3.8 18
by Alexandra Sokoloff

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After experiencing a precognitive dream that shatters her engagement and changes her life forever, a young psychology professor from California decides to get a fresh start by taking a job at Duke University in North Carolina. She soon becomes obsessed with the files from the world-famous Rhine parapsychology lab experiments, which attempted to prove ESP


After experiencing a precognitive dream that shatters her engagement and changes her life forever, a young psychology professor from California decides to get a fresh start by taking a job at Duke University in North Carolina. She soon becomes obsessed with the files from the world-famous Rhine parapsychology lab experiments, which attempted to prove ESP really exists.

Along with a seductively handsome professor, she uncovers disturbing cases, including one about a house supposedly haunted by a poltergeist, investigated by another research team in 1965. The two professors and a team of exceptionally gifted Duke students move into the abandoned mansion to replicate the investigation—unaware that the entire original team ended up insane… or dead.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In Sokoloff's serviceable supernatural thriller, two Duke University psychology professors, Laurel MacDonald and Brendan Cody, stumble on suppressed findings of an inquiry into poltergeist activity conducted under the auspices of Duke's Rhine parapsychology lab nearly half a century earlier. All the participants appear to have died, disappeared or, in the case of Laurel's enfeebled uncle, gone mad. Determined to advance their academic careers, the pair corral two students with strong paranormal potential to camp out at the spooky Folger House, site of the original experiment. No sooner do they begin their study than they're confronted with uncanny phenomena that suggest they've awakened a malignant presence that pervades the house. Sokoloff (The Price) keep her story enticingly ambiguous, never clarifying until the climax whether the unfolding weirdness might be the result of the investigators' psychic sensitivities or the mischievous handiwork of a human villain. (June)

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From the Publisher
"THE UNSEEN takes you on a breathless ride you'll never forget. Atmospheric, spooky, intense. The suspense starts on page one, tightening the noose on every page with increasing velocity to a stunning, fearsome climax. Ms. Sokoloff has created a chilling, fantastic supernatural thriller that will have you fearing what you can't see." —Allison Brennan, New York Times bestselling author of SUDDEN DEATH

Praise for The Price:

“Some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre.” —-The New York Times Book Review

“A stunning, riveting journey into terror and suspense.” —-Michael Palmer, New York Times bestselling author of The Second Opinion

“It’s been a long, long time since a book scared, exhilarated, uplifted, frenzied, and made me green with jealousy. This is the book of 2008. It is beyond stunning. It is harrowing in the true sense of real art.” —-Ken Bruen, award-winning author of Once Were Cops

“The Harrowing was immensely creepy and satisfying, a first novel and a wonderful book. Alex Sokoloff's The Price is another notch in this author's golden belt—-a psychological roller coaster that keeps the reader on edge with bone-chilling thrills throughout. I couldn't put it down. Miss Sokoloff is an author not to be missed.” —-Heather Graham, bestselling author of The Séance

“Sokoloff is simply amazing.”—-Bookreporter.com

“A sublime second novel . . . Rest assured that Sokoloff will suffer none of the signs or symptoms of a sophomore slump with this confident follow-up to her Stoker-nominated debut. . . . Her gooseflesh-inducing imagery jumps right off the pages, and her rich, graceful prose calls to mind names like King, Saul, and Levin.” —-Dark Scribe Magazine

“Sokoloff’s straightforward writing style perfectly enhances her chilling and mysterious novel, in which she blurs the lines between what is real and what is merely a hallucination.” —-Romantic Times

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.12(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Unseen

By Sokoloff, Alexandra

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2009 Sokoloff, Alexandra
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312384708

Chapter One 

The hall ahead is dark, a tunnel of black.

She is in bare feet, wearing just a T-shirt, her steps slow and reluctant on the polished hardwood floor.

The warm Southern California breeze breathes through gauzy curtains at the windows, wafting the fragrance of night-blooming jasmine . . . but the smell is cloying, gagging, and dread rolls like black waves around her as she approaches the door, their door.

The sounds are louder, now . . . the grunts and moans are like physical blows. She wants to scream, wants to run . . . and she can't breathe, can't breathe, something is wrapped around her chest like a vise.

In the night outside, a dog breaks into hysterical yapping; somewhere far away a siren wails. Beside her, the Art Deco clock on the wall clicks to 3:33. She steps past the ghost of her own reflection in the large gold-framed mirror . . . takes a jerking step forward into the doorway.

And stops, sways at the sight—

They are in the bed, their bed, Matt and—

I don't even know her name, what's her name?


She can hear their breathing, Tracey's soft moans, Matt groaning, "Baby . . . oh baby . . ." She can smell them, feel their frantic writhing—Matt's quickening thrusts, Tracey's legs flexing and tightening around his thighs . . .

