Peter Straub's page-turner, In the Night Room (Random House, $21.95, 352 pages, ISBN 1400062527), is a fascinating jumble of fantasy and reality that follows his previous novel, lost boy, lost girl. Here, Straub introduces readers to Tim Underhill, a New York-based thriller writer about to go on tour to promote his latest book, lost boy, lost girl. Willy Patrick, a New York-based children's book writer, has just won the Newbery Medal for her book In the Night Room. While it may sound complicated, Straub's writing is so clean and clear the reader will have no difficulty following his intricate path. Underhill wrote his book following the murder of his nephew; Willy wrote her book as a survivor's response to the murder of her husband and daughter. Underhill's work, in particular, has complicated and far-reaching consequences. The ghost of his sister, April, murdered 40 years before, appears and commands him to "Listen." Then he begins receiving e-mails from the recently dead. A deranged fan accosts him in a diner and harangues him for failing to write his "real" books. And an angry angel appears to him. Thankfully, there are a couple of signs of hope: the child who has grown up and stepped outside a repetitive cycle of abuse to become a pediatrician, and Underhill's cold and boring brother whose fiancŽe has brought him to new and unexpected life.

In the Night Room is a pleasure to read. The details, such as how characters sustain themselves when taken out of context, are wonderful, and the ending leaves the reader satisfied and hopeful that there will be more from Tim Underhill and Peter Straub in the near future.

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