Category Archives: Crown Books

Review: The Accident by Chris Pavone

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (March 11, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0385348452
  • Source: Publisher

Isabel Reed is a literary agent who still relishes in reading hardcopy manuscripts,   refusing to embrace the digital age. One day, a strange manuscript lands on her desk. The author, anonymous, writes an authorized biography of Chris Wolfe, a media mogul. What is revealed in this manuscript, called The Accident, alludes to a history of lies, deception, and murder.   The contents are so volatile that the manuscripts very existence puts anyone who reads it in harms way.

The Accident takes place in the span of one day. Jumping from character to character, it follows the path of those individuals who have copies of this allusive manuscript.  Once those targeted become aware of the danger that follows them, there is no means of safely or escape, not even from the local authorities.

A truly intense and mesmerizing thriller,  The Accident kept my attention from the start, refusing to relinquish until I turned the last page.  Perhaps because I have some knowledge of the publishing world and can grasp the potential and fate if (and when!?) a manuscript like this crosses the path of an agent’s desk…I found the entire plot to be incredibly terrifying.

The fact that this entire novel, 400 pages, takes place in one day is a truly astounding feat. Lives and pasts cross, fates and lives are destroyed, all in the span of one day.  What seems like so much is tucked neatly, perfectly, in this relatively compact novel.

While there are aspects of the novel that I found implausible, particularly given modern technology, I did appreciate the author’s nod to publishing in the days before email and other means of sharing files (did no one think to scan the manuscript!?).  The ending? Without giving away too much, I found the ending to be absolutely perfect and, in a sense, a bit ironic.

This is the first of Pavone’s novel I have read but, now that I have sampled his brilliance, I plan to continue.  Highly, highly recommended.

Frightful Friday: Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.  The featured title this week is Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet:

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (August 6, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0385347340
  • Source: Publisher

Patrick and Mike Cusimano’s father is serving time in jail for a DUI during which he hit and killed a small child. It was Patrick who called the police to report the accident…19 hours later. Patrick and Mike live together in their family home along with Caro, Mike’s girlfriend; the accident and what followed continue to haunt them.  While they were not directly involved in the incident, residents of their small town still hold them responsible for what transpired.  Mike blames Patrick for their situation, insisting that they could have covered for their father. Forever tormented by their father’s actions, the two struggle  to get on with their lives.

Layla and Verna Elshere are the daughters of a fundamentalist father. Up until now, they were home schooled, spending hours of their day helping their father promote his church’s message.  Insisting that they need to experience the real world, he enrolls them in public high school.  Both girls are tormented by bullying due to an incident in which one of the school’s most popular teachers was fired.  Layla has rebelled from the conservative life in which she was raised, becoming part of a cult-like group in which Justinian, a young man chillingly similar to Charles Manson. Verna has no one, the tormenting by other students forces her to rely on Layla and her vampiric group of cohorts for protection.

The two families converge when Layla begins a conversation with Patrick at the convenience store at which he works.  The two have a connection, both ostracized from their family for their actions.  Layla is attracted to Patrick, sensing that he is an individual who strives to do what is right. Unfortunately, Patrick sees her as jail-bait, a teen rebelling from a strict family. The result of this odd relationship culminates into one paramount event that shatters the two families’ already battered and bruised lives.

I originally learned about this novel several months ago when inquiring about the “big books” of Fall. Never could I have imagined this novel’s impact and intensity.  Braffet has constructed individuals that really don’t have a lot going for them. That said, they are tremendously genuine and authentic characters, their flaws openly displayed. In doing this the author portrays the loneliness, the isolation that surrounds individuals who just want someone to connect with, someone who can protect them from harm. Unfortunately, in searching for such a result they often perform foolish acts in order to attain a life they think they want.

Braffet tackles the concept of bullying in a brutal, yet wholly honest and genuine way.  She doesn’t sugar-coat the abuse the characters face for each and every one of these actions culminate and permanently shape them as individuals.  No matter what sort of background, be it a happy home with wonderful parents or a battered and dysfunctional home, bullying has lasting effects. It is only when you have a supportive family that you can deal with the bullying properly and directly; unfortunately neither of these families were able to accomplish this.

