Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

In the Night Room

Rate this book
In his latest soul-chilling novel, bestselling author Peter Straub tells of a famous children's book author who, in the wake of a grotesque accident, realizes that the most basic facts of her existence, including her existence itself, have come into question.
Willy Patrick, the respected author of the award-winning young-adult novel In the Night Room, thinks she is losing her mind-again. One day, she is drawn helplessly into the parking lot of a warehouse. She knows somehow that her daughter, Holly, is being held in the building, and she has an overwhelming need to rescue her. But what Willy knows is impossible, for her daughter is dead.
On the same day, author Timothy Underhill, who has been struggling with a new book about a troubled young woman, is confronted with the ghost of his nine-year-old sister, April. Soon after, he begins to receive eerie, fragmented e-mails that he finally realizes are from people he knew in his youth-people now dead. Like his sister, they want urgently to tell him something. When Willy and Timothy meet, the frightening parallels between Willy's tragic loss and the story in Tim's manuscript suggest that they must join forces to confront the evils surrounding them.

368 pages, Paperback

First published October 20, 2004

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Peter Straub

242 books3,810 followers
Peter Straub was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of Gordon Anthony Straub and Elvena (Nilsestuen) Straub.

Straub read voraciously from an early age, but his literary interests did not please his parents; his father hoped that he would grow up to be a professional athlete, while his mother wanted him to be a Lutheran minister. He attended Milwaukee Country Day School on a scholarship, and, during his time there, began writing.

Straub earned an honors BA in English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1965, and an MA at Columbia University a year later. He briefly taught English at Milwaukee Country Day, then moved to Dublin, Ireland, in 1969 to work on a PhD, and to start writing professionally

After mixed success with two attempts at literary mainstream novels in the mid-1970s ("Marriages" and "Under Venus"), Straub dabbled in the supernatural for the first time with "Julia" (1975). He then wrote "If You Could See Me Now" (1977), and came to widespread public attention with his fifth novel, "Ghost Story" (1979), which was a critical success and was later adapted into a 1981 film. Several horror novels followed, with growing success, including "The Talisman" and "Black House", two fantasy-horror collaborations with Straub's long-time friend and fellow author Stephen King.

In addition to his many novels, he published several works of poetry during his lifetime.

In 1966, Straub married Susan Bitker.They had two children; their daughter, Emma Straub, is also a novelist. The family lived in Dublin from 1969 to 1972, in London from 1972 to 1979, and in the New York City area from 1979 onwards.

Straub died on September 4, 2022, aged 79, from complications of a broken hip. At the time of his death, he and his wife lived in Brooklyn (New York City).

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
487 (16%)
4 stars
881 (30%)
3 stars
1,048 (35%)
2 stars
374 (12%)
1 star
137 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 226 reviews
Profile Image for Dave Edmunds.
245 reviews51 followers
June 17, 2022

“Are you scared?”“Ask a really stupid question, why don’t you?”“Me, too. My heart’s beating like crazy. I don’t know if I can go in there.”“Then don’t. It’s my night room, not yours.”

4.25 ⭐'s

Initial Thoughts

I'm becoming a bit of a Peter Straub fan. After reading some great entries like Ghost Story, the Throat and Koko, I literally cannot stay away from the guys work. He has an antiquated and detailed style that really vibes with me. So after reading the excellent Lost Boy Lost Girl last month, I wasn't hanging about to dive into its sequel of sorts In the Night Room. Certainly not when I discovered that it won the Bram Stoker award for best novel in 2004; I was expecting big things.

So what exactly is a Night Room? Sounds like the kind of thing you'd find on children's television, am I right? Well not in the twisted world of the sensational Peter Straub. You've got to be expecting something dark and sinister with a supernatural undertone, because like it or not that is exactly what you're going to get!

This novel sees the return of recurring protagonist Timothy Underhill, an ex Vietnam War veteran turned novelist, who first appeared in the spectacular Koko. A key figure in Straub's Blue Rose trilogy he continues to pop up in a number of his novels and short stories. In Lost Boy, Lost Girl Underhill dealt with serial killers and a haunted house, so god only knows what was in store for him in this one.

"it was as though great plumes and ribbons of darkness streamed from the chimney, the windows, the crack beneath the front door. I could see it that way, as a monstrous wickedness engine, polluting the atmosphere around it with its own substance."

The Story

In the Night Room has a crazy plot that is difficult to describe. But I'm going to have a stab at giving you a brief synopsis. Our main man Timmy Underhill, still haunted by the childhood death of his sister April, is receiving a boat load of cryptic e-mail messages registered to unidentified domains that appear to be from dead friends and acquaintances. A certain author in particular stands out to him and hints toward a sinister course of action in his imminent future.

We then have a parallel plot running, with award-winning YA author Willy Bryce Patrick. She wrote a book titled In the Night Room. Now that rings a bell somewhere.
She's not having the best of luck as she undergoes a series of unfortunate events involving her tall dark and handsome husband to be, Mitchell Faber.

Story alternates between the two writers and clues start to appear that point toward links between the two. All I'll say is there's some big surprises in store and some that caught me completely off guard, to the point where I still haven't picked my jaw back up off the floor and unscrambled my two brain cells.

