The elderly members of The Chowder Society meet regularly to tell each other stories, but after one of their number dies, the stories become more ghoulish in nature. More disturbingly, each of the remaining members begins to experience similar, nightmarish, dreams. Contacting the nephew of their dead friend, they find he also has something to contribute to their shared nocturnal visions, forcing them to explore people and events from their collective past—a past they’d much rather forget.
The book begins with a tale that at first appears to have no relation to the rest of the novel—a man who has apparently kidnapped a young girl, sets off across the country for reasons we aren’t told. This is the author’s way of hooking us in with a puzzle, while he takes his time revealing the rest of this spooky tale.
‘Ghost Story’ isn’t the easiest book to read, not least because of its tendency to go off at a tangent. Many of the episodes that make up the plot seem, at first, to be unconnected with what’s going on in the town of Millburn, but as the main characters get pulled into the events and the strange deaths occurring in the town, the tension begins to mount. While the book isn’t scary in the same way as other classic horror novels are, there’s a creepiness to it that is undeniably disturbing. As the narrative proceeds, the author gradually draws the many strands of the plot together, and at the same time, ups the eeriness stakes to such a degree that I reached a point where I couldn’t allow myself to put the book down until I reached the end.
Written in the late seventies, this is an epic of creeping horror that has influenced many other writers (Stephen King included) and is a must for fans of all things scary. Though occasionally confusing and complex, the storytelling is superb and left me feeling like I’d experienced something special.