I’m intentionally being quite vague in describing what makes this novel horrific and terrifying. Doing so would destroy scenes of story and character building that are so outstanding that I feel it would take away from the reading experience.  An incredibly dark and twisted story with seriously tormented and disturbed characters, Save Yourself  is a novel that I continue to think about, months after reading it. While this is my first sampling of Braffet’s work, it will most definitely not be my last.  Highly, highly recommended, a novel that will certainly top my favorite reads of the year!

It’s not secret that Braffet comes from a family of talented authors.  Read this New York Times article about Kelly, her husband Owen King,  and, yes, you guessed it…the rest of the King clan. Can I tell you how much I want to be a part of this outstandingly talented family!?

 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour!

Review: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth Silver

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (June 11, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 038534743X
  • Source: Publisher

Ten years ago, accused of first-degree murder, Noa P. Singleton not once spoke up in her own defense. Now, just six months away from her execution date, Noa is visited by Marlene Dixon, a powerful Philadelphia lawyer and the mother of the young woman Noa was convicted of killing.  Marlene’s view of the death penalty has changed; she is now willing to work to commute Noa’s sentence to life in prison if Noa will do just one thing: share what happened that fateful day.

Up until this point, Noa has refused to share her story. She shares a secret with Marlene, one that ties them both to the murder. Noa feels that Marlene doesn’t deserve the salvation and closure that she so desperately demands.

The author leads the reader through the past revealing Noa’s tumultuous life, raised by her selfish, self-absorbed mother. It isn’t until she’s an adult that Noa ever meets her father.  As the pages turn and the reader learns more about Noa’s life, she develops into quite the sympathetic character. Surprisingly sane despite spending the last decade in prison, the extent of Noa’s intense desire to take the blame for this young woman’s death is truly heartbreaking.

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is an intense psychological thriller filled to the brim with twists and turns. While the reader knows immediately that Noa is imprisoned, it isn’t until much later in the novel that the crime she is convicted for is revealed.  Learning of Noa’s less than healthy upbringing, readers will want to sympathize with her, but since she is a convicted killer I found myself struggling with who to trust. Both Noa, given her crime, and Marlene, given her emotional connection to the crime, are incredibly unreliable characters.  Through Noa’s flashbacks and Marlene’s letters to her dead daughter, we are slowly given access to the motivations and feelings exhibited by each of these characters. The parallel narratives battle with one another, challenging the reader to come to his/her determination about the culpability and believability of each of the characters.

Silver’s knowledge of the justice system is quite profound. She has her own way of criticizing our current system, particularly on the side of the defendant. Noa had no one to speak up for her when she refused to do it herself, no one to examine the procedures and practices enforced both before and during her trial. Had someone been her advocate, done a little digging around into the crime itself, it is quite possible she wouldn’t be preparing for her own execution.

I found it quite shocking to read that this is Silver’s first novel. Her talent at teasing the reader, revealing information bit by bit and thereby increasing the intensity page by page, seems like it would come from a veteran writer. This skill, and the fact that I was kept guessing up until the very end, has me applauding for this author’s skilled talent.

A completely captivating, intellectually stimulating psychological thriller, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is the perfect evidence to indicate that this is an author to watch. Highly, highly recommended!

About the author:

Silver, a writer, attorney, and former English teacher, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, the MA Program in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia in England, and Temple University Beasley School of Law. She studied capital punishment with some of the nation’s leading anti-death penalty attorneys at the University of Texas School of Law at Austin, where she worked on a clemency petition, and later worked as a Judicial Clerk for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. As part of the clemency investigation, she visited death row, interviewed inmates and met with victim family members. While exploring the provocative and polarizing issues of the death penalty, Silver wanted to present both sides of the issue, and thus her novel was born. Silver’s taut writing, which has brought recognition from Glimmer Train, funding from the NEA, and writing residencies in Spain and France, carries the reader forward to the story’s shocking end.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Please be sure to check out the other stops in this tour; I guarantee this book will have people talking!