The Writing

My favourite part when it comes to Straub is the writing. The guy is s serious talent and I love his style. There's a gothic undertone with his prose, that are sharp and extremely articulate, as he uses tension and atmosphere to build a mounting sense of dread. There were certain points in this one where I thought "this is Straub at his best." I'm not saying that overall it's his best written book but at certain parts I was taken aback by the shear quality.

And with such an ability to manipulate language this author can still tease my imagination with some vivid imagery, challenging my imagination with a myriad of fantastic concepts. This book will get you thinking and expand your mind as Straub explores the actual concept of writing and character development within the confines of an engaging plot. There's levels within this story and as a reader I was constantly asking myself how far this was going to go.

"many of the women were decades younger than their husbands, thereby generally obliged to exercise a kind of behavioral modification akin to the pushing of a “Mute” button."

And before I forget, Straub also throws in a good bit of humour that had me chuckling in parts. Some of the emails verge on the hilarious as is the banter between the two main characters and it's an aspect of the writing I definitely enjoyed. I appreciate it when an author can skillfully manipulate your emotional response and make you laugh as well as shake with fear.

The Characters

Straub does some fantastic characters. He's not quite on Stephen King or Robert McCammon level, in terms of the depth he adds, but he knows how to craft a set that are realistic and well developed to the point where you wouldn’t be surprised if they stepped right out of the pages of the book!

Willy Bryce Patrick

Willy in particular was intriguing and likeable. It took me a while to work her out but when I did I definitely started to care about her. Tim Underhill is always a favourite and is getting really well developed if you track his character throughout each of the stories he appears. Although with Straub getting quite meta it's always debatable as to what aspects of a character are real or imagined.

I've got to say the relationship between these two central characters is the highlight of the novel and really fascinating. I can't say exactly why it is, because that'll give the game away, but you'll know exactly what I mean when you read it. And read it you will or I'll send the boys round to pin your eyes open (Clockwork Orange style) and force you to!

Final Thoughts

Overall this was an entertaining novel, crazy at times, where Straub decided to have some real fun. The story did loose a bit of momentum toward the end, as the pacing is a tad bit inconsistent, and there's a few threads that just weren't followed up on. The character of Cyrax and his origins appeared vital but was just completely abandoned. But they're my only real complaints and this novel was mostly a blast.

A lot of the themes that prevail were examined when Straub wrote with Stephen King in Black House and The Talisman. But he tackles them in an original and refreshing way and it's vastly different from the Dark Tower. I really think his contribution in those two novels is severely understated by the majority of hardcore King fans based on what I've read from him so far.

Fantastic photo of Straub and King

Despite being a horror this is far from an all out bloodbath. So if that's what you're after then definitely look elsewhere. I can recommend you a few of those in the comments if that's what you're after! But if what you fancy is an intelligent, engaging story that challenges the grey matter then this is the book for you.

Its original, astonishingly smart and expertly entertaining. A few aspects prevent it from getting top marks. But a solid four stars no question. In fact I'm feeling generous so it's getting 4.25.

"Nothing is as it seems, and those who pretend to act in the name of good in fact serve dark and evil masters.”

Thanks for reading. Cheers!
Profile Image for Kerri.
970 reviews344 followers
February 10, 2023
This is a difficult book to describe, but I loved reading it and got completely caught up with Tim Underhill and Willy Patrick. I'll definitely be reading more by Peter Straub in the future.
Profile Image for Jonathan Briggs.
176 reviews37 followers
August 2, 2012
About 20 pages into "In The Night Room," Peter Straub reveals that his previous book, "lost boy lost girl," was a bit of a put-on, a fictional novel written by Straub's fictional alter ego, Timothy Underhill. That seems kind of a dirty trick to play on readers who invested their time and suspension of disbelief in "lost boy lost girl." Waddaya mean the last novel was just a novel??!! Waddaya mean you just made it up and it never really happened??!! This is all getting too meta for me. "In The Night Room" tells the "real" story: Underhill wrote "lost boy lost girl" as a way to deal with his grief over the disappearance and presumed murder of his nephew, Mark.

A week away from the publication of "lost boy lost girl," odd things are happening to Tim Underhill. Tim is the recurring hero of a number of Straub's stories and novels, so odd things rarely ever STOP happening to him. This time, it's odd e-mails: cryptic, fragmentary, vaguely threatening messages from untraceable senders. He's hallucinating(?), seeing his sister's ghost and vengeful angels in the streets of New York. An overly aggressive "fan" accosts Underhill at a diner, armed with multiple copies of "lost boy lost girl" (which hasn't even been published yet) and spouting delirious literary theories about rare "real" books -- the books the authors meant to write as opposed to the flawed versions that actually got published. (It's a clever and witty explanation for why some critics praise obviously wretched books: They just got the REAL version.) Tim's mystery e-mail contact explains that a copy of "lost boy lost girl" made it into the afterlife, where apparently the libraries for dead people are filled with "real" books. Tim's novel seriously pissed off a ghost, who has returned for retribution and to clear his name (and they always told me in journalism school that you couldn't libel the dead).

