Somewhere around the hundredth page, In the Night Room becomes the kind of fast-paced, deftly plotted novel that defies critical synopsis, lest the reader's experience of it be spoiled. What follows is a riveting and elegiac journey, as Underhill and Willy travel to visit the scenes of those crimes that served as the source material for his novel, which has evoked the wrath of a vengeful spirit whose brief, bone-chilling appearances are rendered vividly and precisely. In the process, Straub takes readers to a place where fact and fiction are blended by flows of grief. The result is not only a powerful and arresting foray into the dark fantastic, but also a novel that manages to provide a deeply personal glimpse into its author's psyche without sacrificing narrative and suspense.
The Washington Post
In Black House, Straub and Stephen King wrote of "slippage," whereby the borders between reality and fantasy blur. This entire brilliant novel is an act of slippage. In this sequel to last year's lost boy lost girl, and further chapter in the ongoing adventures of Straub protagonist Tim Underhill (Koko, etc.), the most intellectually adventurous of dark fantasy authors takes the apparent slippage of the prequel-in which Underhill's experience of a slain nephew's survival at the hands of a serial killer was indicated to be compensatory imagining by Underhill-several steps into the impressively weird. Underhill, an author, here encounters not the mere survival of a dead relation but the existence of a character he's creating in his journals. Dark fantasy cognescenti will remember that King employed a somewhat similar device in The Dark Half, but Straub's approach is distinctly his own, directed at mining the ambiguous relationship between nature and art, fact and fiction, the real and the ideal. The character Underhill has brought into being is Willy Bryce Patrick, a children's book author soon to be married to coldhearted financier Mitchell Faber, at least until Willy discovers that Faber had her first family murdered. Willy, whom Tim meets during a bookstore reading of his latest novel, lost boy lost girl, believes she is real (as does the reader for the book's first third), and learns otherwise only through Tim's painful, patient revelations. The two fall in deeply in love, but their passion seems doomed-not only is Willy's existence tenuous, but the pair are being pursued with murderous intent by Faber and his goons, as the former is in fact one form of the serial killer of lost boy lost girl, Joseph Kalendar; moreover, a terrible angel is insisting that only when Underhill makes an ultimate sacrifice, righting a wrong he did to Kalendar in lost boy lost girl, will matters resolve. Moving briskly while ranging from high humor to the blackest dread, this is an original, astonishingly smart and expertly entertaining meditation on imagination and its powers; one of the very finest works of Straub's long career, it's a sure bet for future award nominations. Agent, David Gernert. (Oct. 26) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Giving us the creeps again (after lost boy, lost girl), Straub concocts the tale of two authors who seems to be getting important communications from the beyond. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The "lives" lived by a novelist's creations intersect and conflict in this tricky sequel to last year's lost boy lost girl. Successful writer and troubled Vietnam vet Tim Underhill (who's been popping up in Straub's fiction ever since 1988's Koko) is troubled by cryptic e-mail messages from unidentified domains that, he slowly realizes, seem to have been sent by former acquaintances who've recently died. In a parallel plot, widowed Willy Patrick, Newberry Award-winning author of the YA fantasy novel In the Night Room, undergoes a series of traumatic misadventures that, taken together, suggest very sinister things about Mitchell Faber, the suave globetrotting executive she plans to marry. Early clues point to further links between Tim and Willy, and when they "meet" at a bookstore where he's giving a reading, this rather preposterously convoluted tale's metafictional intentions are made clear. It all has to do with a "mistake" made by Tim in an earlier novel (involving a soulless serial killer)-as Tim is made to understand, by such bizarre figures as a "pissed-off angel" of more than angelic strength and beauty, a most curiously named book collector who becomes his stalker, and a "Familiar Spirit" who establishes contact with Tim via-what else?: e-mail. Willy Patrick's precise connection to the "flight-from-Bluebeard narrative" that is Tim's current work-in-progress is more than a bit overelaborated, as the two novelists travel to Tim's hometown for his brother's wedding, a visit to a sinister abandoned house where horrendous crimes were committed, and the resolution of Willy's understandably imperfect grasp of her own reality. Readers of Straub's previous fiction will eventually tumble towhat's going on-but may well wonder whether the muted payoff was worth so much mazelike artifice. Straub can still tease the imagination and chill the blood with the best of them. But it's probably time to bury Tim Underhill, and move on. Agent: David Gernert/Gernert Company