Frightful Friday: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured book is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (June 5, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 030758836X
  • Source: Publisher

Nick & Amy Dunne are celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary. The couple has experienced their share of challenges recently, both losing jobs, forcing them to move back to Nick’s hometown of Carthage, Missouri.  Nick now runs a bar with his sister, Margo.

Any normal couple would be making dinner plans on their anniversary. We learn early on, however, that Nick & Amy aren’t your average couple. On the the surface perhaps, but deep down…

When Amy suddenly goes missing Nick is instantly put under pressure by the local police. The “crime scene” looks staged; only one room in the house shows evidence of a  struggle.  Nick decides to use the scavenger hunt Amy created for him (her traditional anniversary gift to him) to trace her steps the days preceding her disappearance. Meanwhile the police discover Amy’s diary, the her entries revealing an abusive marriage. The evidence continues to build against Nick and the town’s golden boy begins to crumble. Secrets he’s hidden from Margo (“Go”), his closest of confidants, cast even more doubt to his innocence.  Nick’s mission to follow Amy’s scavenger hunt to the very end becomes more necessary and as he follows each clue, he begins to understand the meaning behind each of the locations.

As with her previous books, Flynn builds a tremendously well-plotted thriller, leaving the reader questioning the guilt or innocence of Nick. The point of view alternates between Nick & Amy. Not too far into the book, a bombshell is revealed, which forced me to quite literally shout out in both disbelief and delight.  She elicits this reaction in me near the end of the book, making me realize I shouldn’t read this book in public. She twists aspects of everyday marriage into a sadistic mutation of love. I mean this in the nicest way, but her writing and her characters remind me of driving past the scene a car accident…you want to stop looking, you think you should stop looking, but you can’t tear yourself away.

A fan of Flynn’s writing for years, I was so ecstatic to see that she’s done it again, producing an absolutely mind-bending,  psychologically tormenting/thrilling read! Having met the author, it amazes me that she could write characters so twisted and demented.  I think it is for this very reason I have remained a devoted fan of Flynn’s writing, basically ready to devour anything she writes. She creates a facade to her characters and then shatters it when the timing is right. A truly talented and skilled writer, to say the least. I’m also excited that so many readers are discovering Flynn’s writing thanks to this book. Hello! It’s about time!

Bottom line, this book will without a doubt top my list of favorite books. Highly, highly recommended.

Please be sure to check out the other stops in this tour!

Review: Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (May 22, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0307395057
  • Source: Publisher

Clover is a mom in her early fifties. Due to her husband’s busy schedule as a pediatrician, she gave up her passion as a journalist to attend to her children’s very busy social schedules. Her routine consists of making lunches, transporting her children to and from activities, cleaning the house and making dinner. She’s never really noticed by her family, including her husband Arthur, unless one of these obligations goes unfulfilled.

One morning, she steps out of the shower, looks in the mirror as she brushes her teeth, only to find she can’t see herself. It isn’t due to the steam on the mirror; she’s literally invisible. Obviously, she panics, pulling her son out of bed, questioning of he can see her. A college-graduate that has returned home as he struggles to find a job, Nick barely lifts his head to acknowledge his mother’s presence, much less look at her.

Minutes later she walks past a mirror and Clover is able to see her reflection. Puzzled by what happened, slightly concerned that these were symptoms of a stroke, Clover rushes to her best friend Gilda’s house across the street. Clover explains what happened, but Gilda takes it all in stride, assuming Clover’s claims of being invisible aren’t literal. She assures Clover that all women their age feels this way:

It’s just the plight of a woman after a certain age. No one can see you…we’re nothing but the ghosts of our former selves.

