Wildwood Road

Wildwood Road

3.8 20
by Christopher Golden

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Michael and Jillian Dansky seemed to have it all–a happy marriage, two successful careers, a bright future. But late one October evening, all that changed. Driving home from a Halloween masquerade, Michael momentarily nods off behind the wheel–and wakes to find nothing is the same.

Standing by his car is the little girl he came within a breath of…  See more details below


Michael and Jillian Dansky seemed to have it all–a happy marriage, two successful careers, a bright future. But late one October evening, all that changed. Driving home from a Halloween masquerade, Michael momentarily nods off behind the wheel–and wakes to find nothing is the same.

Standing by his car is the little girl he came within a breath of running down. She leads Michael to her “home,” an empty house haunted by whispers, and sends him away with a haunting whisper of her own: “come find me.” But in the weeks to follow, it’s clear that someone–or some thing–doesn’t want Michael to find her: ominous figures in grey coats with misshapen faces are following him everywhere. And then Jillian wakes one morning replaced by a cold, cruel, vindictive woman Michael hardly recognizes as his wife. Michael must now search not only for the lost girl, but for a way to find the Jillian he's always loved, and to do so he must return to where the nightmare began. Down an isolated lane where he’ll find them, or die trying.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Anxieties over marriage, home and work amplify the eeriness of Golden's engrossing suburban horror novel. Michael and Jillian Dansky are heading home from a Halloween party when they give a young girl on the road a lift to a strange old mansion. She leaves them with the injunction to "come find me," and suddenly their lives are no longer the same. Michael, art director at an advertising firm, begins to incorporate the girl's features into his illustrations. When he tries to locate the house and its road, he can't. Then a coven of grotesque, wraithlike women attack him and Jillian, who's transformed into a brittle and bitchy harridan. Michael realizes his survival depends on retracing his steps on that fateful night and finding the elusive girl. Golden (The Boys Are Back in Town, etc.) knows how to craft suspense, but the bizarre incidents create expectations that the climax only partly satisfies, and the horror, once explained, has a preachy, politically correct edge. Still, this above-average stab at Stephen King-style horror draws the reader irresistibly into its mystery. (Apr. 5) FYI: Cemetery Dance (www.cemeterydance. com) is publishing the cloth edition ($40 ISBN 1-58767-119-0). Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Haunted house tale, restrained and adult. Driving home from a masquerade with his wife Jillian passed out on the back seat, Michael Dansky falls asleep at the wheel and almost hits a little girl standing on the dark roadside. He takes her home to a house on a hill on unlighted Wildwood Road. The big house, a shambles, looks like "a relic out of time, as if it had been decorated in the 1940s, and remained untouched since then." It has a light only in its turret. Oddly, the girl tells him, Find me if you can, and goes in alone. Michael thinks better of this, goes in himself, looks through room after dark room for her. He comes upon silver rippling ghosts and throws himself out a window to escape them. Michael is top artist with an ad agency, a job Golden does well in dramatizing, and Jillian is the admired top paralegal at her law firm. One night, Michael comes home to find gray female ghosts attacking her. They suck Jillian's childhood memories out of her, and in daily life she slowly becomes a bitter cynic, all sweet memories of youth and childhood gone. To recover his new bitch-wife's lost mind, Michael seeks out the dark house but can't find it. He does see the little girl, Susan Barnes, standing by For Sale signs in the dark. When he looks up the last realtor who tried to sell the dark house, a house that moves about not only New England but Europe as well, he finds the name Susan Barnes. What's clear is that the little girl is Susan's lost childhood. Susan's bitter son tells him that his well-loved mother went bitch-crazy two years earlier and since then has been lodged in a psyche ward. Now Michael must take Jillian to the dark house. May be Golden's best and a step up from 2004'sThe Boys Are Back in Town.
From the Publisher
"A brilliant novel of supernatural suspense that reminded me of the early classics.... Kept me turning the pages long after I should have gone to bed. This one's a keeper." —Stephen King

“Golden is one of the most hard-working, smartest, and talented writers of his generation…Everything he writes glows with imagination.” —Peter Straub

"May be Golden's best.... a haunted house tale, restrained and adult."—Kirkus Reviews

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Random House Publishing Group
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Chapter One

The night of the masquerade was a kind of mad, risque waltz, the voices louder and the laughter giddier than anyone would have expected. That was the nature of masks.