A quick hop across the state line, in New Jersey, Willy Patrick is also being haunted, though more figuratively. She's struggling to cope with the recent murders of her husband and daughter. She's just written a novel for young people called "In The Night Room." Oh, geez, here we go again.

Amid all the literary bait-and-switch, rug-pulling and games of who's-writing-whom is a running commentary on the writing life itself. Straub presents storytelling as a means of salvation for the writer, a way of molding personal pain into something productive. Occasionally, it can even be lifesaving. There's a playful accounting of the practice of book tours, readings, signings and interaction with the fans. (I've been to a few of these, and I've talked to Mr. Straub. Hope I didn't come off as one of THOSE people.) He literalizes the relationship between author and characters around the framework of a chase thriller.

All of this business about writers writing about writers (writing about writers) could be insufferably self-involved, and there's been too damn much of it going on in too many novels. But in Straub's hands, this doesn't feel like solipsism. It's a natural expansion of longtime running themes in Straub's work as he explores the permeable boundaries of what is factual and what is true. "I like the space between," Tim explains. "The space between dreaming and wakefulness. Between imagination and reality. Between no and yes. Between is and is not. That's where the interesting stuff is." (Willy replies, "That's so stupid it might actually mean something.")

"In The Night Room" isn't a good book for readers new to Straub. It's part of a much larger story arc that goes back a decade and a half, maybe even further. Tim Underhill's got a few novels' worth of history that can't be easily summarized, and that could alienate newbies (who should go back and find a copy of "Koko." Enjoy!). But for those faithful who have been eagerly following Straub into the shadows, this is an elegant addition to the dark universe he's been creating for years.
Profile Image for Maciek.
558 reviews3,271 followers
October 4, 2011
I absolutely love the idea which Straub presents in this book - there is a very special edition of each published book, just one copy. It falls from the printing press like all the others, is distributed, stocked and sold, but it's different. It's the book that the author meant to write. The characters, dialogue, plot and wording are perfect; it's a literary miracle. And it is out there, hidden on the shelves, looking just like all the others, waiting for the right hand to pick it up.

In The Night Room is a sequel to Straub's Lost Boy Lost Girl. It relates to the events and characters and it would be difficult for a reader to comprehend the plot without reading it first. And Straub does not make it easy for us: hidden under what appears to be a mystery thriller lies metafiction, stories within stories, characters who are not what they supposed to be, and just plain weirdness. It's impossible to discuss the book without mentioning its plot, and the plot is intricate and detailed, full of surprises, that even a simple mention could ruin a part of it.

Overall, I quite enjoyed it, even with the almost baroque mixture of plots, themes and characters, which is typical of Straub and which I enjoy in his writing. He writes well as always, and provides an interesting insight into the world of writers and their stories, how they are composed and how they intervine with their lives.
Profile Image for Katie Kenig.
513 reviews25 followers
September 10, 2011
Bizarre and fantastical tale of two writers caught up in supernatural events unfolding around them, involving ghosts, a wickedly rabid fiction fan, angels, and a spirit guide who communicated via email, mostly using 1337 5p34k. Which makes long passages of the book a headache to read if you, like me, hate that kind of thing.

I didn't enjoy this book. It was just odd, and for me to say that says a lot, being a chick who loves horror, dystopia and sci-fi, but the story line seemed contrived and self-serving, and half seemed to be a nod promoting Straub's earlier book (Lost Boy Lost Girl) which is mentioned often enough in the text that I considered starting a drinking game around it's mention.

Profile Image for Erica.
1,315 reviews432 followers
November 5, 2013
I think this is a cautionary tale to irresponsible writers. When you don't do your research, when you don't follow through on your stories, when you're a lazy writer but achieve acclaim anyhow, bad things happen. Angry ghosts pee in your home. That's about the only horror aspect I can find in this story.

The idea that a writer's characters can manifest on the same physical plane as the writer, himself, is intriguing and sort of awesome. I mean, think about it, you could write your own super best friend. How fun would that be? It's sort of like the idea of personal robots who can be programmed to be however you want them to be. You get to play god and you get a perfect being in return. Win!
It's not a new idea, no, but it's always a fun idea to me. Thus, knowing that the basis of this story was a writer and his character coming face to face to solve a mystery was what made me want to listen to this book.

It didn't pan out as I'd hoped.

You know how...what's his face - Google says it's Chekhov - says that if you introduce a gun in the first act, it had better have gone off by the last? Well, there are a lot of guns in this story, scattered hither and yon, and most of them just tumble about but never go off - like the goons (see how that looks and sounds like "guns"?) - except for the angry janitor angel who turns out to be more of a squirt gun and generally useless.

I wanted different things from this story. I wanted to be scared but I never was. I wanted to be caught up in the mystery but I never was. I wanted to have some sort of connection to the characters but I never did.

