Spooky reads to send a chill down your spine

Some of the best horror stories published in the past year for a spooky readathon

By Rushati Mukherjee
  • Published 30.10.18, 11:26 PM
  • Updated 30.10.18, 11:26 PM
  • 5 mins read
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Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman Agency picture

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman; Ballantine Books; Rs 1,611

The book is about a honeymooning couple, Erin and Mark, who go for a holiday to an island paradise. The situation is already uncomfortable, because Mark is struggling financially and, as a result, belittling Erin, who is a documentary film-maker. Little do they know that a terrifying surprise awaits them during their idyllic vacation.

We loved the opening scene of the book in which a woman is digging a grave, and we love that it maintains this menacing tension throughout the narrative. What’s more, we recognised the author — she played the foxy Mabel Lane Fox in Downton Abbey!

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage Agency picture

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage; St. Martin’s Press; Rs 1,561

Seven-year-old Hanna is resentful of her mother, Suzette, and blindly adores her father, Alex. Both parents are worried about Hanna’s frighteningly violent temper tantrums, but they find it difficult to take any steps to help her. Suzette’s mind slowly begins to buckle under pressure, and sometimes the reader is left wondering if she wants to help her daughter or silence her permanently. Add some very creepy witchcraft into the mix and suddenly, the story goes from one about parental anxiety to something much more sinister. We loved how expertly the suspenseful narrative has been woven; it left us breathlessly turning the pages until the very end. 

Gideon Falls Volume 1: The Black Barn by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino
Gideon Falls Volume 1: The Black Barn by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino Agency picture

Gideon Falls Volume 1: The Black Barn by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino; Image Comics; Rs 757

This series is set partly in the city and partly in the countryside, consisting of stories of a young man, who is obsessed with collecting and preserving ‘special’ pieces from the city’s garbage and a Catholic priest who arrives in the town of Gideon Falls to replace a priest who died mysteriously. As their lives intertwine, we find out about a mysterious building called the Black Barn, which appears in different locations in different historical periods, always bringing death and destruction where it appears. The horror anthology combines the atmosphere of noir with well-written prose and fantastic artwork — the perfect combination for a Halloween read.

Ice Cream Man Volume 1: Rainbow Sprinkles by W. Maxwell Prince, Chris O’Halloran and Martin Morazzo
Ice Cream Man Volume 1: Rainbow Sprinkles by W. Maxwell Prince, Chris O’Halloran and Martin Morazzo Agency picture

Ice Cream Man Volume 1: Rainbow Sprinkles by W. Maxwell Prince, Chris O’Halloran and Martin Morazzo; Image Comics; Rs 1,082

At the heart of this surreal series of four one-shot tales is the figure of the Ice Cream Man, who reminded us a little of Morpheus from Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore’s Sandman series. This demigod-trickster figure drives around a small town, playing tricks on the minds of its residents, from a young boy whose best friend is a spider, to a failing musician trying to get another hit song, to a couple struggling with heroin addiction. As we learn the stories of the people who made deals with the Man, we can’t help asking— who is he? What does he want? And why does he do what he does? Dive right in to find out your favourite flavour.

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand Agency picture

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand; Katherine Tegen Books; Rs 1,369

This creepy coming-of-age young adult story is about three girls —Val, Zoey and Marion. Marion has just arrived on the island of Sawkill Rocks. She becomes friends with Zoey, and later, with the manipulative and scheming Val, with whom she wants something more than just friendship. But when Marion’s older sister, Charlotte, suddenly disappears, Marion has to confront the island’s hidden history and investigate the rumours about a monster that takes women from the community. We loved the way in which the book combines elements of a classic horror narrative and a love story, and how it explores the power of female friendship. 

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware Agency picture

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware; Harvill Secker; Rs 599

A young, desperate tarot card reader called Harriet Westaway receives a letter that could change her life — she learns that her maternal grandmother has died, leaving her a possible inheritance. The only problem is that Hal knows her grandmother died many years ago, and that the lawyers must have confused her with someone else. But with poverty looming large, she decides to take a chance and con the relatives of the dead woman into thinking she is their Harriet. When she arrives at the decrepit old mansion, she begins to realise that something is very wrong.

This one’s for the lover of classics. The atmosphere is straight out of an Agatha Christie or a Daphne du Maurier, and we love how elements of nature have been harnessed to add to the creepy feel. 

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay Agency picture

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay; William Morrow; Rs 2,054

This book adds a terrifying twist to the traditional horror genre of a home invasion gone wrong. Partners Eric and Andrew and their adopted daughter, Wen, go to a cabin for an idyllic woodland holiday when four people break into their house and tell them that if they don’t voluntarily sacrifice one member of their family, the world will end. The terrified family cannot believe this outlandish claim, but then, sown in their mind, grows the doubt — what if what they are being told is true? We love books that combine the traditional genres of horror with real-world happenings, and this book does just that. It speaks about the nature of misinformation, fake news and conspiracy theories, and how far people will go to convince themselves that their understanding of the truth is the only ‘correct’ interpretation.  

The Outsider by Stephen King; Hodder & Stoughton
The Outsider by Stephen King; Hodder & Stoughton Agency picture

The Outsider by Stephen King; Hodder & Stoughton; Rs 699

Baseball coach Terry Maitland is arrested by detective Ralph Anderson and charged with murdering an 11-year-old boy. Maitland insists he is innocent, and security footage from a writers’ convention confirms his story. But Anderson finds physical evidence from the crime scene that suggests Maitland was present there as well. How is this possible? As Anderson delves deeper into the mystery, a shadowy creature that lurked in the depths of the town begins to take shape. This novel combines two of the genres King is proficient in — the police procedures, and horror in a small-town setting.  

The Hunger by Alma Katsu
The Hunger by Alma Katsu Agency picture

The Hunger by Alma Katsu; Bantam Press; Rs 1,622

The Hunger is about the real-life story of the Donner party, an ill-fated group of pioneers in America in 1846, who took a shortcut through mountains in order to reach California and became trapped amidst impassable snowfall for months. Survivors had to resort to cannibalism and worse to get through the season. Here, Katsu adds a menacing presence amidst the bleak mountains. With winter in the offing, and stories about the tendency of children to go missing in the pass haunting their minds, the travellers begin to realise that they have made a horrible mistake. We couldn’t sleep for days after reading the atmospheric, nerve-wracking narrative. 

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt
In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt Agency picture

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt; Little, Brown and Company; Rs 1,902

Ever wanted to revisit your favourite childhood fairy tales, but in a completely new guise? Goody, the protagonist, goes into a forest in New England to pick berries. At home, she has an oppressive husband and a young son. Goody runs into Captain Jane, who takes her to the house of Eliza. Although the strangers take good care of her, Goody soon begins to realise they are not quite human. As Goody’s adventure comes to an end and her home comes closer, Goody begins to wonder if going back to her old life is a good idea. We love how this book takes the classic story of the girl wandering off alone into the woods and turns it on its head, making us question our assumptions about what we think is dangerous, and what isn’t.