Michael Dansky leaned against the wall with a Guinness in his hand and studied the ebb and flow of the bright costumes and the body language beneath them. There was something about a masquerade that changed people. Inhibitions slipped away, and not only because of the alcohol present. The question, Michael thought, was whether putting on a mask allowed the wearer to lose themselves in the pretense that they were someone else, or if hiding their faces let them show more of who they really were, down inside.

The Wayside Inn was a charming spot where one could imagine the nineteenth century had never ended. From across the ballroom, Michael watched his wife Jillian move through the masquerade in her Elizabethan gown, smiling beneath an elegant half-mask. Michael had never thought of her as anything less than sexy, but tonight she was more than that. There was a sultriness to the way she moved across the floor, a sensuality in her eyes behind that mask, that took his breath away. As she passed through the room another woman caught her arm and the two struck up a conversation of smiles and moving lips, words lost amidst the churning voices of the masquerade. Jillian's hair was a rich chestnut brown, and her hazel eyes seemed alight with mischief. The woman she spoke to was a thin blonde dressed as a genie.

Michael pushed away from the wall and started across the ballroom toward them. He was vaguely aware that the bottle of Guinness in his hand undermined the effectiveness of his own costume: the cape, boots, hat, and blade of the dashing D'Artagnan of Three Musketeers fame. Yet there was a swagger in his walk that might have sprung from either the ale or the costume, or more likely both.

The ballroom was accented by a pair of grand staircases that curled up either side of the room to a second-story balcony that looked down on the main floor. There were chandeliers, but nothing so garish as what he had seen at weddings held in hotel ballrooms. The masquerade was an annual event held in support of the Merrimack Valley Children's Hospital, and in the three years since their marriage he and Jillian had never missed it. It was Saturday night, three days before Halloween, and though the holiday had become overrun with more modern costumes, the organizers of the event insisted that no one wear a disguise inspired by something post-1900. The music in the room was under the same restriction. Some people Michael had spoken to were bothered by the lack of familiar dance music, but others made the best of it, attempting minuets and waltzes, and even a quadrille, which Miri Gallaway and Victoria Peristere taught the attendees every year.

Michael loved it all. The music and the period costumes harkened back to a simpler time, an era in which people believed in mystery. He worked as an art director for Krakow & Bester, an advertising firm out of Andover, and though his work allowed him to explore the history of styles and images, it also exposed him to far too many people whose minds were an arid desert of imagination.

This was sheer joy.

As he crossed the room toward his wife, he bowed in courtly fashion to a beautiful lady pirate and one of Dracula's brides. In the midst of her conversation with the blond genie, Jillian caught sight of him and a playful smile touched the corners of her mouth. She gave him a tiny wave.

Abruptly, his view of Jillian was blocked by several couples dancing to a jaunty tune. He tried to find another path toward her and nearly ran into a portly Henry VIII and a blood-smeared Anne Boleyn. Michael laughed hard enough that he nearly spilled his Guinness.

"What's so bloody funny, peasant?" demanded King Henry.

"That beard, for starters," Michael replied.

The king sniffed at this insult, but touched at his glued-on beard with concern. His real name was Teddy Polito, and his lovely corpse bride was his wife Colleen. Teddy was a copywriter at Krakow & Bester, a semineurotic whose face seemed etched in a perpetual grimace that was deceiving. Despite his various ticks and peeves, the burly forty-something had a kind heart.

