a man, yells for the women and men in the exit rows to be prepared. Someone else starts yelling out how many feet above lake water he believes they are.

Ethan finally pulls his daughter's head from the window, kisses her on the cheek, and then pushes her down into the brace position. Then he joins her, but he wraps his left arm around her shoulders, as if he actually believes he is strong enough to protect her from the impact of a passenger jet augering into a lake at 150 miles an hour.

                     *                                    *                                    *

The captain never thought the door in the basement in any way resembled the over-wing exit doors on an airplane. Or even a main cabin door. Which, of course, it did not. But much later his new therapist, when the captain and his family had moved from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire, would probe this connection. A squat door? A pilot with PTSD? How could a psychiatrist not mine this possible connection? But of all the things the captain saw in the door in that dusky corner of the basement in the house they had bought, a locked and armed passenger jet door was never among them.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 160 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 6, 2011

    Don't Miss This Book!

    Fans of Chris Bohjalian- you are in for a fabulous read. This story will grab you from the first first page and will not let you go until the last page. This is a "can't put it down" read!
    For readers not familiar with this author's work, The Night Strangers is an excellent introduction to novels by Chris Bohjalian. Be prepared to add his name to your list of favorite authors!
    A great choice for book clubs.

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 15, 2011

    You, you, you

    You read all the great reviews and you are excited to read the book. You think, some people couldn't put it down. You start the book and are impressed by the detail in the plane crash. You keep reading and grow increasingly annoyed by the overuse of YOU and you dislike the stilted writing. You don't think there was anything remotely interesting about the predictable story. You really, really wish you had not wasted your money.

    9 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    I was fortunate enough to read a galley of The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian. I have to say that I have rarely gotten the chills while reading a book, but The Night Strangers was an amazingly, unsettling, paranormal thriller. It has so many interesting components that will both keep you turning pages and finding it hard to sleep at night. I have to say that I just loved The Night Strangers.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 2, 2011

    Blown Away..

    When I started reading this book I could have Never anticipated the twisted and turns that lie ahead of me. I couldn't put it down.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2011

    A must read...just not at night

    This amazing author has done it again. I don't know if I would describe this book as a ghost story, a tragedy, a mystery or a all of these apply. Chris is one of those talented authors who surprise me with every story. Every book is different, every character is different and this book is no exception. Taking a road he hasn't traveled before, he brings us twists and turns that had me scared to turn the page but racing to see what happens. Very rarely does an author surprise me as Chris did in this book. This story will have you afraid of the dark, questioning your spouses motives and wondering about the brownies all while listening to the whispers of the Night Strangers....

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Wow! heartbreaking and eerie

    What do we owe the dead? The Linton family is trying to put itself back together after the tragic accident of Pilot Chip Linton's semi-successful airplane crash. Escaping to rural New Hampshire they move into an old Victorian home with many secrets and secretive neighbors. The ending caught me by surprise.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 29, 2011

    What just happened?

    This book was good in average until the end, which made the entire book not worth my time.
    I read Midwives years ago and thought it would be good to revisit the author. Very disappointed, it was like a cheap halloween tale made for TV.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This suspenseful haunted house psychological thriller is a tense tale with a strong cast

    The seventy seater regional jet flies out of Burlington, Vermont with forty-three passengers, three attendees and a first officer as well as pilot Chip Linton. Geese fly into the two turbines, dying while destroying both engines. As the plane descends and feeling he can not make Plattsburgh or Burlington, Chip decides to land on Lake Champlain just like the heroic landing on the Hudson. He does everything right but a massive wave caused by a ferryboat makes the plane do a somersault. Most on board died while the pilot considers suicide as he suffers from survivor's guilt depression with the image of Dora the Explorer imprinted in his brain.

    Chip's wife Emily, an estates lawyer, decides the family needs a change so that Chip can start to heal. Thus Emily, Chip, and their twin ten year old daughters move to the White Mountains in New Hampshire where they purchased a fixer-upper Victorian. However, the house proves not to be a home as they begin to get visitors from the beyond including the father and Dora the Explorer daughter who make demands of Chip to have his children befriend the dead girl and find secret passages including a hidden crypt. Their benign welcoming neighbors have sacrificial designs on the Linton twins.

    This suspenseful haunted house psychological thriller is a tense tale with a strong cast especially the Linton family, the neighbors and the ghost from the plane crash. The story line is fast-paced with a sense of impending doom. Although the Linton adults' response to the otherworldly assault seems off kilter, readers will appreciate this scary ghost tale.

    Harriet Klausner

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    So very disappointing

    Having read all of Chris Bohjalian's previous books, I was eagerly anticipating this one......what a disappointment. Beginning with the "you, you, you" as someone else mentioned, and going on to the characters who lacked charm, or interest. I simply couldn't care about any of them and started to feel that they deserved what was happening! The choices they made weren't logical. The supposed "cuteness" of ten year old twins escaped me....ten years old is past the age of such childishness displayed here.