Then there were the aspects I over-analyzed, the things that began to bother me.
1) I hate that Willy is so much the perfect woman that everyone is entranced by her AND she turns a gay man straight, even if it's just in her case. And I'm not saying that there aren't women out there with whom gay men would have sex because I know there are and that's fine, but our gay writer is all, "Oh, I am SHOCKED to feel arousal for a woman because I have NEVER found ANY female REMOTELY hot at all before! I am as gay as the bluebird that sings on a summer's day!" and I have more to say on this issue but not yet. Anyway, Willy's the pouty and mercurial female who is stunningly beautiful, 12-year-old-boy thin, and eats like a cow but only because she's a fictional character come to life and not because she likes to eat.
Poor women. It's so hard to live up to these ideals of perfection.
I never understood, beyond the basic love thyself idea, why Willy and Tim loved each other so very much. I never saw it, never believed their relationship.
2) Back to Tim and his sexual appetites. So he has never been attracted to women, sexually, and yet he can't keep his paws off Willy. Let's look at this.
Willy is an extension of himself and I don't mean as a euphemism for "penis" so, pretty much, he is making mad, passionate love to himself. Ok. That makes sense. He's a writer, they're self-involved, of course he's going to want a piece of himself, even if it's in the shape of a woman, more than he's ever wanted anyone before. He wants himself/her sexually but also as a companion, though it's more of a mentor/apprentice relationship when they're out of bed. He's got so much to teach her because he is her god because he created her. So he's ego-tripping and is sort of an asshole but it's understandable. Maybe not altogether pleasant but still, understandable.
3) But then the reader finds out that Willy looks like Tim's missing-and-presumed-dead nephew, Mark. What does THAT mean? Are we now entering the realm of incest and pedophilia? Mark was 15 when Tim last saw him + Willy's gamine body is mentioned with regularity for the first half of the story; she's shaped like an adolescent boy. So is Tim living out some sort of fantasy about his nephew? That skeeves me out especially since no one in the story wants to think about it. People have strange and sometimes horrible and unhealthy impulses because that's just what people do. I can't judge; I want to bite babies. I want to bite their sausagey-little arms and legs, to gnaw on those fatty little pockets. That's strange and horrible. But I know and acknowledge this about me and I refrain from biting babies because I know I am not supposed to. (Except for the babies who give me permission. Then I nibble them gently. And drool on them. But no one notices because babies are covered in drool all the time anyhow) Tim never acknowledges the possibility that he's having sex with the memory of his nephew and that just disturbed me because it shows he doesn't have to deal with self-awareness or consequences.
4) And finally, unrelated to sex, the meta-fiction. I have come to loathe meta-anything. I actually hate the term "Meta"; it pisses me off. So we have a story written by Peter Straub about a writer named Timothy Underhill who writes about a writer named Willy Patrick, who has a best friend named Tom (so similar to Tim. On purpose) who is also a writer and whose character has self-awareness, as we see in one paragraph which turns out to be one of those guns that just sits there. It's like the cheese that stands alone - so many layers yet no depth; it was far too cutesy, too precious. Like I said, I love the idea of one's characters manifesting but this dream within a dream within a dream within yet another dream thing was overkill and it made me irritated.

The actual writing is fine. Straub can call up some good imagery, can write a scene well when he's not trying to be too clever. I moved through the story, understanding it all as we went, following the plot, understanding the characters even if they were boring or ridiculous or even pointless (looking at you, evil fiance). I had no problems with the writing.
It was the story, itself, that bugged me and a lot of that is because it just never bothered to live up to what I wanted to to achieve.

No, I didn't read Ghost story or Lost Boy, Lost Girl because I didn't realize I needed to before reading this, but I don't think it would have helped anyhow. I'm assuming there's a Kalendar's Realm to be published; I probably won't read that, either. That's more a note to myself, really.
Profile Image for Nick Fagerlund.
345 reviews16 followers
May 27, 2013
This came to my attention via a glowing offhand recommendation from Nick Mamatas:

And Peter Straub’s metafictional In the Night Room compares favorably to anything, anything, written in the past twenty years or so, by anyone.

Do not believe the hype.

I kept reading almost to the end before giving up and skimming, in the increasingly futile hope that it was just doing something really clever by being deliberately awful. Alas, no. I am pretty positive this is just bad. Here is your checklist:

* Über-creepy overuse of the word “gamine.” The exact cumulative effect here was rarified and hard to describe, but you can get pretty close by looking for message board discussions of which underage anime girl is more moe.

* Stephenkingception. Yes, that’s correct, this is a book about a writer writing a book about a writer.

* Incredibly janky and incomplete plotting and structure, which mostly fall into the category of lingering first-draftisms. Characters who think things like “I don’t know why, but I just can’t explain the situation to this other character until much later!” (← paraphrase.) Potentially interesting structural gambits introduced and then completely abandoned. (There’s one passage that briefly looked like it might be an extrusion from a later draft of the book-within-a-book, but it never bore any fruit.) Overly instrumental character mood transitions. Improper mid-boss disposal. Unfired arsenal strewn about this mantlepiece like raccoons got in there. If this shit was only afflicting the fictional fictional world in the story, I’d have eventually decided it was hilarious, but it’s even worse in the first-order fictional world! Unless… :O :O :O there’s a game beyond the game??? NOPE, DON’T CARE.

(There is in fact a game beyond the game, yes, okay, I already know about Lost Boy, Lost Girl, shut up. It doesn’t justify this book sucking.)

