With Halloween coming up the number of ghoulishly good horror and thriller books flying off the shelves is sure to increase. But have you ever thought about why we like scaring ourselves with these books?
Novelist Lou Morgan explains that “In reading books that frighten us, we have the choice of whether to explore our fears… or not. But if we do, we come away knowing that the monsters can be defeated…”
Makes sense right although its something we hadn’t even considered before.
If you love spine-tingling stories then why not check out one of our suggested reads below?
The Shining – Stephen King (2011)
“Fantastic book, definitely one of the best from Stephen King, far better than the film which is to be expected really, he’s notorious for hating the film adaption and after reading this I see why!” –
“I’ve been a huge King fan since I was a teenager, I’ve read the majority of his books and he never disappointed me. However, because I saw the film a few times, I had never read The Shining believing it would be the same as the movie. Now I just finished it, and I have to say its way better than Kubrick’s motion picture. Its probably one of King’s finest, along with It and The Stand. Beautifully written, scarier than any other book I’ve ever read, thrilling, addictive, a wonderful masterpiece, probably the best horror novel of the past century. I feel ashamed I didn’t open it before. From now on, hedge animals, mallets and bathroom tubs won’t be the same to me… He transports you into a nightmare and forces you to open the eyes and see… If I could give it ten stars instead of five I would. If you haven’t read it yet, even if you are not a King fan, you should. And enjoy a brilliant and mesmerising book “- Amazon customer
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War – Max Brooks (2013)
I didn’t know what to expect (other than zombies, of course) when I picked up this book on a recent tidal wave of post-apocalyptic reading. What I didn’t expect was a book of such depth, intelligence and emotion that I would enjoy every second of reading. The unusual narrative is woven together through the personal accounts of many different survivors of a zombie worldwide outbreak from all corners of the globe. Each individual story, be it one page or ten, provides a unique, gripping account of their small part in the epic drama that unfolds from the first witnesses of the zombie “virus” to the final days of World War Z. But more than this, the book provides an in-depth social commentary on survivalism, how people’s relationships with each other are changed under pressure and in emergency, and how they pull together or pull apart under horrific circumstances; a political commentary on both globalism and isolationism and how different nations may react differently to danger; and a psychological view of how humanity copes with war, disease, guilt, hope, loss and death. The book is tense but not scary, thought-provoking but not laboured and familiar but not cliche.
I ended the book feeling an immense amount of gratitude for the amount of work and time the author clearly put in to this surprising gem of fiction. It is rare to find someone explore a plot so thoroughly and so thoughtfully, and this book will definitely sit pride of place on my bookshelf. – Catherine
The Ritual – Adam Nevill (2017)
Adam Nevill is a top bloke – go find him on Facebook and you’ll see! In fact, he’s such a nice chap, you really wonder how he can write something as cruel and nasty as this! The book starts off with a group of friends hiking through the Swedish woodland – something that Nevill has, himself, done. As an exercise-o-phobe, that sounds fairly horrifying to me, to start with. But it gets worse. The first half of the book is an exquisitely detailed almost minute-by-minute retelling of the horrors of being lost in primordial woods and pursued by something unseen and terrifying. Even though it isn’t written first person, Nevill gets right into the head of Luke – one of the four walkers – and makes the writing increasingly subjective as we suffer Luke’s pain along with him. Then the second half of the book changes dramatically – I won’t spoil it by saying how – but everything you thought you understood from the book’s first half, shifts. The book mostly goes for creepy and dreadful (in the literal sense) rather than shocking and gory. It’ll be interesting to see if the film does likewise. Some books you read are clearly just scripts with ‘he said’, ‘she said’ added. This is not one of those books. Nevill clearly never imagined the book being made into a film, his writing would be less internal, if he had, but it would also be less involving.
My only criticisms would be that, especially when they are whinging and bickering at the beginning, I didn’t much like the four characters, so I wasn’t involved in them when things started to go wrong. But I stuck with it and Nevill won me over! Also, by making them all fractious and troubled, it helps them not be the stereotypes the stalk and slash movies have led us to expect. Secondly, that dramatic gear-shift half way through – while clearly deliberate and carefully constructed – might leave the reader with the feeling that, instead of reading one unified piece, you’re actually reading two halves of different books.
The flip-side of that is, about half way through, I was beginning to wonder just how much suffering Nevill could inflict on his characters (and readers) so that change offers a much-needed breather from the relentless horror. This was only Nevill’s second book. I look forward to reading his later books, to see how his already well-developed talents have since developed. – J W Ashbrook
Black Dahlia, Red Rose – Piu Eatwell
Twenty-two-year-old Elizabeth Short was murdered in Los Angeles, on 15 January 1947. Dubbed the ‘Black Dahlia’, this sensational case became a cause célèbre, especially as her killer was never caught. Now, seventy years later, Piu Eatwell brings this historical cold case back to life in a dramatic reinvestigation, which finally exposes the likely culprit. Set in the heady days of LA glamour, the story has real-life elements of film noir, as it explores the original evidence, examines the suspects and uncovers new information.
