The Night Visitors, due out March 26th, is only the second Carol Goodman novel I've read, but it's the second one in the last month, as I'm on a reading mission to enjoy all of her thrilling tales. She has already become an author of consistent satisfaction for me. Carol Goodman knows how to tell a story, to pull a reader in from the beginning and to keep the suspense building without pause. The Night Visitors is a story of survival on so many levels, with twists from the past and the present that will rise up to shake the foundations of what you think you've figured out. It's a reader's paradise of unpredictability. And, yet, Goodman writes with what I can only describe as a confidence that transfers to the reader as trust in being lead through the maze to a resolution. The characters are deftly drawn to evoke investment in their outcome, with even the flaws of characters being a part you want to understand. There are, of course, the main characters with whom readers will be wholly involved, but the minor characters and the "bad guys" are riveting in their roles. Then, there is a touch of the other worldly in the presence of another character who, while he certainly doesn't make it a ghost story, eerily contributes to the progression of events.
The Night Visitors begins on a bus ride at night in the cold and often unforgiving conditions of an upper New York state winter. The setting speaks to the desolation of Alice and Oren, two battered souls traveling on the bus to escape their abuser. Alice, in her thirties, and Oren, a ten-year-old boy who uses his love of Star Wars to dissociate from the brutalities of his situation, arrive in the small town of Delphi, New York in the middle of a snowstorm, Alice having called a hotline for help and being directed to that location. Mattie Lane is a seasoned, fiftyish social worker who is used to getting the late night calls to meet a bus, as she lives alone and is readily available. When she sees Alice and Oren, Mattie is immediately drawn to the young boy, as he reminds her of Caleb, her little brother who had died at the same age as Oren is. The plan and protocol to take Alice and Oren to a nearby convent that houses abuse victims on their way to a more permanent solution is disregarded by Mattie, as the snowstorm makes taking them to her house, even closer, overnight a seemingly better idea. It's a rule that is not broken lightly, as the result is too often an undesirable one. But, with the weather and, of course, Mattie's interest in the boy guiding her, it's to her home they go.
Mattie still lives in her family home, a large house in the country, a place that has known its share of grief and sadness. Its isolation and its dilapidated condition add to an already dark and possibly dangerous atmosphere. When traces of Caleb seem to be making their appearance, the foreboding setting takes an even more intense turn. Oren reveals some unique gifts of clairvoyance and an understanding beyond his years, which will become important to the efforts of the three to survive. Mattie and Alice play things closer to the vest, each with secrets that are part of the puzzle to enable them to navigate the twists of the story. And, Mattie's secrets contain some that even she isn't aware of, so they are especially dangerous. Struggling to ensure that Alice and Oren get the chance for a new life, Mattie takes measures to fortify the house and themselves against those who wish them harm. Then, like in all great stories of suspense and twist, the lights go out. When the lights are restored, Mattie will have learned truths that could either break her or set her free.
I was so fortunate to receive a copy of The Night Visitors from the author, who so graciously stated that she hoped I enjoyed it but was under no obligation to do so. Well, I did enjoy it and highly recommend it. It is a captivating story that has perfect timing, chilling twists, and is brilliantly written.