It’s that time of year again… I love scaring myself with a creepy book, or immersing myself in a gothic world. If you’re looking for something to read this Halloween, here are some of the best spooky books I’ve read in the last year.
Let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations for me!
Part-psychological thriller, part-urban legend, this is an unsettling narrative made up of diary entries, interview transcripts, film footage transcripts and medical notes. Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . .
Re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, transcripts of video footage and fragments of diary reveal a web of deceit and intrigue, violence and murder, raising a whole lot more questions than it answers.
Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?
Chilling, creepy and utterly compelling, THE DEAD HOUSE is one of those very special books that finds all the dark places in your imagination, and haunts you long after you’ve finished reading.
Released in August, Dawn Kurtagich’s debut novel is a proper horror story — no wishy-washy ‘don’t scare the children’ writing here. Told through a variety of media, it’s uniquely written, and is unsettling in the most satisfying of ways. A Halloween read to truly scare!
A castle. A curse. A dangerous summer.
Leo has invited Kate and a few friends to spend the summer at his inheritance, Darkmere Castle: as wild and remote as it is beautiful. Kate thinks it will be the perfect place for her and Leo to get together – but instead, she’s drawn into the dark story of a young nineteenth-century bride who haunts the tunnels and towers of the house. And whose curse now hangs over them all.
Another August debut, Helen Maslin’s Darkmere is a wonderful ghost story that’s part contemporary and part historical. It’s not terrifying or gory like The Dead House, but chilling in a romantic, old-fashioned gothic way (which is my favourite kind of scary book). Haunted castles, secret passageways, and illicit nighttime activities — yes please!
Read my full review here.
Seventeen-year-old Elliott hasn’t slept properly for months. Not since the accident that nearly killed him. Sometimes he half-wakes, paralysed, while shadowy figures move around him. Other times he is the one moving around, while his body lies asleep on the bed. His doctors say sleep paralysis and out of body experiences are harmless – but to Elliott they’re terrifying.
Convinced that his brush with death has attracted the spirit world, Elliott secures a job at a reputedly haunted museum, determined to discover the truth. There, he meets the enigmatic Ophelia. But, as she and Elliott grow closer, Elliott draws new attention from the dead. One night, during an out of body experience, Elliott returns to bed to find his body gone. Something is occupying it, something dead that wants to live again . . . and it wants Ophelia, too . . .
I read Unrest at the beginning of the year without any expectations, and became completely absorbed. It’s full of twists and turns, and is incredibly clever, whilst also being very creepy. If you like your ghost stories to have smart twists and layers, this is the book for you.
Meet Molly Sue. Once she’s under your skin there’s no getting rid of her…
Seventeen-year-old Sally Feather is not exactly a rebel. Her super-conservative parents and her treatment at the hands of high school bullies means that Sally’s about as shy and retiring as they come – but all that’s about to change. Accidentally ending up in the seedier side of town one day, Sally finds herself mysteriously lured to an almost-hidden tattoo parlour – and once inside, Sally is quickly seduced by its charming owner, Rosita, and her talk of how having a secret tattoo can be as empowering as it is thrilling. Almost before she knows what she is doing, Sally selects sexy pin-up Molly Sue, and has her tattooed on her back – hoping that Molly Sue will inspire her to be as confident and popular as she is in her dreams.
But things quickly take a nightmareish turn. Almost immediately, Sally begins to hear voices in her head – or rather, one voice in particular: Molly Sue’s. And she has no interest in staying quiet and being a good girl – in fact, she’s mighty delighted to have a body to take charge of again. Sally slowly realises that she is unable to control Molly Sue… and before long she’s going to find out the hard way what it truly means to have somebody ‘under your skin’.
No Halloween list would be complete without a James Dawson book. Under My Skin takes a really unique concept (who wouldn’t want to read about a possessed tattoo?) and is as entertaining as you’d expect. It probably won’t give you nightmares like Say Her Name, but it’s a lot of fun. One to read with a bowl of Halloween sweets by your side.
Uncle Montague lives alone in a big house and his regular visits from his nephew give him the opportunity to relive some of the most frightening stories he knows. But as the stories unfold, a newer and more surprising narrative emerges, one that is perhaps the most frightening of all.
Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror is a collection of scary short stories which cleverly link together at the end of the book. The stories feature terrible things happening to naughty children, and read like a cross between M.R. James and Tim Burton. Chris Priestley has written many a scary book, and is the perfect author to read at Halloween.
For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.
Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.
Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .
Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series is one of my favourites. About a team of young ghost hunters, it’s funny, smart and scary all at the same time. I loved the first two books and am looking forward to getting my hands on the third.
At sixteen Nash thought that the fight to become Head Girl of prestigious boarding school Bathory would be the biggest battle she’d face. Until her brother’s disappearance leads to Nash being trapped at the school over Christmas with Bathory’s assorted misfits. As a blizzard rages outside, strange things are afoot in the school’s hallways, and legends of the mysterious Beast of Bathory – a big cat rumoured to roam the moors outside the school – run wild. Yet when the girls’ Matron goes missing it’s clear that something altogether darker is to blame – and that they’ll have to stick together if they hope to survive.
Monster came out last month, making it perfectly timed for long winter nights. It’s got murder, mystery, and cold weather in snow-shovel loads. The mystery builds slowly — is the Beast of Bathory real? Who can be trusted? — and leads to a satisfyingly dramatic denouement.
What will you be reading this Halloween?
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