    I gave up about 3/4 of the way through, skimmed the rest, and can offer this advice to any who may want to read this -- save your money.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2011

    Extraordinary story by an extraordinary writer - a must read!

    'The Night Strangers' has further enhanced Chris Bohjalian's status as one of America's most accomplished story-tellers. As with most of his previous books, the reader is immediately drawn into a storyline that involves complex characters and difficult situations. It initially seems to be an examination of a failed hero (airline pilot Chip Linton) and his family - as they settle into a new environment, meeting their new neighbors, and exploring a strange old house that seems to hold secrets - but becomes so much more. And, as in Mr. Bohjalian's other works, there are twists you won't have anticipated. This is a page-turner of the first order, a real ghost story. Read this book! (Just don't forget to breathe!)

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2011

    Don't Bother.

    100 pages could easily be shaved out of this book with needless and repetetive flashbacks. You can quickly see what is going to happen.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2011

    Not worth the time.

    This book was very hard to get into, but I kept thinking it would get better. It doesn't. I especially did not like the ending.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2013

    Slow moving, satanic ritual book

    As someone who practices wicca, I found this book very disturbing. The author mentions that the people are herbalists in this book not witches; however, he keeps adding words like coven to describe them. What the members of the family endure in the last few pages appears to be of a satanic ritual to me. I don't want to ruin the story for anyone interested in reading it, but this was not a book that I was anxious to read through and it took me more time than the usual book to finish.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The Night Strangers was an above average read and extremely intr

    The Night Strangers was an above average read and extremely intriguing. What begins as a fast paced ghost story ends up as something very different and quite unexpected. After skimming through dozens of reviews, I must concur that the book is somewhat confusing, almost two stories with two different plot lines combined into one. However, I choose to see aspects and details, such as the "39 bolts" as red herrings, not as the ravings of a possessed author as some claim. Take the story as it comes, sit back and enjoy the ride. What culminates is somewhere between a haunting, psychological thriller, and suspense with the addition of occultist witches. Intrigued yet? You should be. It's worth the time and a wild ride for the right passenger. Let the author drive.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2012

    The best book I ever read.

    If you are looking for a "grab me by the arm and pull me in", can't-put-it-down, terror-enducing ride of your life, then "The Night Strangers" is just the book for you. I started reading it in the evening and I couldn't stop reading. This book terrified me in a way that no other book has ever done. By the time I got well into it, it had me too scared to want to get out of bed for anything! It is so suspenseful and intriguing.... I felt like I was a part of the action. You never know what is coming next, like a roller coaster ride. The characters are completely believable; and I took an immediate interest in what happened to the family. You have never read a more brilliant book with such intelligent twists and turns in the plot before. You will enjoy it! Plus you will never guess how it ends!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Didn't See That Coming!

    I listened to this story as an audiobook, narrated by Alison Fraser and Mark Bramhall, so my review is based on that version.

    This is my first book by this author and I am really impressed! The suspense was awesome and the story had a perfectly mysterious ebb and flow. There were many different things happening to the Linton family that might be related to their new house, but then again, it might not be related to the house at all. Chip has his own demons because of the crash of his airplane and the deaths of the people on board. But does his new house amplify the spirits, add to his delusions, or is the move to the new house just a coincidence? There are a group of herbalists in their new town, but is what they are doing magic, witchcraft, or just advanced herbology? And what is the fascination with twins in this town??

    I don¿t want to give away too much and ruin the mystery for anyone else, but when I finished this audiobook, I just sat and stared for a moment. All I could think was ¿Wow, I didn¿t see that coming!¿ It was a bizarre ending. I am still not sure how I feel about it. This book was kind of like Hot Chocolate with peppermint in it. Smooth, warm and creamy chocolate with the peppermint to wake your senses and put them on alert.

    The Narration Review
    This book was narrated by Alison Fraser and Mark Bramhall. I liked the dual narration for this story. The two voices worked off each other well. Sometimes with two different narrators you get a hot/cold feel to the story, but I didn¿t feel that with these two. Both were very clear and easy to listen to voices.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 14, 2011


    This book started out all well and good, but about half way through I really became uninterested. Disjointed story lines and repetitive. Have read better in this genre......

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2011

    Ugh..wasted days and wasted nights....

    If you are looking for a scary book look elsewhere...this was just silly and predictable.....Glad I got a member discount!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The Stepford Wives + The Sixth Sense = AWESOME

    If you are in the mood for a very well written, spooky, suspensful story full of disaster, ghosts and witches, this is the book for you!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2011

    I wrote my first ever fan letter to this author

    I cannot wait to read this..i heard him on NPR and he talked about never wanting to write the same genre twice..he is an incredible wordsmith!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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