Everymove, every thrust, every sigh, is like being stabbed, all over her body. She can feel the jabs, feel the blood pouring from her flesh, the coppery stink of blood . . . she is wrapped in barbed wire and it is tightening, tightening. . . . Matt and Tracey cry out together on the bed. . . .

Inside her mind, she is screaming, her cries echoing against the walls . . .

Please . . . please no . . .

And behind her, the mirror shatters. . . .

Laurel awoke with a shuddering gasp, felt her heart pounding crazily against the mattress, shaking the bed. The room around her was blindingly sunny, white and high-ceilinged, with crown molding and a ceiling fan.

Ceiling fan???

Where am I???

She lay against the pillows in total disorientation, waiting for the dream to subside, to regain some kind of reality.

Then she sat up slowly, in the bedroom of her house in—her mind scrambled briefly for it—Durham, North Carolina.

She had been there for three weeks and four days, after living all thirty-one years of her life in California.

And she had moved in a blind rush of escape, after finding her fiancé in bed with his graduate assistant, in exactly the scenario she had dreamed, down to the very last detail.

She swung her feet out of bed and stood, reached for a robe, avoiding looking at the mirror on the wall.

She belted the robe around her as she walked out into the hall, past the door of the spare bedroom with its unopened moving boxes stacked against the walls, and down the stairs of her house—her house!—her feet bare on the cool of the polished wood stairs, her left hand gliding down the satiny curve of railing. So different from the right-angled, modern condo in West Hollywood, with its recessed lighting and skylights, and stainless steel, granite-countered kitchen.

And that's the point, isn't it? I'm as far away as I could get.

The dream had followed, and it never felt like dreaming; it was always the same, like walking into the living past, into a parallel world that existed intact and constant, with her trauma captured, her silent screams echoing forever on the walls.

But it was less frequent, and she no longer awoke from it with barbed-wire welts in her flesh. That's some kind of progress, right?

It was the dream that had told Laurel that Matt was cheating on her. She'd jolted awake in her Santa Barbara hotel, where she was staying the weekend at an American Psychiatric Educators conference, with raised welts in her flesh and a shattered feeling in her chest. She didn't believe in psychic flashes, had never won so much as two dollars in the California lottery, didn't know who was on the other end of the phone when she picked up; she never even read her horoscope in the newspaper or online. She had a doctorate in psychology, for heaven's sake; she lectured on personality and theories of the self at Cal State L.A.; she had multiple job offers at universities in various parts of the country (all of which she'd turned down to stay in Los Angeles with Matt . . . )

But the dream had been more than a dream. She'd known.

At 1:23 a.m. she left the hotel, got in her car, and drove two hours back to their condo in L.A . . . and it was just as in the dream, every detail: the smell of jasmine, the blowing curtains, the yapping dog, the clock clicking over to 3:33 as she walked down the dark hall through waves of black dread, toward the sound of moaning coming from their doorway, their bedroom, their bed . . .

And the mirror . . .

In her mind she heard the shattering and halted on the stairs, gripping the banister, squeezing her eyes closed to shut it out . . .

Matt had moved out immediately, they had never even talked about it. It was almost as if he'd staged the scene for Laurel to find, to spare himself the awkwardness of an actual conversation. He was out of her life, shacked up with Tracey. Just like that—unengaged.

Stop it, Laurel ordered herself, clenching her nails into her palms. What's the point? You were living in a dream world.

She had no illusions about what the real problem was. Los Angeles was a 24/7 candy store. Beautiful young people came in droves from all over the country, hoping to make their faces their fortune. Laurel knew she was pleasant enough to look at in a sexy librarian kind of way: glasses and braces long gone, and her unruly mane of red-gold hair less of a disaster than it had been in her coltish adolescence. And of course there were the legs that had stopped Matt in his tracks the night they met at a faculty Christmas party—or so he'd said at the time. But Laurel knew she didn't even register on the Hollywood scale.

She'd never really understood what Matt had seen in her, other than the fact that she simply listened well; she'd been sympathetic and available when he was shattered and mooning over being dumped (By a model, no less—and shouldn't that have been your first clue?).

No, she'd been an utter fool, blindly trusting, delusional, stupid in every way.

Better to know now, Laurel's friends, colleagues said. Of course she would heal, of course she would move on, laugh again, find someone new, someone worthy of her. We love you, you'll be fine. All the things that well-meaning people say.

Laurel had nodded and thanked them and gone home and given notice on her condo, then called the Duke University psychology department to accept a tenure track professorship that she hadn't even been considering, in the middle of North Carolina, a whole continent away.

She said all the right things to her dismayed friends: she couldn't stay an associate professor at a state college forever, tenure track jobs were almost non existent in California, she was doing the best thing for her career.