* Über-creepy danger-induced sexual pliability in the heroine and ludicrous flattery of protagonist’s sexual prowess. Yes, okay, I get the metafictional joke there, and the other metafictional joke; it was still stomach-turning. Also, to make that joke truly funny, there would have to be a punchline somewhere, a more drastic and thorough negation of Underhill’s expectations (specifically in regard to this Willy’s interior life, not just his expectations on the plot and premise level) later, and the whole thing was ultimately written the same way you’d write it if you weren’t having us on. If a tree falls in the etc. etc. etc.

* Clunky prose. Like, really bad. Bad enough that I really honestly did think it was a ruse until about page 200.

Of course, stirred into the mess are some really good kernels of invention and premise. The bit about the “real books” (every book has a platonic-form perfect version in the higher planes, and copies sometimes leak over between worlds) is obvious poison, but it’s a deliciously seductive poison. The underlying nut of the story is about how fiction can cause real harm, and I can dig that. Kohle was suitably menacing (before he disappeared from the book for the middle three fifths, see above re: janky plotting). I AM GENERALLY DOWN FOR METAFICTION. But none of the rest of it lives up to any of those fragments of promise.

PW gave this thing a starred review. I feel like I am being trolled here and can’t tell who’s doing the trolling. I would say “don’t read this book,” but I actually want you all to read it so you can suffer along with me. >:[
Profile Image for Badseedgirl.
1,243 reviews61 followers
May 23, 2021
I have not red all that many Peter Straub books, but from what I can gather Timothy Underhill is a reoccurring character in Mr. Straub's books. Although apparently they are not an actual series and it is not necessary to read them in order, because in this book Tim Underhill is a 50's something man there is a lot of history that is only touched upon in the book, I felt like I was missing something while reading this book. It did not really effect my ability to enjoy this particular story line, but I feel I missed some character development as far as Mr. Underhill and his family was concerned.

The plot for this story is a little convoluted just because there is a book inside a book, and at one point there is even a third book. If all this sounds a little confusing.... well it was a first, but once I realized what was going on, it was an easy enough plot and I LOVED the premise of this story. It had a very The Neverending Story, or Inkheart. Not in plot, but in tone and premise.

I think I will have to go back and read more about Mr. Timothy Underhill, I found him a compelling character and would like to knw more about him.
Profile Image for Kirsten.
2,126 reviews85 followers
February 29, 2008
I've seen this panned elsewhere, but I really enjoyed it and got into it. I love the way Straub plays with reality in his books; for example, you've got this character, Tim Underhill, who tends to write books with the same title as Peter Straub books (like lost boy lost girl). But you're never really positive that the book referred to in the text is really exactly like the one you've just read... The only thing I had trouble getting used to with this book was its length; I'm used to Straub writing heftier tomes, so it really threw me off when things started to pick up plot-wise and I realized that I'd already read 3/4 of the book.
Profile Image for Corey Woodcock.
188 reviews26 followers
April 26, 2022
”Excuse me, Mr. Underhill, but what is the point of mixing genres? Doesn’t combining fiction with fact merely give you license to be sloppy with the facts?”

“I think it’s the other way around,” Tim said. “Fiction lets me really get the facts right. It’s a way of reaching a kind of truth I wouldn’t otherwise be able to discover.”

Stephen King has a quote that goes something like “fiction is the truth wrapped in a lie” and this book, and the previous novel, lost boy lost girl, are about many things, but a running theme in them is the idea of using fiction, or exaggerated truth, to really get at the heart of a matter in a way that just relaying events cannot do. And it’s really done beautifully here.

First and foremost, this book is a direct sequel, or perhaps “companion novel”, to Straub’s previous release, lost boy lost girl; an excellent and criminally underrated novel that shares a huge amount of DNA with in the night room. In fact, reading this book has made me love lost boy lost girl even more. It shined a light into some of the murkier corners of the previous book, and I absolutely loved it. Under no circumstance should this novel be read without having already read lost boy lost girl! And if you want the full scope, go for the whole Blue Rose Trilogy first. There are some great callbacks to the series.

Anyways, I apologize for that rant but it had to be said. Moving on… ITNR is about a woman named Willy Patrick, an award winning YA author, the strange events happening in her life and how they seem to be happening parallel to the new book Tim Underhill is writing. Underhill himself is dealing with the emotional fallout from the events of the last book, and a weird stalker type guy on top of that. Their paths are set to collide. What follows is one of the most bizarre pieces of dark fantasy-cosmic horror-metafiction I have ever read.

As I have said in many reviews, and will say again, Straub’s writing is top notch. I think it’s some of the absolute best in any genre. Creative storytelling styles, interesting word choice, and flat-out beautiful prose. If Peter Straub’s novels aren’t considered “literature” (sorry to use the “L word”, it’s obnoxious I know), then I don’t know what is. Guys like Straub and Dan Simmons help to elevate the genre, and bring a level of skill to it that is rare in any genre. His prose may be dense, but he’s one of those writers that never stops making me think. It’s worth reading slower and taking every sentence in—every sentence that comes out of Straub’s pen is deliberate and not a word is wasted.