"It took me an hour to get this damn thing on right," Teddy muttered.

Michael tried to conceal his smile, but failed. "That's . . . that's pretty astonishing."

Colleen arched an eyebrow and shot an appraising glance at her husband. "I'd say. You'd expect it to be much more time-consuming to really get that perfect Elmer's glue look."

Teddy put a hand across his heart. "You wound me."

His wife bumped him with a curvy hip. "Big baby." She was a brunette with auburn highlights in her hair, a woman with a face that would have been ordinary if not for her large, green eyes.

"Very true, Colleen. I don't know why we put up with him."

"I'm an enigma," Teddy said happily.

"It's part of your charm," Michael said. He glanced around. "Now where has my beautiful wife got off to?"

Jillian was still with her blond genie friend, halfway up the right-side staircase with a drink in her hand. Even as Michael caught sight of her, Jillian began to laugh. Her face flushed and she raised the back of her hand to cover her mouth--a habit left over from the braces of her youth--and took a step away from the genie.

His heart stopped as her foot missed the stair. From the ballroom floor, in the midst of those dancers and with the sound of lute and fiddle and pennywhistle in his ears, he held his breath and watched her begin to fall.

Jillian let go of her drink and her glass tumbled out over the edge of the banister, falling to shatter on the floor below. She caught herself with that empty hand, the other still covering her mouth, her eyes wide with fear. And then an awful sort of embarrassed amusement lit her face and she turned her back to those below her, attempting to pretend the incident had never happened. She kept her hand to her mouth, and Michael knew she was hiding a smile. The genie was laughing in relief and disbelief. She took Jillian by the arm and led her further up the stairs.

Only then did Michael exhale.

"Somebody might be having too good a time," Colleen said, but there was no accusation in it. Jillian wasn't much of a drinker, and became tipsy if she had more than one glass of wine. The Politos knew that.

"I'm going to see if she's all right," Michael told them.

"You do that," Teddy said. "In fact, we'll come say hello."

"Not to worry," Michael replied, eyes still tracking Jillian, whom he could see talking to Ned Bergh, a local realtor, and his wife, Sue. Jillian was talking rapidly with her hands, her whole face animated as she told a story--possibly about dropping her glass only moments earlier. "We're not ready to turn into pumpkins yet."

Michael turned with a flourish of his cape and the three of them set off toward the stairs. He threw himself into the character of D'Artagnan, one hand on the pommel of his sword, channeling the arrogance of a musketeer.

D'Artagnan led King Henry and the resurrected Anne Boleyn up the stairs. Several people called to Teddy and he waved. Once he paused to lean over and mutter something into the ear of a man Michael vaguely recognized as a local politician. The man responded with a knowing laugh, full of insinuation. Teddy had a flair for dirty jokes. Colleen hadn't heard whatever her husband had said, but she gave him a jab to the shoulder on basic principle.

Michael also saw people he knew, though with the costumes and masks it was difficult, sometimes, to tell who they were at first. Gary Bester, son of one of his firm's founders, waved to him from the opposite staircase, and Michael was pleased to be so far away. Gary was dressed as the Big Bad Wolf and his girlfriend, Brittany, as Red Riding Hood. The girl was nineteen, the agency's receptionist, and the sort that even the most decent-hearted man had trouble keeping his eyes off of. Gary was annoying as hell, a talker without any stories to tell, and insanely jealous of any guy Brittany gave the time of day. It was best to just steer clear of both of them.

From the top of the stairs, the view of the masquerade was extraordinary. The colors in motion, the sounds of fiddle and mandolin, accordion and harpsichord, and the antique decor of the ballroom, all combined to take his breath away. Teddy and Colleen were pulled away by a fiftyish woman Michael did not recognize, and so he paused a moment at the balustrade to soak it all in.

