7 Chilling Crime Books for Your Halloween Reading List
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… October! There’s just nothing like the arrival of autumn, and it never really feels like autumn to me until my calendar reads October. Beyond the changing leaves, crisp air, and (of course) pumpkin spice lattes, October also brings with it the perfect opportunity to inject your reading list with some seriously chilling crime novels in preparation for Halloween. If you’re in the market for some “Spooktober” reading recommendations, you’ve come to the right place. Today’s blog post will highlight a number of my favorite thrilling, chilling Halloween reads. Some are standard crime novels, some are crime novels with a supernatural twist, and some are true horror—no matter your bookish preferences, you’ll find a Halloween read to add to your TBR here. Match yourself to the category that most describes you, and find your perfect Halloween read below!
Plus, as an added bonus for my readers who’ve asked for TV and movie recommendations—below each book recommendation listed in this post, you will also find a quick little blurb for a TV show or film that is likely to appeal to you, too! Because why not immerse yourself in all things creepy this fall?
Happy reading - and watching!
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7 Chilling Crime Books for Your Halloween Reading List
If You Like: Nordic Noir + Ghost Stories
Your Halloween Read Is: I REMEMBER YOU by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Iceland’s Queen of Crime has a dark imagination, and it’s on full display in this outstanding mystery-meets-ghost-story. A group of friends go on a journey to a remote, abandoned village in Iceland, with the goal of renovating a rundown house and turning it into a boarding house for summer tourists. But as winter storms encroach on the unsuspecting bunch, it becomes increasingly clear to the group that they are unprepared for the dangers - both natural and otherworldly - that the village has in store. Meanwhile, in another Icelandic town, a psychiatrist is mourning the loss of his young son, who disappeared without a trace and is presumed dead. Unwilling to give up on his missing child, and unsatisfied with the efforts of local police, the psychiatrist begins his own investigation into the tragedy—an investigation that will have darker implications than he could have imagined. Claustrophobic and vividly atmospheric, I REMEMBER YOU is both a gripping mystery and a goosebump-inducing ghost story. Sigurdardottir is brilliant and crafting slow-burning stories that fill you with a pervading sense of dread, and I REMEMBER YOU is her scariest work yet.
Your Movie to Watch Is: I REMEMBER YOU
Based on the book, this superb Icelandic horror film will seriously scare you. Read the book first, but be prepared for a fantastic viewing experience, too!
If You Like: TV Shows Like Criminal Minds
Your Halloween Read Is: THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN by Dot Hutchison
There’s nothing supernatural about Hutchison’s THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN, but that doesn’t make it any less perfect for your Halloween reading list. In fact, it’s all the scarier for it. THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN takes a serial killer thriller and turns it on its head. Our story begins with the FBI interviewing a young woman who has survived a terrible ordeal—she has just been rescued from the home in which she was held captive by a man known as “The Gardener.” She was just one of many young women The Gardener kidnapped over the course of many years. The Gardener considered these women his “butterflies,” and kept them captive in his “garden” - his perverse attempt to protect their beauty from being sullied by the real world. Through her interview with the FBI, the survivor recounts the grotesque experience she has endured, and readers are drawn back in time to experience what she survived firsthand. THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN is a seriously disturbing read; it includes all manner of violence, and doesn’t shy away from exploring the emotional and physical abuse The Gardener’s captives suffered - but you won’t be able to look away from it all the same.
Your TV Show to Watch Is: THE FALL
My favorite serial killer TV show probably ever, THE FALL is dark, disturbing, and absolutely gripping.
If You Like: Psychological Thrillers + Some Horror Vibes
Your Halloween Read Is: FINAL GIRLS by Riley Sager
Riley Sager’s FINAL GIRLS was basically made for Halloween. This binge-worthy psychological thriller isn’t a horror novel unto itself, but it is an ode to horror classics. Its title refers to a horror movie trope: the last woman or girl standing, who has survived the movie’s bloodshed and lives to tell the tale. Sager, a horror movie enthusiast himself, built a deliciously addictive psychological thriller around this concept. What happens to the “final girl” after the bloodshed is over? What does her life look like once the dust has settled? In FINAL GIRLS, readers follow Quincy, a young woman who, years prior, survived a brutal massacre on a vacation with her friends. Quincy seems to have it all now… but someone from her past is determined to make sure everything she has falls apart. As the carefully-constructed facade of Quincy’s life falls away, she must fight back and prove herself a final girl one more time. I absolutely loved this binge-worthy book, and fellow horror enthusiasts will find Sager’s ode to the horror genre totally fun to read; FINAL GIRLS manages to be both a fantastic crime novel and an homage to horror that doesn’t take itself too seriously in the best possible way.
Your TV Show to Watch Is: SCREAM QUEENS
Campy and binge-worthy, SCREAM QUEENS is another homage to horror that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still manages to deliver some thrills - and a lot of laughs - along the way.