As I mentioned before, this novel is absolutely bananas. It’s an insane ride, and has so much to say along the way. The nature of grief, the power and truth in fiction and what it’s capable of. These are novels that are rewarding the first time around, and beg to be reread. They are complex, layered and fascinating, and this one was a whole different beast. In the hands of a lesser skilled writer, this could’ve been a lame book. But Straub pulls it all off so well. And while I have my own interpretation of all the crazy shit that goes down in this book, there’s no doubt that it’s open to all kinds of different takes (something I’d love to discuss with people who’ve read this series). At the end of the day, this book (and lost boy lost girl) is about using fiction to get to the truth of a matter, the truth wrapped in a lie, and I loved every page.

Overall, a brilliant series of books from Peter Straub. The Tim Underhill novels are among my very favorite books ever, and I will without a doubt be revisiting the entire series down the line.
Profile Image for Booketeer.
67 reviews10 followers
April 25, 2010
OK, I read popular books to find out what makes a book popular. One thing that makes a book popular is to be written by an author who is already popular. Thus, reading the book is a waste of time. I stopped reading this story (at the big long weird email for those who care) and am not going to bother with it any more. Whatever made Straub famous, this book would have been unpublishable except for that reputation and market access.
Profile Image for Amy Galaviz.
22 reviews55 followers
November 16, 2007
There were alot of unique things about this novel: an author meeting his characters, dead people sending e-mails to the living, the concept of a "perfect" book. However, alot of the details and characters were far fetched and did not make sense. For example, why have the main character Tim Underhill be gay in the beginning of the novel, but then have him fall madly in love with Willy (a woman)? What was the point of WCHWLLDN (the angel)? I won't spoil it but the ending was a little strange too and completely predictable from early on. There was one twist in the entire novel towards the beginning, but nothing that happened after that was really a surprise. Overall I am left unsatisfied - a little too weird for my taste.
1 review1 follower
November 4, 2011
Ill give Peter credit, he does know how to pull in one's attention and make them want to keep reading. Hes good with imagery and details. But, with that being said, I felt like I've seen certain aspects of the story line a million times before, and some things were wayyyy too out there and corny... but I guess thats why i kept reading. Just kinda left me wondering if I liked it or hated it. The part with the candy bars and the girl literally fading in and out was a bit ridic to me. Mixed feelings on this book.
Profile Image for Pam Baddeley.
Author 2 books44 followers
October 20, 2021
This novel is a sequel to 'lost boy, lost girl' which I had some problems with - I wroten about those in my review of that book - but sadly the present volume really went off the rails. As it opens, Tim Underhill, best-selling author, is writing a novel about a woman who is mentally fragile, imagining that her daughter - seemingly murdered along with her husband - is calling to her for rescue from a warehouse. Willy, whose name eventually turns out to be significant, is only able to tear herself away from breaking in by fixating on the Bluebeard-type character she is planning to sleepwalk into marriage with in the near future.

In the real world, Tim is having problems following the disappearance and probable murder of his 15-year-old nephew, Mark. Strange things start to happen, commencing with emails sent without subject lines from addresses with no domain name attached and featuring random disconnected words. Then a 'fan' who accosts him in a restaurant turns more and more creepy and aggressive, introducing the idea that there is a 'real' version of every novel - the perfect one that the author meant to write but lacked the ability to produce - and that this novel occasionally slips through from a higher plane. Certain collectors buy up loads of copies of books in the hope of finding the one copy that is perfect. This 'fan' objects strongly to 'lost boy, lost girl' which he views as lies - and that book does indeed turn out to be Tim's consolation to himself that his nephew was transported to a spiritual plane to live with ghost girl Lily Kalendar instead of his likely fate as yet another victim of a serial killer.

The basic premise of the current story is that Tim has erred against the universe by writing the book which assumed that Joseph Kalendar (an earlier serial killer) had murdered his daughter. Kalendar's ghost, given powers in the real world by Tim's portrayal, is now gunning for Tim and becomes merged with his Bluebeard character. Tim is informed of all this by a sequence of text-speak emails by someone styling themselves as Cyrax. This self-appointed guide, or 'gide', sends misspelled missives full of gems such as "rede y boke, rede the 1 with-in", which the unfortunate reader has to plough through and decipher. Under this 'guidance' Tim eventually takes Willy on a roadtrip back to his home town to "CO-RECK THE ERROR".

The idea about the one perfect copy of each book was interesting, but was buried under a pile of dross. I can't begin to enumerate the things that for me were wrong with this book. One of the worst was the development of Willy, who eventually makes her way into the real world, as a woman so fascinating that men are completely spellbound by her (apart, conveniently, from the Bluebeard character and his henchmen). She is frequently described as 'gamine' and her boyish figure is stressed, which became quite nauseating when it transpired that she 'converts' Tim, a lifelong gay man, who can't keep his hands off her. In turn, she finds him godlike in bed. I understood that this is a literary joke as she is his creation and in a way he is having sex with himself, but it was offensive on so many levels. (Willy, as a child's mispronounciation of Lily - since she is Tim's version of the supposedly dead Lily Kalendar - is really a sort of woman-as-penis given the slang meaning of her name.) Far from fascinating, I found her irritating, and her increasing gluttony for anything sweet was also a cause for queasiness. For me, there was no tension in the idea that Tim had to make amends and 'sacrifice' her as I couldn't wait for that moment to arrive.