Clover goes on with the rest of her day, returning to her regular routine. The next morning, however, she wakes up to find herself invisible again. Once again, her husband and her children don’t notice. The clothes she’s wearing are visible, just not her body. Her family barely glances at her all morning, completely ignorant of the fact she’s not there.

At Gilda’s recommendation, Clover goes to the doctor who, like her children, barely acknowledge her existence. Continued to be shocked that no one other than Gilda has noticed a problem, Clover once again continues with her regular routine. Until, that is, she spots an advertisement in the paper announcing a meeting of invisible women.

At this meeting, Clover discovers a large group of women who are going through the very same experience as she. She soon realizes they all have something in common: They were all prescribed the same cocktail of drugs to battle medical issues for women of their age, including hormone replacement therapy, calcium supplements, and antidepressants. One pharmacological company is responsible for their current situation. However, like the people in each of these women’s lives, the drug company is oblivious to these women.

Meeting these other invisible women inspires Clover. She uses her “disability” to her advantage and begins to follow her family around during the day. She’s able to experience their lives in a way she was unable to before. She sees how stressful Arthur’s day is a t work, understands the frustrations her children are experiencing. She begins to repair damage to these relationships, a repair that perhaps couldn’t have been possible otherwise. Additionally, along with another invisible woman, Clover takes on the drug company that put them in this situation in the first place. In the end, her disability provides her strength to make right the wrongs in her life, giving Clover a confidence she hadn’t felt in years.

Calling Invisible Women is, without a doubt, the most unique take on the plight of women who have been forgotten and ignored by their loved ones.  While I am nearly 15 years younger than Clover, I can state that there are times I have felt ignored or taken advantage of by my boys and husband. And, like with Clover’s case, this isn’t intentional. We all get caught in the daily routine of life, forgetting to be thankful for what we’ve been given. And while in this case the victims are women, I’m certain almost any individual can sympathize with Clover’s plight, feeling unappreciated or unacknowledged.

Clover embraces her invisibility with a great deal of witty humor. I’m not certain I could remain as calm as she did, given the circumstances. This leads me to the main issue I had with Clover’s character: she forgives her family for their ignorance about her condition. She sees how busy her husband’s work day is and forgives him, almost too easily. I don’t know that I would be as forgiving. Sleeping in the same bed as a person, having sex with that person, only to be oblivious to the fact they are invisible? Granted, there is a real need to suspend disbelief while reading this novel, for obvious reasons. Given there is a great deal of things I gained while reading this book, I can overlook this one issue.

In the end, Calling Invisible Women is a book that I find a large number of individuals, not only women, can relate to. Highly recommended.

Review: In My Father’s Country by Saima Wahab

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (April 24, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0307884945
  • Source: Publisher

Saima Wahab was just three years old when her father was arrested by the KGB at their home in Kabul, Afghanistan.  This was the last time she would ever see him, this action just the start of Saima’s painful early memories. Caught in the middle of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, Saima’s mother was forced to raise Saima and her five siblings on her own.

When Saima was fifteen it was decided that Saima should go live with an uncles in Portland, OR so that she may receive an education.  Despite having to learn a completely new language Saima was able to graduate high school in just three years. While her education seemed to flourish,  Saima found it difficult to blend into the American culture. She also found it near impossible to blend her Afghan roots and culture with her new life in America.  This caused a great deal of turmoil for her emotionally.

Her hopes and prayers were answered in 2004 when she received a phone call, offering her a job as a translator to assist the troops stationed in Afghanistan.  In a sense her life had come full-circle, returning to the land of her birth, her role to enhance communications with U.S. forces and the local people.

Saima’s journey, from her departure from Afghanistan as a teen to her return as an adult, is truly a remarkable one. As citizens of the United States, the only view we get of this country is what the news stations decide to share with us. We often only get to see the dark and devastating aspects of a war-torn nation. We don’t get to drill down to the grass roots level and see what beauty does exist among on the turmoil.