His reverie was broken by the sound of his wife's laughter, and he turned to see her still talking to the Berghs. They had been joined now by several others, including a heavy, olive-skinned man with a bulbous nose and curly graying hair, and a thin Irishman with wispy white hair. Michael did not know the first man, who wore the sombrero and clothing of a Mexican peasant, but the older fellow was Bob Ryan, a city councillor.

Ryan was clad in faded denim, weathered boots, a long jacket, and a hat that shaded his startlingly blue eyes. At his waist, Michael could see leather gun belts that crisscrossed one another. If there was anyone at the masquerade who looked more authentic in his costume, Michael hadn't seen him.

"Lawyers are just the mouthpieces," Jillian announced as Michael joined the circle that had gathered around her. They laughed with her and she favored them with a sardonic grin. "It's just like modern medicine. Nurses do all the work. Doctors get the glory. In a law firm, paralegals do everything, and lawyers just show up for the face time and to sign the paperwork."

The Mexican peasant narrowed his gaze. A lawyer. That much was obvious. "I don't see many paralegals arguing cases in front of a judge."

Jillian waved him away. "Please, Benny. That's the showbiz. I'm talking about the work. Sure, we're not doing the song and dance, but we choreographed it, honey. We wrote the music and the lyrics. Anyway, that's not my area. I do corporate law. There are just as many criminals, but they're behind desks instead of bars."

Even as she said this last, she noticed Michael and her eyes lit up. "Well, hello, my handsome musketeer."

With a flourish, Michael bowed. "Mademoiselle."

"Ah, D'Artagnan," Bob Ryan said, tipping his hat, "Se–or Bartolini and I were just trying to convince your lovely wife what a wonderful candidate she'd make for city council next fall."

Michael raised an eyebrow and glanced at Jillian. There was a sparkle in her eye that he knew instantly. She had once set her sights on law school, but after becoming a paralegal and witnessing firsthand the long hours and the stress required of first-year attorneys trying to make it on staff, she had realized she simply wasn't masochistic enough to be a lawyer. Still, she enjoyed learning about the process and she embraced her work at the firm. Paralegal work was a compromise, but it was one she could live with.

Jillian had climbed, in a very short period, to the top of the Boston legal scene. She commuted into the city every day, came home late almost every night. She was the paralegal manager at Dawes, Gray & Winter, the largest and most powerful firm in Boston. And though she did not discuss it often, Michael knew she coveted the top spot, the position of paralegal director.

That sparkle in her eye was her quiet ambition.

"So you're a politician now, huh?"

"Nope," she said. "But I am a woman of the people."

She reached for his hand and Michael offered it to her. As she came toward him, disrupting the circle of people who had been involved in that conversation, there was a sway in her walk that he knew sprang from alcohol, rather than any sultry intention. If she had been a drinker by nature, it would have alarmed him. But instead there was something sweet, even innocent, about her inebriation. Jillian wrapped her arms around him and kissed his temple softly, then languidly unfurled herself from him and stood at his side, facing the others.

"Well, sweetheart," Michael said, gazing at his wife. "You've got my vote."

At midnight the masquerade was still in full swing. Michael and Jillian had danced for hours, spinning around the ballroom together. The Politos had joined them, but the Danskys were younger and in better shape, and soon enough Teddy and Colleen had taken a breather and spent much of the balance of the night with other friends.

The dancing took its toll. Michael's feet hurt in his D'Artagnan boots, and sweat dappled his forehead, his chest, and the back of his neck. Yet with his wife in his arms it seemed to him that they were both like marionettes, that whatever magic had transported them back in time filled them with a childlike glee that made it impossible not to dance.

They did manage to rest from time to time, at least long enough to socialize, and to whisper silly things in each other's ears. They were both burning off some alcohol with their
dancing, so Michael didn't worry much about the additional drinks that friends bought them. It would have been rude to decline.

But, eventually, the alcohol caught up to Jillian.

"Time to go home," Michael whispered in her ear.