Similarly, Tim's curmudgeonly brother is - very improbably - transformed in this book into a kindly, friendly, cheerful man purely by virtue of having met a nice woman who joined his school as a junior teacher and through her, 'finding religion'. This lacked any credibility given his previous portrayal in 'lost boy, lost girl'.

The supernatural elements that were once subtle in stories about Tim here take over with multiple appearances of his dead sister, another guide along the way, and an angry angel, plus the explanation of what happens to humans after death. Given the angel's powers , why was Tim's assistance required in any case? Altogether, this was such a mess that I couldn't envisage it ever having been published if submitted by an unknown author. It has put me off reading Straub at present, though I have a few books that pre-date this and which will hopefully be a return to form. So for me, the current volume scrapes a one-star rating.
Profile Image for Sheena Forsberg.
367 reviews57 followers
May 4, 2021
An alright sequel to Lost Boy, Lost Girl which pretty much turns everything we learned in LBLG upside down. Fiction will bleed into Underhill’s real life.
Underhill is still struggling to come to terms with his nephew’s disappearance and his long dead sister when he starts receiving emails from dead acquaintances who want to tell him something as well as finding his life colliding with that of another author, Willy Patrick.
It was alright, but the story does have some glaring issues, laughably formulaic at times, a misguided/ creepy sexual malleability that comes somehow manages to come off as both incestuous & narcissistic and characters I didn’t always care about.
Profile Image for Shaun.
522 reviews184 followers
July 12, 2013
Okay, I tried with this book. I really tried, but I only got to page 240 (almost two-thirds way through). It is rare for me to give up on a book, even a bad book, but especially a book I have already invested so much time in.

Aside from the fact that the story is extremely hard to follow and not particularly engaging, the writing is bad...really bad, ie "Coverley's blond head snapped sideways, and his spoiled face hardened in concentration," (God that sounds painful), so bad that I couldn't forget I was reading.

There were moments when I thought, okay, this is going to get better, and pushed forward, only to be disappointed. There was nothing in this book for me. The characters were contrived and uninteresting, and the story, confusing and odd, with neither the creepiness or horror elements I expected.

This was a random pick off the library shelf for me. Peter Straub has edited several "horror" collections that I have come across and I figured I'd give his work a try.

I'm willing to give him another shot, but so far, not impressed.

I would not recommend this book, however, if you enjoy cheesy, contrived characters and odd, unconvincing story lines you might want to give it a try. In all fairness...maybe if I had stuck with this one it would have gotten better...maybe.

Here's an example of the writing that put me over the edge:

Context: Willy is a fictional character, who crosses over into the real world while being pursed by her psycho, ex-CIA fiance. She turns up at a B & N reading of an author she likes to read when depressed who also happens to be her creator. They have this immediate connection and she ends up in bed with this man...totally innocent...she's just scared, he's helping her, and this is what happens next. Also, up to this point, he's gay.

"Where are you?" she said. "Are you there? Ah, I see, you are there. My goodness. Don't you think you should sort of wiggle out of that stupid thing you're wearing? You're so huge, you're going to strangle yourself."

I wiggled out of the stupid thing, my panting organ even harder for having been so blatantly flattered, and she shed her bra and her little tighty-whity with what seemed one fluid motion, and after that a kind of paradise opened before us. When I entered her, it was like entering paradise. Within her, I felt miraculously, blissfully at home---in the perfect place at last. I fell in love---that's the corniest, most banal, and truest way to say it. Before, I had felt as though I was falling in love, and now I had completed the journey. I was there, I wanted to hold her, cherish her, celebrate her for the rest of my life. It happened that quickly. I felt cleaved to Willy Patrick, as if we had one soul. We were like the gods depicted in erotic transport on half-ruined temples lost in the middle of great jungles. In the end, we seemed to flow together, to wear each other's skin and fine ecstatic release as one four-legged, four0armed, two-headed organism.

"God," Willy breathed. "You're the author I want when I'm depressed, all right. I'm going to stop fretting about agency. I don't care. I've never been fucked like that before, and I want more of it."

So judge for yourself.
Profile Image for Jmh.
3 reviews
December 10, 2007
Quite a surprise book for me as I had first read Straub's lost boy, lost girl and did not care for it. The story in that one was excellent but the writing was convoluted and confusing. In the Night Room was also an excellent story and this time the writing was also up to snuff. I look forward to more Straub novels in the future.
Profile Image for Steven Brandt.
380 reviews26 followers
July 22, 2013
Tim Underhill, popular novelist, is about to begin a journey into unspeakable terror. It begins with the emails. Messages bearing user names but no domains and ominous text such as “hard death hard” begin arriving in Underhill’s inbox. Some of the user names seem vaguely familiar to Tim, and a phone call to the secretary of his graduating class confirms his suspicions. The emails are from dead people. If that isn’t bad enough, Underhill also finds himself being stalked by a crazed fan. The lunatic, Jasper Kohle, asks Underhill to sign dozens of copies of his books, all the while condemning him for the mistakes he has made in his books. To cap things off, while at a bookstore signing, a character from Tim’s latest book shows up. Underhill recognizes her immediately, he created her after all, and soon the two are on the run from a couple of hitmen who want her dead.

