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Bedbugs [Kindle Edition]

Ben H. Winters
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)

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Book Description

FOR RENT: Top two floors of beautifully renovated brownstone, 1300 sq. ft., 2BR 2BA, eat-in kitchen, one block to parks and playgrounds. No broker’s fee.

Susan and Alex Wendt have found their dream apartment.

Sure, the landlady is a little eccentric. And the elderly handyman drops some cryptic remarks about the basement. But the rent is so low, it’s too good to pass up.

Big mistake. Susan soon discovers that her new home is crawling with bedbugs . . . or is it? She awakens every morning with fresh bites, but neither Alex nor their daughter Emma has a single welt. An exterminator searches the property and turns up nothing. The landlady insists her building is clean. Susan fears she’s going mad—until a more sinister explanation presents itself: she may literally be confronting the bedbug problem from Hell.


From the Trade Paperback edition.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

FOR RENT: Top two floors of beautifully renovated brownstone, 1300 sq. ft., 2BR 2BA, eat-in kitchen, one block to parks and playgrounds. No broker’s fee.

Susan and Alex Wendt have found their dream apartment.

Sure, the landlady is a little eccentric. And the elderly handyman drops some cryptic remarks about the basement. But the rent is so low, it’s too good to pass up.

Big mistake. Susan soon discovers that her new home is crawling with bedbugs . . . or is it? She awakens every morning with fresh bites, but neither Alex nor their daughter Emma has a single welt. An exterminator searches the property and turns up nothing. The landlady insists her building is clean. Susan fears she’s going mad—until a more sinister explanation presents itself: she may literally be confronting the bedbug problem from Hell.



Amazon Exclusive: Q&A with Ben H. Winters

Q: You tackled sea monsters in the New York Times best seller Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters. What made you turn to bedbugs?

Ben H. Winters: The monsters in Sea Monsters are very big and very over-the top: giant super-intelligent lobsters, an island that comes to life, that sort of thing. Silly, campy, fun. In BEDBUGS I challenged myself to create a different kind of monster: serious, dark and deadly, and drawn from reality.

Q: BEDBUGS is told from the perspective of Susan Wendt--a former lawyer turned artist and stay-at-home mom. As a man, was it difficult to write in a woman's voice?

BHW: It was hard, although I would argue that gender is a very small part of what makes us who we are. In other words, it was challenging to get inside Susan's head mainly because I'm not a lawyer, a painter, or a stay-at-home parent, not necessarily because I'm not a woman. The hardest thing was writing in the voice of any kind of person, man or woman, being driven slowly insane by malevolent supernatural bugs.

Q: It is obvious that you have done your homework on bedbugs. What was one of the most surprising facts that you learned about these nasty pests?

BHW: It's pretty horrifying once you start to grasp how long they can stay alive without a host, and also how rapidly and exponentially they reproduce.

But the nastiest fact is something called traumatic insemination. Seriously. Just look it up.

Q: In BEDBUGS, you make many references to Rosemary's Baby. What is it about Rosemary's Baby that inspired you?

BHW: Ira Levin was a master of turning the screw: he slowly, slowly ratchets up poor Rosemary's sense that something is not right about her home, her marriage, her baby. It's so effective because Levin keeps us in her point of view the entire time, so first of all we come to love her, but also we live with her suspicion and her fear and her terror. That seemed like exactly the right way to frame a novel about a peril as creepy and paranoia-inducing as bedbugs.

Q: Lou the handyman and Andrea the landlord are an odd pair of keepers of this idyllic brownstone--how do their characters drive the story forward?

BHW: Well, I'm just honoring my genre, you know. Slightly off-kilter, slightly menacing older people are a staple of slow-burn horror novels: when you've got weird old people in a weird old house, you just know there's something going on.

Q: BEDBUGS is both a mystery and psychological thriller--how do you get inside the head of readers to scare them?

BHW: My goal was to firmly ground the story in the realistic, day-to-day lives of the characters, stuff like grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, taking the kid to the playground, marital squabbles and make-up sex. With just occasional notes of what's to come: a smear of blood here, an unexpected noise there, an unnamed sense of melancholy and dread. Again, it's something you find in books like Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, even The Amityville Horror. There's this careful creation of a realistic, familiar world before the darkness begins to seep in.

