7 Spooky Books to Binge-Read Before Halloween
Halloween is nearly here… and if you’re in the market for a chilling read to help set the mood for your Hallo-week, today’s post is for you! We’ve got two days to go until the 31st, so you’ll want something quick - and scary - to get you in the Halloween spirit fast. In this post, you’ll find a few of my personal favorite spine-tingling, binge-worthy scary stories that you can devour in a couple sittings. From straight-up horror fiction to psychological thrillers with an edge and more, there’s a little something for everyone in this post—and you can always find even more creepy books by perusing my Quick Reviews page. Happy reading, and happy (almost) Halloween!
PS. The soundtrack to this post? The theme song from Halloween (2018) obviously. Listen if you dare.
This post contains affiliate links. Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinions of the books included in this post.
7 Spooky Books to Binge-Read Before Halloween
APART IN THE DARK by Ania Ahlborn
I don’t read much horror fiction, but whenever I want to venture out of my crime fiction comfort zone and into something really terrifying, Ahlborn is my go-to author. Known for terrifying reads like BROTHER and THE DEVIL CREPT IN (which would also make great Halloween reading choices… just saying!), Ahlborn’s APART IN THE DARK is another fantastic (and seriously scary) read—but this book is even better for binge-reading, because it’s actually comprised of two novellas. APART IN THE DARK includes two addictive stories: The Pretty Ones and I Call Upon Thee. Naturally, this structure lends itself perfectly to a quick binge-read before Halloween; you can read each of these novellas in one or two sittings a piece, and both deliver all the inventive horror Ahlborn is known for. My personal favorite of the two stories is The Pretty Ones: this creepy story follows a young woman working in New York during the summer of 1977, aka the “Summer of Sam”. Ahlborn blends an already terrifying true-life story with her dark, dark imagination to fantastic effect.
Now available for the first time in a print edition—two terrifying novellas from bestselling author Ania Ahlborn, “a great storyteller who spins an atmosphere of dread literally from the first page” (Jeff Somers).
THE PRETTY ONES
New York, 1977. The sweltering height of the Summer of Sam. The entire city is gripped with fear, but all Nell Sullivan worries about is whether or not she’ll ever make a friend. The self-proclaimed “Plain Jane” does her best to fit in with the girls at work, but Nell’s brother, Barrett, assures her that she’ll never be like them. When Nell manages to finally garner some much-yearned-for attention, the unthinkable happens to her newfound friend. The office pool blames Son of Sam, but Nell knows the awful truth…because doing the devil’s work is easy when there’s already a serial killer on the loose.
I CALL UPON THEE
Maggie Olsen had a pretty ordinary childhood—swimming and sleepovers, movie nights and dad jokes. And then there were the other things…the darker things…the shadow that followed her home from the cemetery and settled into the corners of her home, refusing to let her grow up in peace. Now, after three years away from the place she's convinced she inadvertently haunted, and after yet another family tragedy strikes, Maggie is forced to return to the sweltering heat of a Savannah summer to come to terms with her past. All along, she's been telling herself, it was just in your head, and she nearly convinces herself that she'd imagined it all. But the moment Maggie steps into the foyer of her family home, she knows. The darkness is still here. And it's been waiting for Maggie's return….
THE ICE TWINS by S.K. Tremayne
If you’ve been around CBTB for a while, you’ll already be very familiar with S.K. Tremayne’s THE ICE TWINS. This is one of my go-to book recommendations for readers looking for a blend of psychological suspense and just a touch of a ghost story. Even though this book is a few years older now, it’s still worth mentioning here once more! THE ICE TWINS is a perfect choice if you love psychological thrillers and don’t want anything too scary - but still want a few goosebumps from your Halloween read. In THE ICE TWINS, a couple moves their family to a remote Scottish island in hopes of recovering from a terrible tragedy… but what they discover on the island - both about their new home and about their family - is even worse than what they were trying to escape in the first place. THE ICE TWINS is a fantastic blend of “popcorn reading” and atmospheric, spine-tingling suspense.
One of Sarah's daughters died. But can she be sure which one?
A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcroft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.
But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity--that she, in fact, is Lydia--their world comes crashing down once again.
As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, they are forced to confront what really happened on that fateful day.
THE GRIP OF IT by Jac Jemc
Do you tend to prefer fiction with a literary bent? If so, Jac Jemc’s mind-bending THE GRIP OF IT is the perfect Halloween read for you. Jemc takes a classic haunted house story and turns it into an immersive, almost hallucinogenic reading experience; THE GRIP OF IT is more about your experience reading Jemc’s words than the story itself—don’t go into this book expecting a straight-up horror novel. Go into this book expecting to feel genuinely unnerved and unsettled by the immersive, impossible-to-pin-down world Jemc crafts within its pages. In THE GRIP OF IT, a young couple moves out of the city and into a fixer-upper home… but of course, the house begins to show its true colors, and the couple realizes they’ve bit of just a bit more than they can chew. At its core, this book i really about the trials and challenges of marriage; Jemc uses a haunted house to push her characters to the breaking point, giving readers a glimpse of the fissures in their relationship’s foundation.
Touring their prospective suburban home, Julie and James are stopped by a noise. Deep and vibrating, like throat singing. Ancient, husky, and rasping, but underwater. “That’s just the house settling,” the real estate agent assures them with a smile. He is wrong.
The move―prompted by James’s penchant for gambling and his general inability to keep his impulses in check―is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to start afresh. But this house, which sits between a lake and a forest, has its own plans for the unsuspecting couple. As Julie and James try to establish a sense of normalcy, the home and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings. The framework― claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms―becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall―contracting, expanding―and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of painful, grisly bruises.