The upshot is that Tim made a mistake in one of his books and that mistake opened a rift between this world and the next. Tim must find out what the mistake was and correct it to set things right.

Peter Straub had me going for the first half of In the Night Room. The emails from dead people were creepy, and Tim’s character, Willy, showing up was mystifying. After that, things got a little corny and predictable. Within a few hours of their meeting, Tim and Willy are madly in love and no matter where they go, the bad guys show up. This was an interesting story idea that just didn’t pan out.

Scott Brick is the bane of my existence. I don’t care for his narration, but he just seems to get all the audiobooks I want to read. Brick reads well enough, his diction is very clear and concise, but he reads with no passion at all.

In the Night Room would probably appeal to a lot of people, but I am not one of them. A different narrator would have made the audiobook more enjoyable, but in the end I think the predictability and stereotyping in this novel will disappoint most readers.

Steven Brandt @ Audiobook-Heaven
Profile Image for Tracy Walters.
290 reviews6 followers
May 7, 2012
Having read 'The Talisman' and 'Black House' and simply adoring those books I was excited to jump into this book knowing that Peter Straub was the author....

Unfortunately.....this book was nowhere near the incredible stories of the above mentioned books (along with the help of Stephen King these 2 books are fantastic). The story was at times confusing and hard to follow.....there were some pretty entertaining parts such as the mass amounts of chocolate, Coca-Cola, and sugar needed to save Willy from perishing but the continuous use of "Butt-Sex" as the nickname for Timothy Underhill by his so-called 'spiritual advisor' Syrex was just annoying and a bit offensive.

The supernatural aspect of the book started out as a great concept but never did hash out to anything spectacular or fascinating. The book-within-a-book concept was also great in the beginning but ended up just fizzling out with a less than climactic ending.

I really want to read something else of Peter Straub's to find out how his writing can really reach out and grab you.....it just wasn't this book......but I am willing to give him another chance.....'Ghost Story' will probably be the book to do it for me.....
Profile Image for Erin.
423 reviews5 followers
October 8, 2011
Maybe this book was "over my head," but I just thought it was terrible. The plot twists were odd and I hated that it kept referencing the only other Straub book I read (which I didn't like- lost boy lost girl). I read this because I love Stephen King and assumed anyone who collaborated with him would be worth reading, I was wrong. This book was painful.
Profile Image for Estibaliz79.
1,716 reviews64 followers
October 29, 2012
Lo bueno que tiene es que se lee bastante rápido y no es un peñazo en sí en ese aspecto, pero la verdad es que la trama no es gran cosa y, sobre todo, pierde un montón con el final: no sólo porque sea bastante previsible (Straub en su línea), sino porque parece que todo se queda en el enésimo caso de "mucho ruido y pocas nueces".
Profile Image for Sara.
19 reviews
November 17, 2007
I do not get this book. Very slow read. Too much going on at once.
Profile Image for Sam.
223 reviews10 followers
July 21, 2021
This is the third book by Peter Straub that I have read. I find him a very challenging author to read. His books are memorable yet not particularly fulfilling. They are also quite cryptic.

In the Night Room is a complex read, I had to go back and re-read particular parts. You need to pay attention to everything from the very beginning. As a fast reader I had to try to slow myself down. It's a clever book as you are lulled into what you 'think' is happening and then are bowled over with the actual realisation of who Willy is and how she came into being.

I believe this book ties in with Lost Boy Lost Girl which I haven't actually read.

I enjoyed reading Will and Tim's story, I was thinking about it when I wasn't reading which is always a good sign. I will continue to read Peter Straub books to see if I can find one I really like!

Profile Image for Morgan Dean.
69 reviews3 followers
June 17, 2022
In some ways I think I don't at all understand what I just read. Maybe I should have read "lost boy lost girl" first....but it seems that plenty of people tackle this one without doing so. It felt like the rules of the universe were constantly changing drastically and I just couldn't make sense of why certain things were happening and the significance of certain characters. At times, the writing was cringy and not enough time was dedicated to significant changes in the plot. Overall this book made me feel like this --> 🥴
1,271 reviews4 followers
March 25, 2023
An exploration into ontology and narratology involving a (fictional) author of fiction (who has collaborated with Peter Straub) who meets some of his own (fictional) characters and must, ultimately, ignore finding the Holy Grail in order to maintain his integrity as a human being and an author. A cunning conceit, more dependent than it strictly should be on prior reading, at least of lost boy lost girl , if not the entire history of Tim Underhill (by my count his 5th appearance in a Straub novel, though I may have missed a couple).
Profile Image for Cujo.
171 reviews10 followers
February 13, 2019
I might have been a little rough on this book during my progress report last week. I think my frustration was actually with my local library who had this selves as, "A Ghost Story to Read by the Fire". It is in fact not a traditional ghost story, but it's more of a....well that's the thing I'm not sure what it is.
However I found myself rooting for the romance between Paul and Willy and even "Shipped" them I also get the feeling that there will/should be a 3rd part to this story.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 226 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.