Q: BEDBUGS is both a mystery and psychological thriller--how do you get inside the head of readers to scare them?

BHW: My goal was to firmly ground the story in the realistic, day-to-day lives of the characters, stuff like grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, taking the kid to the playground, marital squabbles and make-up sex. With just occasional notes of what's to come: a smear of blood here, an unexpected noise there, an unnamed sense of melancholy and dread. Again, it's something you find in books like Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, even The Amityville Horror. There's this careful creation of a realistic, familiar world before the darkness begins to seep in.

Q: In BEDBUGS, Brooklyn is a character in itself--why did you choose Brooklyn Heights as your setting?

BHW: I lived in that area for many years, around the corner from Brooklyn Heights in the neighborhood called Downtown Brooklyn. I find that whole section of the city to be so physically beautiful, and the energy to be so interesting. It's full of weirdos, hipsters, old people, young professionals, city workers, and people of literally every race and religion. And it's definitely a landing pad for couples like the Wendts: smart, ambitious young couples, balancing creative energy, ambition, and little kids.

Q: You're the author of an Edgar-nominated children's novel and a New York Times best-selling adult novel. Is there a difference in how you approach writing each genre?

BHW: Obviously, the differences are legion in terms of tone, vocabulary, and content. But there are nuts-and-bolts things you want to do right, no matter who the audience is: you want a solid structure, a careful building of tension, and interesting characters that a reader will care about.

Q: Bedbugs seem to be everywhere! Do you have any personal experiences with bedbugs that informed the novel?

BHW: No, thank God. I know nobody wants them, but after doing all the reading and video-clip watching I did for this book, I really don't want them. Once, when I was seven, I had lice. Here's hoping that's as close as I'll ever get.

Q: When Susan went to set up a play date for her daughter, a neighbor commented that she saw an exterminator at her brownstone and could not risk exposing her family to bedbugs. How have bedbugs made dwellers pariah amongst their neighbors?

BHW: There are all sorts of household pests--rats, roaches, termites, etc.--but there seems to be something about bedbugs that deeply disturbs people in a particularly unsettling way. As a society, we are just extra freaked out by these pernicious little bloodsuckers. So nobody wants to be the person who gave someone else bedbugs, and that leads to a lot of fear, secret shame, and paranoia. All of which, I felt, were rich themes for a novel of supernatural terror.

Q: What are you working on now? Can you share a little about that with us?

BHW: Oh, dear. Good question. I am currently hard at work on a mystery novel, and outlining a new and extremely silly novel for young readers. Also, my daughter is pressuring me pretty hard to write something about princesses, so we'll see where that goes.

Review

“By turns gruesome and compelling, fueled by a slow-burn tension, and full of in-jokes about contemporary Brooklyn culture, Winters's breezy summer read will leave readers compulsively scratching.”—Publishers Weekly

“The author of the monster mash-up hit Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (2009) offers up a chilling tale of life in the perfect New York abode gone horribly wrong…Winters expertly builds suspense in this chilling thriller.”—Booklist

"Bedbugs infest the life of a young couple who move into a peculiar brownstone in Brooklyn in Ben H. Winter's diabolical tale of paranoia and domestic unrest.”—Vanity Fair Hot Type

“I would not recommend reading Bedbugs in bed; it’s that gripping—and grotesque. . . This creepy story is expertly told, and will having you scratching imaginary itches long after you finish reading.”—Penthouse

“After reading Bedbugs you might want to fumigate any apartment you rent. You also might want to call in an exorcist.”—McClatchy Newspapers

“The book is a lot of fun and a great fall read for when you’re bundled under a pile of blankets that may or may not be full of creepy-crawlies.”—DenofGeek.com
 
“All in all, Bedbugs is a solid read, a good thriller, and I guarantee you will have the creepy ‘I need to bleach my pillowcases in hot water’ crawlies for days after.”—DaemonBooks.com