All true, and all lies. The truth was she ran—ran away from Matt, away from L.A., away from everything she'd known. She wanted to be someplace that no one knew her, where there was no place that she could run into people she knew, where they could ask, brightly oblivious, about the wedding—or worse, look at her with pity, even edge away from her as if she had a communicable disease. The cheated fiancée, the abandoned bride . . .

She became aware that she had reached the bottom of the staircase and was just standing, unfocused, at the foot of the stairs. She looked around her, breathing in, letting her present surroundings chase away the memories of L.A.

The house was bright, airy, and empty, two stories of old Southern charm, with a wide wraparound porch, ten-foot ceilings, heart-of-pine floors (the realtor had said "heart pine"), a screened back porch, a walk-in pantry (with a window!), and curious small square doors in the walls of the master bedroom and hall and kitchen, which to Laurel's utter amazement turned out to be functioning laundry chutes. The windows were hung on counterweights and had thick glass that rippled like water; the front and back yards overflowed with wisteria and honeysuckle. The quiet of it all still astonished her—not just of the house, but of the surrounding blocks and the whole town.

Laurel had been looking for a rental but she'd gotten lost on the way to an apartment appointment and found herself driving through a quaint and timeless neighborhood with gently curving streets and wide porches with white Southern rockers, a haphazard collection of bungalows and Victorians and barnlike Cape Cods. When she saw the open house sign in front of a gingerbread house with eight-paned windows, she stopped on a whim. The house was captivating and the price so surreally low (compared to the still-stratospheric prices of Southern California) she'd found herself writing a down-payment check on the spot (stunning the chatty realtor into silence), and moving into the place two inspections and a scant two and a half weeks later. It was a huge and outrageous decision that she'd made in a matter of minutes, unlike her in every way.

But she was not herself; she had no sense of what "self" meant anymore. And buying meant it would be harder to ever go back.

She walked now like a white-robed ghost through the empty rooms—literally, empty: she'd spent her entire savings on the purchase, therefore furniture was not really an option. She maxed out a credit card on a bed, a kitchen table with chairs, and a very large desk for her upstairs study. The kitchen boasted a refrigerator, a stove, and an eating alcove. The rest of the house was entirely bare—but then, so was Laurel, so the emptiness suited her.

She moved across the empty hallway and turned the latch of the door.

She opened it and looked out, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz—and felt the familiar wave of unreality to see, instead of flat, sunny West Hollywood, the curved, tree-lined street, regal houses with their own wraparound porches with rockers and ceiling fans and hanging baskets of ferns, and yards with huge and lushly flowering trees. A car might pass once every ten minutes or so, and then the thick silence would descend again, laced with the subdued twittering of birds, the low hum of cicadas, wind chimes, an occasional faraway train whistle, even the tolling of church bells.

A white-and-orange kitty with luminous gold eyes sat on the porch, centered exactly halfway between the doormat and beginning of the stairs, and looked up at Laurel expectantly.

"Still here, hmm?" Laurel said to it wryly. "You're a trouper."

The cat waited beside the door while Laurel fetched the newspaper and then walked, flowingly, in front of her into the house, through the center hall, straight to the kitchen, where it sat beside the pantry door, waiting to be fed. The morning after Laurel had moved in she'd opened the front door and the cat had walked in as if it owned the place. The cat was light years ahead of Laurel in confidence, and she figured she could learn something from it, so they had been cohabitating ever since, the cat on one pillow of the new bed, and Laurel on the other. Laurel had yet to name it, but felt certain that the cat would let her know in its own time how it wished to be addressed.

She tried not to think what it meant to be so vulnerable that a strange cat could dictate her life.

She reached for the coffeepot that she'd programmed the night before, and her eyes fell on the window.

She looked out on her lovely, alien neighborhood and thought for the millionth time, What am I doing here? What have I done?

But it turned out to be the day that she found out.

Excerpted from THE UNSEEN by Alexandra Sokoloff
Copyright © 2009 by Alexandra Sokoloff
Published in June 2009 by St. Martin's Press

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.


Excerpted from The Unseen by Sokoloff, Alexandra Copyright © 2009 by Sokoloff, Alexandra. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

ALEXANDRA SOKOLOFF is the author of The Price and The Harrowing, which was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel and the Anthony Award for Best First Novel. She also works as a screenwriter, and splits her time between Los Angeles, California, and Raleigh, North Carolina. She welcomes questions and comments at her website: www.alexandrasokoloff.com.