Saima’s story opened up my eyes to a whole new world, a whole new Afghanistan. I am forever thankful for this glimpse at a nation I admit to being ignorant about. Additionally, the risks she took in order to fulfill her mission were quite high, there were many times she didn’t know whether or not she would come back alive. Saima’s story, her struggles, are empowering.  This, by far, is one of the most memorable memoirs I have ever read, Saima’s strength and dedication proving that so much is possible when one individual has a passion so great that it triumphs adversity. Highly, highly recommended.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this book. Please check out the other stops in this tour on the tour web page.

 

Frightful Friday: Nocturnal by Scott Sigler

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s Frightful Friday featured book is Nocturnal by Scott Sigler:

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1St Edition edition (April 3, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0307406342
  • Source: Publisher

Inspector Bryan Clauser of the San Francisco Police Department is horrified of the dreams he’s been having, dreams of horrible crimes that have come true. With the aid of his partner, Pookie, he begins to investigate these crimes. Both become frustrated when it seems that those higher up in the department are attempting to prevent Bryan & Pookie from discovering what is really happening. A common thread among all of the victims: they were individuals known to have bullied a teenage boy, Rex Deprovdechuk.

Rex has quite the horrible life, beat up continuously by a gang of bullies at school, then beat by his ultra-religious mother at home. He’s a bit of a wimp, unable to stand up to those that ridicule him. To seek his revenge, he draws horribly graphic pictures involving cruel punishments beset upon this bullies.  When these bullies wind up dead, cause of death identical to the acts in the drawings, Rex isn’t frightened. He feels empowered.

Forensic evidence indicates the savage crimes originally believed to be performed by an animal are in fact done at at the hands of a human. This is just the beginning of a host of evidence revealing a dark and terrifying world, hidden under the streets of San Francisco.

Joined by Aggie, a vagrant held captive by the very men/creatures who are committing these crimes,  Bryan and Pookie embark upon a war with creatures beyond imagination.

Nocturnal
is truly a unique book, a perfect combination of police procedural, urban fantasy, bio-tech science fiction, and horror. At nearly 600 pages, this isn’t a book that you pick up and read within a few hours, but a true investment of time. An investment that is well worth it, in my mind.  The length of the book is necessary, giving Sigler the opportunity to really lay out and develop the characters.  The chapters are short, allowing the reader’s attention to intensify with each turn of the page. While I did take breaks while reading, I found myself melded to the pages, unable to take a break, desperate to learn more. Several late nights were involved in the reading of this book!

As with his previous books, Sigler provides readers with a completely unique and ingenious storyline.  The world he creates is one like none other, filled with monsters that make your skin crawl and force you to sleep with the light on. In other words: brilliant.  Certainly not for the week of heart (or stomach), if you think you have what it takes to face the underbelly of San Francisco,  Nocturnal  is the book for you. Highly recommended.

Following is the book trailer. Also not for the weak of heart (or stomach):

Review: The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (January 24, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0307460185
  • Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)

Germany, 1945: Elsie Schmidt is relatively secluded from the dangers of the world, thanks to a high-ranking Nazi officer who wishes to marry her. On Christmas Eve the facade begins to fade, two separate incidents cracking the shell that has surrounded her for so long. 

El Paso, TX Present time: Reba Adams is working on an up-beat, feel-good, Christmas piece for a local magazine.  She’s been attempting to secure an interview with the owner of a local German bakery for some time. She’s relatively new to El Paso, her difficult childhood has left her unable to settle down in one location for too long. Her fiance, Riki Chavez, works as a Border Patrol agent.

When Reba is finally able to meet the owner of Elsie’s German Bakery, the relationship takes an unexpected turn.  She begins making repeated visits, Elsie and her daughter Jane become integral parts of Reba’s life. Through her conversations with Elsie, Reba learns of the darker times of Elsie’s childhood, the circumstances that brought her to El Paso, seemingly an entirely different world as compared to Nazi Germany.  While the two aren’t necessarily the same, they share similar components.  Still, the difficulties that Riki deals with as a border agent pale in comparison to what Elsie dealt with as a young woman in Germany. Her stories of her sister Hazel’s sacrifices in the name of  the Fatherland are heartbreaking, almost unbelievable.  It is with Elsie that Reba deals with the often hidden truths of the pasts and discovers the importance of forgiveness.