“A rich blend of classic psychological suspense and horror. If Alfred Hitchcock were still with us, this is a book he would adapt to film.”—MonsterLibrarian.com

“Bedbugs is one disgusting, fascinating novel. Be warned, and put the exterminator’s number on speed-dial.”—Sacramento News & Review

“You’ll want to crawl under the covers while reading the super-spooky new novel Bedbugs, by Ben H. Winters—but you won’t, because it does for the bed what Psycho did for the shower!”—InStyle

Bedbugs is a psychological thriller with Hitchcockian suspense.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“...the bloodcurdling Bedbugs manages to succeed in doing what rarely happens off the screen: Keep things spooky enough that it’s impossible to go to sleep without knowing how it ends. Even then, you may leave the lights on and sleep on the floor.”—NewCity.com
 
“Clean and taut with soul-baring inner monologues...Winters delivers prose that delicately piles on the novel's mounting intensity, using both light humor and doom...Bedbugs gets under our skin with the best of old-fashioned horror and newfangled gore.”—Creative Loafing’s Daily Loaf

Product Details

  • File Size: 1240 KB
  • Print Length: 260 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B00A16TQVW
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (September 6, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J4X76C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #323,338 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Titles Can Be The Hardest Part... August 3, 2011
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The premise of this book is that a married couple and their young daughter move into a surprisingly affordable apartment in New York. Almost from the day they move in, odd things begin to happen, most of which are only apparent to the wife, Susan. The story is told from her point of view. Susan is an aspiring artist who obtained a law degree, apparently at the urgings of her family. She had been employed in a law firm prior to the beginning of the story, but she and her husband agreed she would quit in order to pursue her artistic dreams. Her husband, Alex, put aside his own artistic ambitions to operate a catalog photography business with a partner, in order to support the family. The business is struggling and there is stress in the marriage, especially after the expensive move.

Most of the strange activity in the apartment seems to be centered in a small "bonus" room that Susan uses as an art studio. The sole artwork she produces is a portrait of one of the previous tenants, people she only knows only from a photograph she found. These tenants were a couple who, according to the elderly landlady, vanished without paying their rent. The landlady, who lives downstairs, is accommodating and friendly. The almost equally elderly "handyman" is by turns kindly, threatening, and a bit dull; although he tells Susan he retired as assistant principal at a local school.

Susan comes to believe that the apartment is infested with bedbugs and that she has been bitten. Her husband and her daughter do not see or experience anything. Even when the highly recommended, and slightly oddball, exterminator finds nothing after an extensive examination, Susan continues to insist that the bugs are there.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creepy and Gripping.... Don't Read This In Bed! September 6, 2011
Format:Paperback
A young couple, Susan and Alex Wendt, and their toddler daughter Emma move into a new and seemingly perfect apartment in Brooklyn, and life is good. Or at least, life should be good, but things very quickly start to take a turn for the creepy and the icky. Something is definitely not right, but... what is it?

The story is set against a backdrop of a New York City in the grip of a serious bedbug problem. That would be the real New York City, by the way. Here in Cincinnati, Ohio, we have the dubious honor of being the "bedbug capital of the US", and so I know only too well what it's like seemingly never to go a day without hearing or reading some story about how the situation is getting worse, how the hotels, the libraries, the schools, have become breeding grounds and hideouts for the disgusting, blood-sucking little parasites. It's enough to make even the most well-balanced person a little bit paranoid.

Thing is, this book's central character, Susan, shows signs right from the beginning of maybe being a little unbalanced and paranoid, as well as not an especially easy character to like. She's introduced as a former lawyer who gave up working eighteen months prior to the start of the story in order to "concentrate on her art", employing the services of a nanny six hours a day to look after her daughter while she paints, although she hasn't actually got around to doing any painting yet. Susan seems to pretty much loathe the nanny, a pleasant, easygoing graduate student whose character she makes plenty of unpleasant and unsubstantiated judgements about. At one point Susan arrives home from one of her forays into the neighborhood to find Emma bawling inconsolably because of the traumatic experience of having an old black man speak to her.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Creepy, Crawly, Chilling, Thrilling August 2, 2011
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a great read. Especially if you are a fan of books where an innocent couple moves into a too good to be true home and the husband works while the wife stays home and unpacks and takes care of the kids and discovers strange happenings. I love them. But there is something for everyone in this dark novel especially readers who enjoy a well written thriller with a hint of horror.