Her face scrunched up. "Honey. It's still early. Nobody's leaving yet."

She'd had to stop dancing to say this, and when she did she swayed against him. A frown creased her forehead and she glanced down at her feet as though they'd betrayed her. Then she laughed softly and raised her eyes once more.

"On the other hand . . ."

Jillian slipped her arm through Michael's and they began to work their way toward the door, bidding good night and happy Halloween to friends and acquaintances. Her eyes were glazed and, now that she had stopped dancing, Michael could almost see the alcohol affecting her. When she said "see you" to Ned Bergh, Jillian slurred the words. It was a first since he had known her, and Michael resolved never to mention it to her. He knew she would be mortified.

At the base of one of the staircases he saw gunslinger Bob Ryan again, but he averted his gaze and steered Jillian more quickly toward the door. Ryan might not urge Jillian to run for city council if he thought she was a drinker.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Stephen King
"A brilliant novel of supernatural suspense that reminded me of the early classics.... Kept me turning the pages long after I should have gone to bed. This one's a keeper."

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Wildwood Road 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Meari More than 1 year ago
Honestly, I was surprised at how bad this book was. The reviews were good (for the most part), and the description made it sound like a very haunting, interesting read, so I had to have it! I think what got me to actually buy the book was the Publishers Weekly review on this site. Said it was an "above-average stab at Stephen King-style horror". Comparing this book, in any way, to a Stephen King novel is misleading and untrue. If you think that's what this book is like, you are going to be disappointed. Hell, if you think that this book is going to thrill or scare you, you are also mistaken. The first couple of pages let me know that this was going to be a book I'd regret reading. The writing style is simplistic and too wordy-- Focusing on things that don't matter, and using cliché descriptions of people and the environment. It was corny and I felt embarrassed reading it, like when a really crappy, made-for-TV movie comes on and you know the actors all must hate themselves for filming such a travesty. The main characters of the story, Michael and Jillian, are married and both have decent careers. The author tries to do flashbacks of their early days of dating and meeting each other, but again, it's corny... It's too much like a bad Lifetime movie where the character says, "Remember when we first met?" and then it immediately goes back to a scene of them ten years earlier and they are younger and wearing different fashions and hairstyles and OOPS they meet and it's wonderful and hee hee ha ha. This happens multiple times in the book, and while I am aware that it’s done to prove the tight bond between the characters, it seriously just comes off as corny and takes away from the story. Then there are the useless things the characters do that have nothing to do with the story. Like Michael running his LEFT hand fingers through his hair. Maybe if his right hand were injured, it would make sense that the left hand be pointed out as the one he used to brush at his hair… But both of his hands were fine. Also, we don’t care what music he’s listening to in the car… or that an ad for soap or whatever plays on the radio after the specific rock song by a specific band is over. Maybe if a creepy voice or some static came through the sound system in the car, it would be significant as to what he’s listening to… But that never happens. The point is that the writer describes EVERYTHING going on in the situation whether it’s meaningful or not, and while this may seem like a good idea, it actually pulls away from any sort of atmosphere or feeling of dread/anticipation/worry/etc that the reader should be feeling. If you’re focusing on the radio so much, it should be doing something creepy or related to the story! It’s too much fluff without enough substance. Admittedly, the “villains” of the story were interesting. It’s a mythology I’ve read before, but the fact that it was used this way was somewhat clever. In fact, the parts of the book relating to the antagonist and the backstory around it were written well. It’s just when it went back to the present-day that the writer started up the corny descriptions and not-realistic dialogue. So there you have it. Too much fluff, not enough good, meaty parts to chew on. Characters that are not likeable mixed in with side-characters that have way too much known about them when they do absolutely nothing to move the plot along. Seriously, nothing. You could take them out and the story would remain the same. All you need are the two main characters, the little ghostly girl, and maybe like two other people. Done. Though, if the author did that, the book would be about 15 pages long. Don’t waste your time with this crap… It’s not scary, badly written, and boring. The only reason I read through the whole thing was because I paid for it as an eBook and felt as if I should at least get my money’s worth. I also was hoping that it would get better or redeem itself somehow. It didn’t.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didn't enjoy at all! Slow and kind of random, author did not give me any reason to believe the story or root for the characters!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Too wordy. Not scary enough. Too drawn out.