The Baker’s Daughter is a truly beautiful story of two women, separated in age by decades, who really aren’t that different at all. Coinciding with the stories of these two women are the difficult topics of cultural inclusion (and exclusion), a topic that is very timely in our country at this time.  Elsie is a an incredibly brave and selfless individual, the transition the reader sees in her as a young woman into a business woman in El Paso is tremendous. Thanks to Reba, Elsie opens up about her past, sharing with her daughter, Jane, secrets long buried.

I’d be remiss not to mention the food aspect of this book. Elsie’s family, the Schmidts, are a family of bakers whose shop barely survived the War. The reader is teased by discussions of delicious German pastries and baked goods, ultimately rewarded with recipes at the book’s conclusion. A woman of German heritage myself, the food, the terms of endearment, the history this family shared brought back fond memories of my own.

McCoy paints a very honest and obviously quite well-researched story about how unveiling the past can help those in the present, how past traumas can be used as moments of inspiration and growth. The Baker’s Daughter is a story that I will forever cherish, a story that sparked hours of discussion with my husband (a history buff), a truly inspirational tale.  Highly recommended.

 

Frightful Friday: The Innocent by Taylor Stevens

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week. Feel free to grab the button & join in!

This week’s featured book is The Innocent by Taylor Stevens:

  • Hardcover:352 pages
  • Publisher:Crown (December 27, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0307717127
  • Source: Publisher

In the follow up to The Informationist , Vanessa Michael Munroe returns for yet another mission, this one hitting a bit closer to home.  It requires her to once again take a step inside the cult world, this time to rescue a young girl.

Eight years ago, five-year-old Hannah was abducted from her school, taken across the border into Mexico, and into the arms of The Chosen.  For the past several years, members of the cult have moved her from country to country to hide her.  A group of childhood survivors of The Chosen, now in their thirties, have survived life outside the cult. They see the “outside” world isn’t as it was portrayed by the cult leaders, and they are desperate free Hannah from the abusive conditions of the cult. They turn to Munroe, realizing they have to put faith in someone that doesn’t trust them in order to get Hannah back.  The line “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” comes into play in this novel quite a bit.

Realizing first-hand the conditions of living in a cult, Munroe agrees and heads to Argentina. The mission is at the request of her best friend Logan, a man that has been there for Munroe through thick and thin.  Munroe is a seriously wounded individual, nightmares about her past plague her nightly. Her fate would be far different if it were not for Logan.

Assuming the role of a donor to The Chosen, Munroe is able to get inside the cult’s compound and see just how “brainwashed” the member are, especially the children. They have been warned of the dangers of the outside world, told that individuals on the outside are lying and deceitful, set against putting an end to the cult. For many, the cult is all they know; they’ve become ingrained in the teachings and take what they are told to heart.  When Munroe is able to locate Hannah, she doesn’t have the easiest time in convincing her to leave. Hannah is now a teen, her formative years spent hearing the teachings of the cult over and over again. Despite knowing some of the actions of the leaders seem wrong, she is told that her compliance is her duty and her way of showing love and respect to the leaders.

Several scenes throughout the book are quite disturbing: male leaders touching the children inappropriately, older female children being led off to be raped by the older leaders. Certainly not a light read, but coming from a a former member of a cult herself, the author gains credibility and credence immediately.

While not as “action-heavy” as the The Informationist  I really appreciated seeing the weaker side of Munroe. Despite her strong appearance, she really is a damaged individual and in The Innocent, her stability has reached an all new low. Her obsession with knives, her determination to stop at nothing to complete a mission, is all a way for her to deal with her incredibly troubled past.

