Peter Straub
McCann & Geoghegan

“What was the worst thing you’ve ever done?”
“I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me…the most dreadful thing…”

In a seedy motel in Florida, a young man holds captive a little girl in a soiled pink dress. He is anxious, tormented, introspective. She is calm, passive, strangely detached. She says her name is Angie Maule. In the small upstate town of Milburn, New York, four old friends meet to honor the traditions of the Chowder Society. They drink good whiskey and trade ghost stories. As chilling as these tales are, and as strangely prophetic, they pale before the horrific nightmares that began a year ago when one of their members attended a party for a visiting actress — and there died of a heart attack. Or was it fright? She says her name is Ann-Veronica Moore. In California, a talented young novelist teaching creative writing at Berkeley finds himself hopelessly obsessed with one of his students. She is exquisitely lovely, infernally elusive. She says her name is Alma Mobley. What is the connection between these places, these people, these agonizing events?

This being only the second novel of Peter Straub’s that I’ve read so far (not counting the two he co-authored with Stephen King), already he is established in my mind as a horror writer’s horror writer. Ghost Story reverberates with a depth and dark atmosphere that brings to mind the classic ghost stories and dark tales of Hawthorne and Poe and Henry James — all of which are referenced frequently throughout the novel.

Straub writes in a way that allows the story to breathe freely; the pacing is deliberately slow and moderate, allowing the tension to build as the story unravels and all the pieces fall into place. Set in a small New England town in late fall and winter adds to the atmosphere that pulls off the creepy vibe within the story; the dialogue between the characters engaging and, for lack of a better word, real. It’s been a while since I’ve read a good, thick yarn that filled me with the constant creeps. Ghost Story is just that…a frightening tale that will keep you up at night and jump at the wind howling outside your window. Recommended…