I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that I believe a great mystery goes well with any season. (I can’t be the only one who considers a crime novel a suitable beach read.) I’m usually drawn to police procedurals and psychological thrillers, but I always find myself picking up thrillers with a supernatural or horror twist around this time of year. October is all about spooky reads, and to get you in the Halloween spirit, here are my favorite sometimes-supernatural, sometimes-gory, always scary pre-Halloween reads!
CBTB’s Haunted Halloween Reading List
Horror: BROTHER by Ania Ahlborn (Gallery Books)
It doesn’t get much scarier than BROTHER. Set in the back woods of Appalachia, this fast-paced, gory read follows the son of a family with some seriously twisted hobbies and cannibalistic practices. When drifters and girls from neighboring towns disappear, no one thinks to look for them on the Morrow family’s isolated farm. But Michael Morrow can no longer stomach his family’s twisted practices, and he begins to dream of a life away from the horrors he is forced to participate in every day. As you can imagine, Michael isn’t destined for a happily-ever-after, and this story plummets from bad to worse at break-neck speed. Along the way, you’ll be horrified, disgusted, and heartbroken. Highly recommend this one—just don’t read it while you’re eating.
Whodunit: IN A DARK, DARK WOOD by Ruth Ware (Scout Press)
When leading lady Nora receives a surprise bachelorette party invitation from a friend she hasn’t spoken to in years, she is thoroughly surprised. She has spent her adult life constructing a life of peaceful solitude working as a writer in London. Against her better judgment, Nora finds herself traveling to an isolated house in a remote forest for a weekend of celebration with people she hasn’t seen in years (for good reasons, which are revealed throughout the story). The bachelorette party quickly devolves into a weekend of darkness, paranoia, and bloodshed. Read this one for an Agatha Christie-like mystery, complete with Christie’s trademark unexpected invitation, isolated locale, and dwindling cast of characters.
Psychological Thriller + Supernatural (1 of 2): A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow)
A supernatural-y psychological thriller, Paul Tremblay’s A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS is a fresh twist on a possession story. When fourteen-year-old Marjorie Barrett begins to display signs of schizophrenia, her devoutly Catholic father believes she is possessed by a demon. With money tight after the Barrett father lost his job, the family agrees to become the subjects of a reality TV show following Marjorie’s possession and exorcism. Told in flashbacks to an author writing a book about the Barrett family tragedy, A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS gives the reader the perspective of Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry, who witnessed her older sister’s possession and exorcism. This is a totally atypical possession story, so don’t go into it expecting all the usual possession clichés. When you finally learn the truth about the Barrett family, I can promise you’ll be freaked out in a totally unanticipated way. A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS is more about human evil than supernatural evil, and it’s an incredibly effective and haunting portrayal of people’s capacity to betray and manipulate one another.
Psychological Thriller + Supernatural (2 of 2): THE ICE TWINS by S.K. Tremayne (Grand Central Publishing)
Reeling from the tragic death of one of their identical twin daughters (Lydia), married couple Angus and Sarah move their little family to a tiny Scottish island to try to piece together their broken family. But when the couple’s surviving daughter, Kirstie, begins insisting that her parents have mistaken her identity, and that she is Lydia, their world threatens to fall apart again. As her surviving daughter grows more disturbed, Sarah begins to lose her own grip on reality, and the isolation of their little island grows more sinister. How can Angus and Sarah ever be completely sure which of their identical twin daughters survived, and which passed away? The increasingly volatile weather on the family’s little island creates an atmospheric backdrop, mirroring the family’s descent into madness. Add in a touch of the supernatural, and you’ve got one creepy and addictive read.
Historical Thriller: I, RIPPER by Stephen Hunter (Simon & Schuster)
Love serial killer reads? Looking for historical fiction that’s pretty darn gory? You’ve come to the right place. Stephen Hunter’s Jack the Ripper narrative takes the reader deep inside the mind of history’s most famous serial killer. Written in alternating journal entries, the reader simultaneously follows Jack and a reporter tasked with following Jack’s killings. This is a totally fresh take on the Jack the Ripper story, examining how the media fed Jack’s appetite for fame, and imagining how Jack responded to his growing infamy. This is one gory, twisted read, and I definitely recommend reading it during daylight hours! I may have had a Jack the Ripper nightmare while reading this one. Hugely entertaining, seriously scary, and richly atmospheric.
Wishing you a month of spooky, stay-up-all-night reads! Happy Halloween!