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Unseen 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The type of paranormal novel that keeps you to tense the through out the whole book.
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Catpurrson More than 1 year ago
Title suggests more creepiness than the book offers. I kept reading, hoping for more excitement, but it never happened. The mystery just fizzled out and closed with a rather far-fetched explanation for the events at the "house". I thought the ending was drab. The entire story was just not paranormal enough for my taste and did not deliver any thrills or chills.
Lynnie_Di_Koch More than 1 year ago
Totally amazing! If you're into the supernatural, don't miss this one! All of Ms. Sokoloff's books have been great! I've read every one! ;)
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Krysten Kelly More than 1 year ago
dont read alone at midnight when even common noises will seem out of place and disturbing. a nice scary read for those who enjoy a side of science with their unexplained. if you like ghost hunters you will enjoy this.
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Kasia_S More than 1 year ago
I read a lot of horror and supernatural fiction so naturally I have read all of Sokoloff's books and I liked this one the most. One warm April afternoon I spotted "The Unseen" with the corner of my eye at my local library while waiting for some complaint resolution ( someone took me Patterson book that I had on hold) and ended up walking home with it instead, after finishing it I still want to get my own copy to read again, the paper back coming out has a fantastic cover and this is something that I admired and I definitely want to read again in the future. The book started off slowly but somehow I kept coming back to the story, time constraints made it a slow read but I kept crawling back to it, I just had to know what happened. The novel has an air of sophistication to it, there is a certain amount of succulence in the paragraphs and after reading Alex's "The Price" and "The Harrowing" I can definitely say that this book shows the growth and tightness that the author managed to establish rather well. This might not please everyone but after finishing I smiled, I liked this book, I liked it a lot! Parapsychology and poltergeists are the meat of the story, or rather finding out if any of it actually occurred, the failed eerie Rhine ESP experiments at the Duke University parapsychology department have been buried and almost forgotten for forty years, that is until the dusty files ( 700 boxes of them) somehow call to Lauren, the new teacher who has seeked refuge and solace at the infamous Duke library under the stern eye of librarian Warden. Young and sensitive Lauren has moved away from a painful memory she left behind along with her beloved San Francisco; her cheating fiancée and that awful unexplained accident with mirrors are all in the past, that is until she runs across the old files that spark her interest in a new scholarly project. ESP has been a popular talent in her family and Lauren's interest and quest for closure has driven her to solve the riddle of the Rhine experiment that have shut an expensive house and put students in mental institution. Lauren has no idea what really awaits at the house, she thinks it's a hoax but she fears that it could be something real, something that will not only satisfy but perhaps even kill her curiosity. Equipped with plenty of food, score sheets and a fellow teacher and two bright students, she sets out to find the house and for once solve it's solemn mystery. Full of scares, enticing build up and even sexual tension, The Unseen guarantees a satisfying read, one perhaps best spend with someone else close by, just in case it gets too intense. I especially loved the shocking ending and the final pages, this proves that the author has what it takes, I can't wait for her next novel. This is a brightly woven tapestry full of wondrous words, the book only gets better the more I think about it and that's definitely what reading is all about. - Kasia S.
emmi331 More than 1 year ago
There's nothing much new in this formulaic thriller - an attractive young woman gets involved in a parapsychology experiment, complete with haunted house, and ends up a damsel in distress. Laurel MacDonald, brokenhearted from a disastrous breakup with her fiance, moves from California to North Carolina to take a job at Duke University. She becomes fascinated with the now-defunct parapsychology department and begins researching it. Of course there's an attractive man or two around. The problem with the story is it takes so long to actually get to the haunted house. By that time I was bored with Laurel's constantly feeling hot, flushed, and even sizzling. That's when she wasn't shuddering, trembling, or shivering. Usually all this coincided with the presence of either a man or a new discovery in her research. Pedestrian writing without excitement. For truly fine thriller writing, see accompanying recommendations.
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PyrDog More than 1 year ago
While I looked forward to reading this book based on its many favorable reviews, I found it to be quite derivative. It is certainly not up to the standard set by Sokoloff's previous works.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
Duke University psychology professors Laurel MacDonald and Brendan Cody uncover the results of a study done five decades ago by the Rhine parapsychology lab at Folger House. Apparently, researchers were looking into poltergeist activity, but what the found was concealed. Eerily those who participated either died soon after, vanished without a trace or went insane. In fact Laurel's uncle was one of the parapsychologists, but he went stark crazy.------------ Laurel and Brandon see the data as an opportunity for them to make a name at Duke. They persuade two students with indications of extrasensory skills to be monitored while spending time at Folger House. However, almost as soon as they enter, something evil begins an assault; Laurel and Brandon fear their ambition may have awakened the dormant cause behind what happened in 1965, but each wonders if the UNSEEN is human or something else.--------------------- THE UNSEEN is a super thriller that has the audience hooked almost from the onset and maintains that grip throughout. Readers will wonder whether something from the paranormal or from the psychological world is occurring. The two investigators are perfect foibles as their ambition, naivete, and desires collide with the UNSEEN inside the infamous Folger House.-------------- Harriet Klausner