All the Time in the World

My taste in reading material is wide and varied: SF/fantasy/"speculative fiction", mysteries (police procedurals, mostly), history, fanfic, straight fiction, smutty vampire books, biographies, poetry, cereal boxes, assembly instructions, the fine print, and your mind.
SPOILER ALERT!

Ghost Story

Ghost Story - Peter Straub I picked up a hardcover of Ghost Story from a remainder sale sometime around late 1980/early 1981: I still have that copy and pull it out from time to time for a re-read. More literate than most horror stories, and with a good deal less gore, Straub's novel holds up beautifully.

The book focuses on four old friends: Lewis, Sears, John, and Ricky, men in their "golden years" who live in a small New England town and for years have met every week as the "Chowder Society," enjoying brandy and cigars and taking turns telling tall tales. Some time back one of them, proposing the topic for the next round, asks, "What's the worst thing that you ever did?" and Sears, whose turn it is to "tell the tale", answers, "I won't tell you that, but I'll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me." That story turns out to be not a tall tale at all but a recounting of a terrifying and unexplainable ordeal he experienced as a young schoolteacher. As the book unfolds, however, Sears' story is revealed to be connected to a dark secret all of the Society members share: the accidental death some 50 or more years before of a young woman with whom all of them were in love. Moreover, the young woman herself turns out possibly to have been something other than human, and her apparent death may just have been the first demonstration of her ability to manipulate and torment them.

The mysterious death of a fifth Society member, Edward, and a plea from the surviving members, draws his nephew Don to the town of Milbern to try and unravel the intertwined mysteries. Don quickly discovers that he has already been touched by it, having been engaged to an enigmatic woman who later disappeared, resurfaced in the arms of Don's brother David, and then vanished again when David died. Inexplicably, the teasing girl of the 1920s, the actress who may have frightened Edward to death, and Don's elusive sometime fiance may all be the same person - and until they can understand who or what she is, none of them are safe.