Like the house that torments the troubled married couple living within its walls, The Grip of It oozes with palpable terror and skin-prickling dread. Its architect, Jac Jemc, meticulously traces Julie and James’s unsettling journey through the depths of their new home as they fight to free themselves from its crushing grip.
THE LINGERING by SJI Holliday
A haunted estate takes center stage in SJI Holliday’s wildly entertaining suspense novel. When a married couple decides to leave behind city life and move to the English Fens to join a communal living retreat, their intention is good… but the results of their decision are disastrous. This estate has a dark history—it was once a psychiatric hospital, and the ghosts of its past might be all too literal. SJI Holliday has written a fantastic “popcorn read” perfect for the Halloween season. With a compelling cast of characters, plenty of things that go bump in the night, and pacing that lends itself to binge-reading, THE LINGERING will make a fantastic choice for readers who love suspense novels with healthy doses of the supernatural. As an added bonus, THE LINGERING has a heavy gothic undertone—Holliday weaves a richly atmospheric story where the story’s location - an old estate - becomes a character unto itself.
Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there, and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history. When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution. The Lingering is an exceptionally plotted, terrifying and tantalizingly twisted novel by one of the most exciting authors in the genre.
IN THE VINES by Shannon Kirk
Speaking of Gothic suspense - if you love that concept but don’t love the supernatural, look no further than Shannon Kirk’s deranged and addictive psychological thriller IN THE VINES. This book is, to put it simply, all kinds of crazy—in the best possible way. In this twisted and twisty story of family secrets, a young woman returns to the New England seaside estate belonging to her estranged aunt… only to discover that the woman she remembers fondly has become deeply unhinged. Kirk writes with vivid, delicious prose; her language is rich and ornate, and readers will find themselves sinking into the spine-tingling story she weaves. There are so many moments in IN THE VINES that seem to leap off the page; Kirk contrasts the natural beauty of the estate with the disintegration of its caretaker to disturbing and shocking effect. There isn’t a single subtlety in Kirk’s delightfully dramatic and twisted story, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Mary Olivia Pentecost, known as Mop, was born into one of the wealthiest families in the country—and one of the most guarded. Now, two years after her mother’s mysterious death, Mop is seeking closure on the disquieting tragedy by returning to the New England seaside estate of her cloistered Aunty Liv—once her closest relative and confidante.
But behind the walls of the isolated estate, the shadows of the past are darker than Mop imagined. The puzzles of the family history are not to be shared, but unearthed. With each revelation comes a new, foreboding threat—and for Mop, the grave suspicion that to discover Aunty Liv’s secrets is to become a prisoner of them.
How well do we know the people we love? How well do we want to know them? The answers are as twisted as a tangle of vines in this throat-clutching novel of psychological suspense.
THE CRAFTSMAN by Sharon Bolton
A police procedural meets a modern-day story of witchcraft in Sharon Bolton’s superb new release. THE CRAFTSMAN is a tantalizing, up-all-night story that blends a disturbing series of crimes with a touch of the otherworldly—and the result is an immersive, richly atmospheric detective novel with an edge all its own. THE CRAFTSMAN follows a police officer who, years prior, was responsible for solving a dark series of crimes in a small town in England. The local coffin-maker, as it turned out, was burying children alive in his coffins. Now years later, our protagonist returns to that same town—and discovers that the events of years prior are repeating themselves, and that her son might be in the killer’s sights. THE CRAFTSMAN is a perfect Halloween reading choice for fans of police procedurals; much of this story is first and foremost a detective novel… but Bolton injects this familiar storytelling structure with a touch of - wait for it - modern-day witchcraft, and the result is completely addictive.
Florence Lovelady's career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Grassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago in a small village in Lancashire. Like something out of a nightmare, the victims were buried alive. Florence was able to solve the mystery and get a confession out of Larry before more children were murdered., and he spent the rest of his life in prison.
But now, decades later, he's dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves. Is someone copying the original murders? Or did she get it wrong all those years ago? When her own son goes missing under similar circumstances, the case not only gets reopened... it gets personal.
In master of suspense Sharon Bolton's latest thriller, readers will find a page-turner to confirm their deepest fears and the only protagonist who can face them.
I REMEMBER YOU by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
What better way to conclude this reading list than with my personal current ghost story obsession? I REMEMBER YOU is a stellar (and terrifying) ghost story-meets-mystery from Iceland’s Queen of Crime, Yrsa Sigurdardottir. This brooding story is one you’ll want to read with all the lights on. Sigurdardottir plays with two storylines in her superb thriller. First: a group of friends head to a remote Icelandic village to renovate an old home they have purchased… but an encroaching storm and unexplained occurrences soon have the group wishing they had stayed home instead. Second: a psychiatrist seeks closure for the disappearance of his young son years prior—and, in the process, uncovers a disturbing connection to a series of mysterious deaths in a nearby town. Yrsa Sigurdardottir is an honest to goodness genius when it comes to writing immersive, inventive slices of crime fiction—and I REMEMBER YOU might be my favorite book of hers ever. This is a gripping blend of ghost story and mystery guaranteed to give you goosebumps. Bonus: once you’ve read the book, watch the movie.
In this terrifying tale, three friends set to work renovating a rundown house in a remote, totally isolated location. But they soon realize they are not as alone as they thought. Something wants them to leave. Meanwhile, in a nearby town, a young doctor investigating the suicide of an elderly woman discovers that she was obsessed with his vanished son. When the two stories collide, the shocking truth becomes horribly clear.
In the vein of Stephen King and John Ajvide Lindqvist partly based on a true story, is the scariest novel yet from Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, who has captivated the attention of readers around the world with her mystery series featuring attorney Thora Gudmundsdottir. Now, Yrsa will stun readers once again with this out-of-this-world ghost story that will leave you shivering.