If You Like: Gentler Suspense + Gothic Atmospheres
Your Halloween Read Is: THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY by Ruth Ware
Ah, Ruth Ware - there’s just nothing like one of her stories, and THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY is my favorite of hers yet. Rich in atmosphere, laced with Gothic suspense, and featuring a compelling and endearing female lead, Ware’s 2018 release is the perfect Halloween choice for those who prefer something much lighter on gore, and much heavier on interpersonal secrets. In THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY, a young woman is the accidental recipient of a vast fortune. But when she goes to claim her fortunate at the estate of her benefactor, she discovers that she will have to navigate a whole family’s worth of hidden agendas, motivations, and secrets in order to do so. Pulling off this con will be the greatest challenge of her life. Of all Ware’s fantastic books, this one is hands-down my favorite. THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY centers around a spunky, resilient young woman; even though our protagonist is, technically, doing something very wrong in this story, you’ll find yourself cheering for her and hoping she can pull her scam off. In many ways, THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY reads a bit like a locked room mystery: it takes place in a confined location, and features a limit cast of characters. Readers will love the tension and drama that this setup belies, and they will savor the process of getting to know both the story’s characters and the secret-filled mansion that houses them.
Your Movie to Watch Is: CROOKED HOUSE
Based on Agatha Christie’s novel of the same title, this superb adaptation tackles one of my favorite mysteries by the Queen of Crime - a story of a wealthy family with dark secrets.
If You Like: Police Procedurals + Stories involving the Occult
Your Halloween Read Is: THE CRAFTSMAN by Sharon Bolton
On sale in the US on October 9th, Sharon Bolton’s fantastic suspense novel THE CRAFTSMAN is a superb blend of supernatural suspense and real-life mystery. This is exactly the kind of story I want to spend an autumn weekend with, and its witch-y touches make it a perfect choice for your Halloween reading list. THE CRAFTSMAN centers around the life of policewoman Florence Lovelady. In the early years of her career, Florence assisted on an investigation that would come to define the rest of her life. In a small, sleepy town, children were disappearing. One by one, a group of young teens vanished without a trace. The police were baffled, but things were only about to get worse. When Florence makes a gruesome discovery in a local cemetery, a series of dark events are set into motion - and the ensuing investigation draws Florence into the dark heart of the town and its residents. THE CRAFTSMAN is a police procedural in many senses: it centers around a policewoman, and much of the story involves the investigative process of police as they seek to solve a terrible series of crimes. However, there’s also a touch of the occult to this story; readers will be fascinated to see how witchcraft comes into play with this otherwise quite down-to-earth mystery.
Your TV Show to Watch Is: AMERICAN HORROR STORY - COVEN
Strong female leads + witchcraft = success. This American Horror Story season has become iconic for a reason.
If You Like: Gore + Over-the-Top Plotting
Your Halloween Read Is: SECURITY by Gina Wohlsdorf
SECURITY is one of those rare, terrifying gems that won’t be for everyone… but if you like it, you will love it. Gina Wohlsdorf’s superb and inventive thriller sets a whodunnit against the backdrop of a state-of-the-art hotel. At once a locked room mystery, a desperate cat-and-mouse game, and a glitzy, over-the-top drama, SECURITY is a big, bold story that will be a surefire hit—for the right reader. In SECURITY, Wohlsdorf welcomes readers to the luxurious Manderley Resort. The gleaming hotel on the California coast is poised for an epic grand opening. As they make the final preparations for the event, the hotel staff have no idea that they are being watched… and that someone is determined to prevent the hotel from opening, no matter the cost. Over the course of the next twelve hours, the hotel staff will be picked off, one by one. SECURITY is a bloody, gory, no-holds-barred thriller. Come to this book if you’re looking for something inventive; Wohlsdorf’s writing is rip-roaring fun to read, even as she describes some seriously dark and gruesome events. There’s nothing subtle about this story, and that’s just the way the author intended it. Bonus: hidden within this book’s bloody pages, there’s a heart-rending love story, too.
Your Movie to Watch Is: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
Speaking of inventive storytelling - The Cabin in the Woods did for horror movies what SECURITY does for crime novels: its fierce inventiveness and originality, love it or hate it, can’t be denied.
If You Like: Coming of Age Stories + Dark Suspense
Your Halloween Read Is: THE CHALK MAN by C.J. Tudor
C.J. Tudor’s exceptional debut THE CHALK MAN is, without a doubt, one of my favorite debuts I’ve read in ages. Original, subtle, and totally immersive, this fantastic novel explores the childhood secrets that can follow us into adulthood. THE CHALK MAN centers around a group of friends, whom readers meet first in the 1980’s, in their childhood years. As children, Eddie and his friends used to communicate by leaving little chalk drawings for each other. These chalk men became the calling card of their friendship - until one day, mysterious chalk men begin appearing, and lead the friends to a dark discovery. Now, in adulthood, the chalk men of Eddie’s childhood begin appearing again… and he begins to realize that some secrets can’t be kept hidden forever. THE CHALK MAN is subtly crafted, but no less chilling. What makes THE CHALK MAN alarming is the way author C.J. Tudor expertly peels back the layers of childhood, examining the many ways in which even the most apparently ordinary childhood can be a dark, dangerous world to navigate. Pick this book up if you want a Halloween read that is character-driven and not too violent, while still delivering key moments of shock and a pervading sense of tension and mystery.
Your Movie to Watch Is: IT FOLLOWS
Now, I’m going a bit off-script here, so bear with me. Upon its release, readers immediately began comparing C.J. Tudor’s THE CHALK MAN to the TV show Stranger Things… but that comparison has already been made over and over, so I’m taking this recommendation in a different direction. It Follows is an indie horror film that addresses the coming-of-age of a group of teens. What these two stories have in common is right there in the film’s title: both stories involve a very personal decision with lifelong ramifications for the stories’ respective protagonists. Bonus: both stories also include an “urban legend” vibe.
And that’s a wrap on this recommended reading (and watching) list! Are any of these books on your TBR? I’d love to hear from you! xx A