1200 More than 1 year ago
I highly recommended  reading this book. I liked the fact that the main character  couldn't  save the day by himself . It's a real Good versus Evil  story that never gets  old. I look forward  to reading  more by this author . 
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Nubbets More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. I couldn't put it down! I liked the bringing in of an ancient religion that I previously read about in another series of books. The way it was brought into this book made you think about things from a different perspective. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone to read! It takes a bit to get used to but more books like this should exist out there. I find myself wanting to read this again at times because I can't find anything comparable to it. Any fan of Christopher Golden should check it out!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This was ok but went on and on in the middle then picked up at the end again.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Tired and a bit intoxicated after attending a masquerade party with his paralegal wife Jillian, ad agency artist Michael Danksy drives home with his spouse asleep. Michael dozes off, but as his vehicle veers off the road, he awakens in time to avoid hitting a girl standing on the side of the road. Concerned that a young girl would be out by herself at night, Michael takes her to her home on dark hilly Wildwood Road.--- As the little girl runs inside, she tells Michael try to find me as if she is playing a game. Feeling uncomfortable that the girl charged into the dark house, Michael follows her in only to be confronted by ghosts; he escapes. Not long afterward, female ghosts assault Jillian, removing her joyful childhood memories. As Jillian turns from kind to nasty, Michael struggles to find the big dark house on Wildwood Road to bring back his wife, but finding the place seems impossible as it is not where he entered it. He next seeks the girl, but will she prove easier to locate?--- This ghost story is Christopher Golden¿s best work to date. Michael is a terrific beleaguered hero who wants his pre-house visit life especially his endearing wife back; Jillian is fantastic as she transforms from a friendly caring person into a cynical soulless individual as the child who became the adult was erased from her memory. Fans will keep reading until they learn who the little girl is and then want to know how Michael plans to rescue his wife if he obtains that knowledge. This is a one sitting tale that will keep the audience up all night with lights on in every room.--- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have not enjoyed a book more in a very LONG time! It had everything people you cared about,great plot!! Loved it!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Taking you on a terrifying journey, the plot will sweep you off your feet. The story is original, intense, and erratic. The minute you think you have it all figured out, Golden throws a curve ball you never saw coming, but you¿re damn happy to see where it takes you. Also, even though the tale is very detailed, it¿s never weighed down with inconsequential page-filler descriptions. In other words, it is simply divine. The characters are true-to-life personalities filled with doubts, love, and fear, and maintained in honesty. There are no road signs to help them out of their nightmares, they have to rely on their own instincts and intelligence. And that is what makes them stand-out, because you don¿t have to question what you would do, it¿s already being played out. Golden¿s style of writing is, dare I say it, mischievous. He has this ability to convey both repulsiveness and beauty, light and shadow; alternating between pleasure and pain. He is constantly shifting in narration; one minute he is the observer and the next conspirator. But above all that, he is the storyteller. Burrowing under your skin, the pace is veiled, but constantly active. At first the suspense begins as a minor itch, hardly noticeable. As you go on, the itching becomes more erratic, more painful. By the time you¿ve come to the climax of the story, you¿ll be half mad. But don¿t be fooled, working hand-in-hand with the pace, the atmosphere is the true danger. Oppressive and hostile, the ambience throughout the book will infect you like a virus. The characters¿ emotions seem to leak into the air, contaminating it with their fear, hate, and anguish. And I promise, it will get to you. Grab your maps people, get in the car and start looking for WILDWOOD ROAD immediately!