The Wendts, Alex and Susan, find the perfect brownstone in Brooklyn from a Craigslist ad. It's owned by a somewhat charming elderly landlady named Andrea who takes a liking to them. The couple decide to move into the home where their toddler Emma will finally have a room of her own. Alex is a photographer who owns a business, and his wife, Susan is an artist. She plans on painting in the small well-lit bonus room. Things are exceptionally great at first. They have a sitter who watches Emma during the day and Susan runs errands and fixes up the place while Alex works and helps out the best he can at home and the family enjoys the idyllic location which is close to shopping and historical New York landmarks.

There is also talk of bedbugs. People seem to dread the unwanted insects and they are a horror to get out of the house. Rumor has it that hotels have closed for fumigation and people have moved to rid themselves of the pests. Extermination can work, but sometimes, the bedbugs come back. Susan learns more about the dreaded infestations on the internet when she suspects that she has been bitten. She believes the culprit is a bedbug, and things begin to go a little off kilter.

A recommended exterminator gives the place a clean bill of health, but it doesn't help Susan's fears. She becomes consumed with the thought of bugs, and she starts to have horrible dreams.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Bedbugs
Bedbugs was a great, fast read. I love Ben H. winters storytelling style. Great visualization. It made me itch.
Published 5 days ago by Roberta Davis
3.0 out of 5 stars bit of a let down!
i had wanted to read this book for ages and finally did- what a disappointment. i felt that the reviews talked it up to be way more of a thriller/ scarier than it was. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sarah Gifford
3.0 out of 5 stars Well Written, but Doesn't Live Up to Potential
Susan, Alex and their young daughter Emma move into a beautiful Brownstone apartment in Brooklyn. Supposedly, this place had reasonable rent, but I went to Law School in the area... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Hillel Kaminsky
3.0 out of 5 stars A little flawed but worth the read
I gave this book 3 stars, although I was hoping to give it four. I believe that any book that forces me to stay up till the wee hours to finish deserves 4 stars and this one did. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jfurnee
3.0 out of 5 stars OK
OK, kind of predictable and challenges any credulity. If you have nothing better to do with you afternnon or evening.
Published 3 months ago by paul shapiro
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow but killer ending
so the book over all is kinda dull but then it hits a point where you can't stop reading. the characters kinda annoyed me except for little Emma, she made me laugh. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Nate
4.0 out of 5 stars They check in, but they don't check out.
Most suspense-horror novels, particularly those in the "haunted house" genre, portray the protagonist's surroundings as evil. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book!
I really got wrapped up in this one. Kept my interest, good writing. Really enjoyed this story. Was not sure where it was going til the end. Cool.
Published 3 months ago by Cheryl Hartman
2.0 out of 5 stars ehh
ehh. That's what I thought about this book. I wouldn't recommend it and I won't be reading this author in the future, depth is not there and not intellectual. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Laura Ann Kelly
2.0 out of 5 stars One of the most unlikable characters
I don't mind an unlikable character, if i am suppose to dislike them. In bedbugs we are suppose to feel for Susan, but how? Read more
Published 6 months ago by S. Brown
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More About the Author

Ben H. Winters is the author of seven novels, including Countdown City, a nominee for the Philip K. Dick Award, and The Last Policeman, which won an Edgar Award, was nominated for the Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel, and was an Amazon.com Best Book of 2012. His other books include Bedbugs, Android Karenina, the New York Times bestseller Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and the middle-grade novels The Mystery of the Everything and The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman, a Bank Street Best Book of 2011 and an Edgar Award nominee. Ben is also the author of many plays and musicals for children and adults, and he has written for national and local publications including the Chicago Tribune, Slate, and the Huffington Post. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he teaches at Butler Univsity, and he blogs at www.BenHWinters.com


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