As with The Informationist , in The Innocent Taylor Stevens portrays an incredibly unique storyline, well developed (and slightly disturbed) characters, a fantastic, fast-paced thriller. This is book that will entice you from the beginning, the action carrying through to the conclusion. I cannot wait for more from this author, she’s quickly become one of my favorite female thriller authors.  I’m excited for the next book in this series, The Doll, due out in 2013.  Highly recommended!

Mx3: Review: The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (October 4, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0307394999

Chip & Emily Lipton are desperately attempting to rebuild their lives with their ten-year-old twin daughters after the tragic accident that brought Chip’s career as a pilot to an end.

Months earlier, Chip had to make an emergency landing of a small regional jet when birds engulfed by the engines caused them to fail. His attempts to replicate the famous Sully Sullenberger landing in the Hudson River failed miserably. Thirty-nine people lost their lives in this crash, a young girl being one of them.

The Liptons decide to move to New Hampshire from Pennsylvania in an attempts to rebuild a new life.  No one blames Chip for the accident, but a fresh start would be best for everyone involved.  The small town they move to is called Bethel, their new home a beautiful Victorian building with its own greenhouse.

The townspeople are welcoming, particularly when they learn the children moving into the home are twins.  Apparently this home has a past of it’s own, involving a twelve-year-old boy, a twin, committing suicide.  The mother never really recovered from his death and was forever known as quite the eccentric woman.

Of course, the Liptons don’t discover any of this until they’ve moved into the home.  Something else mysterious they discover lays in the basement: a old chimney chute sealed shut with 39 6-inch long carriage bolts.

Once they move in, the Liptons start to make their new home their own. Chip understandably feels a great deal of grief and depression about the plane crash.  His soul is forever haunted and the old building he now calls his home seems to have a few dreaded secrets of its own.  Weakened due to his depression, Chip gets sucked in to the ghosts of their new home, ghosts that have followed him from the watery plane crash. He speaks to them as if they were alive. The most chilling ghost is that of a father who died along with his daughter. He’s extremely hateful toward Chip, insisting that his daughter deserves to have a friend. Chip’s solution to this problem is a frightening one, very reminiscent of scenes from Stephen King’s The Shining.

The eerie townspeople are drawn to the girls.  Decades ago, a horrible tragedy took place involving the last twin to live in this town…in this house. The ladies of the town, obsessed with baking, home remedies, and “herbal” potions, descend upon the girls. They deny being witches, but their obsession with mixing herbs and potions make this claim undeniable. They welcome the family with extravagant baked goods and other dishes, almost forcing the family (particularly Chip) to eat them.

What may seem like a confusing mix of multiple storylines, The Night Strangers really is an impressive genre-bending piece of fiction. As with past books, Bohjalian melds ancient practices (in this case “witchcraft) with the present. The Night Strangers  turned out to be a very different book than I expected.  It’s not simply a ghost story, but also a family’s attempts to recover after tragedy amidst a town full of secrets. It is a book that you do not rush through; the pacing is slow, complementing the building and development of the characters along with the storyline.  Those looking for a quick, surface level ghost story will be disappointed, for The Night Strangers really is quite the complex novel, with many different layers to sift through. It is a book I will find myself rereading, for it has so much depth to it that I guarantee I will pick up on bits and pieces I missed along the way.

My only complaint would be the continuous references to “Sully” Sullenberger and the landing of flight 1549 in the Hudson River.  I feel a few mentions would be enough.  Perhaps it was done to reiterate how devastated Chip was by the loss of passengers, his failure at landing a plane as Sully did. Ultimately, however, I found myself skipping passages in which Sully was mentioned. Additionally, I feel adding so many references to an actual “modern” event detracts from the story, lessens the life of the storyline.  Years down the road, readers unfamiliar to this event will be left confused.

Bottom line: If you are looking for a literary mystery/horror, filled to the brim with complex characters and storyline, then this is the book for you! Highly recommended.

 *Warning: Due to the subject matter, I would not recommend reading this book while on a plane, or immediately prior to boarding a plane!*