In ‘Black Dahlia, Red Rose’, Piu Eatwell retells this iconic story expertly through meticulous research and a compelling narrative. She shares the complex details and numerous characters with consummate skill, transforming the material into a gripping read. Furthermore, she offers a fascinating glimpse into life in LA at that time, revealing corruption and hypocrisy at all levels, from the film-makers and gangsters, right through to the police department, which led to one of the most serious cover-ups in American history. This is a brilliantly-written and fascinating book – highly recommended for all true crime lovers. – Angela Buckley
All of a Winter’s Night – Phil Rickman
All of a Winter’s Night is the fourteenth – fourteenth! – book in Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series. For those who don’t know, Merrily is a Church of England priest with a parish in Herefordshire, close to the Welsh border, and is also a deliverance minister, trained to deal with reported cases of hauntings and similar spiritual disturbances. The Merrily Watkins books are probably best thought of as crime mysteries with a supernatural edge.
I won’t go into more detail about the background to the series, not least because I’ve already reviewed a few of the books and I’d be going over old ground, but I will say that I think this is one of the strongest instalments in the series.
It opens with Merrily and Jane investigating a night-time disturbance in the churchyard next to the vicarage, where some men seem to be gathering at the grave of a young man recently killed in a quad bike accident. What unfolds is an eerie tale of murder, folk ritual, blood feuds and mysticism, but there are also more worldly subplots involving corrupt local politics and criminals from Eastern Europe, plus the ever-present threat of Merrily losing her deliverance role and being moved to a parish away from her beloved Ledwardine.
This book feels like vintage Merrily Watkins, with lots of familiar characters playing an integral role to the plot and Merrily herself playing a pivotal role in driving the action forward. The development of the characters over the course of the series is, along with the powerful sense of place, one of the strongest elements of Phil Rickman’s writing. It also goes beyond eeriness and atmosphere and into full-on folk horror at times, and it does so wholly successfully. – Joanne Sheppard
Holy Island: A DCI Ryan Mystery – LJ Ross
This book drew me in from the start and kept me guessing right on through to the end. The characters are complex and very believable. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. – Loveday54
Brilliant description of Lindesfarn Island, and the history associated with the early Christian church. The actual murder mystery was excellent, kept one guessing until the end and I did not suspect the final mastermind. Good suspense. over all excellent mystery and I plan to read the whole series. – susan nielson
The Furthest Station: A PC Grant Novella – Ben Aronovitch
Grumbles first. This is a lot to pay for a novella. It’s a bit frustrating that it hasn’t got more meat on its bones, and I felt that it could easily have become a full length novel with a little tweaking here and there. Having said that, I love Aaronovitch (with the exception of the graphic novels which I find really poor), and anything he writes tends to please me. Good character development of more bit part characters here, and more of his ongoing love story to London make this a good read. I read it with an eye for new ideas, plot lines and characters that may pop up in the next full length novel and it is going to be nice to mull it over for a few months until, hopefully, the next full length novel comes out. – Mrs K. A Wheatley
The Fourth Monkey – J.D. Barker
This is good, very seriously good. I don’t normally go for the ‘best novel you will read this year’ etc., books, but on this occasion that is absolutely on the money. It is, quite simply, stunning. Very, very gruesome in parts, yes, and definitely not for the faint hearted. It starts with a death, due to a road traffic accident between a bus and a pedestrian. The victim having no identification on him except carrying a package containing a human ear (which he was obviously going to post and is extremely significant in the Police investigations into recent murders by the Fourth Monkey Killer, aka 4MK). In his pockets there is a dry cleaner’s receipt, pocket watch (which had stopped at 3:14 and was not the time of the accident) and 75 cents in assorted change. He was also wearing, quite strangely, a fedora, very expensive John Lobb shoes, but a cheap suit. In his pockets is some kind of diary which begins with the words “Hello, my friend. I am a thief, a murderer, a kidnapper” and so it begins…..
Due to the contents of the package, they realise the killer has snatched another victim (Emory) and it becomes a race against time to find her, knowing that the killer is laid on the Morgue table so they don’t have any answers to their questions. Sam Porter is, quite simply, a brilliant detective. His team consists of Nash, Clair, and Watson and they are very loyal to Sam. Sam starts to read the diary and at first thinks it’s just the ramblings of a really mixed up child as it’s all about his childhood and his parents. However, things aren’t what they seem with it and 4MK has anticipated Sam skipping to the last page for answers, so he has to read every page.
I loved how the story was told from the perspective of Sam, Clair and Emory and, basically, our deranged killer (via his diary) who is very, very clever and is always one step ahead of the team, anticipating their next step. I won’t cover any more of the story for fear of spoiling it. I would, however, urge anyone who loves well written, fast paced thrillers, that if you are going to read one book this year, make it this; you won’t regret it. However, one word of caution, don’t do what I did and read this, in parts, whilst eating. Not a good idea at all. Also be prepared to not be able to put it down, especially to sleep.
Massively recommended and cannot wait for the next book by this brilliant author. – Yorkshire Rose
The House on Cold Hill – Peter James
Well it was pretty damned scary in places, then it became page after page of scares and a unique way of tackling the pesky way stories have to explain ghosts. He convinced me with the explanations and effects the ghosts had on the characters and that places can be haunted. Why not a five star story – well, if I told you why that was, it might spoil the enjoyment of the story – and to be honest, it’s a good little scary roller-coaster of a story to wreck by a niggle of my own. – Jer