Halloween is upon us and most of us, for some unknown reason, like to have the poop scared out of us at this time of year. So to help everyone out, I’ve complied a list of 8 of my favorite books to read with the lights on (and possibly a trusty shotgun by your bed, too).
It was sooooo difficult to narrow it down to just 8, so I also mention a couple of my other favorite books by the same authors…because it’s impossible to pick just one. Some of these are psychological thrillers and some of these are straight up scary as hell. In no particular order, here they are:
The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah
Sally is watching the news with her husband when she hears the name of a man she had a brief affair with the previous year when away on a “private” weekend without her spouse. The man’s name is Mark Bretherick and they’re flashing a picture of him on the news, talking about something tragic that has happened to him. This man’s wife and daughter are now dead and what’s more, the picture they’re showing on the news? Not the man she had an affair with.
What’s real? What’s made up? And is Sally and her family safe? Or will they meet the same fate as Mark’s family? And where is the man she met that called himself Mark Bretherick?
This was my first foray into Sophie Hannah’s work. I read this novel in one day, completely riveted, amazed by the dark and twisted recesses that were in this author’s brain. You think you have this figured out, but I assure you, you don’t.
This is not the first in the Spilling Detective series, but I believe that it’s the best of all the Spilling Detective novels. Definitely one of those books to read with the lights on.
Other favorite works by Sophie Hannah: Hurting Distance (or The Truth Teller’s Lie in the UK), Woman With a Secret
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Ten guests are invited to a private island for the weekend, host unknown. Each of these guests have a deadly, dark secret, and it becomes quickly evident that their host has an agenda. They start off with ten, and then, one by one, they are killed…until there are none.
This is one of my absolute most favorite books. I rarely read books more than once and I believe I’ve read this one five or six times, the first time when I was just 12 years old. And the fact that I know whodoneit doesn’t ruin it for me at all. It reminds me of the movie Clue. It defies all logic, but obviously masterminded by a lunatic (the culprit in this novel, not Agatha Christie, although one would think she needed to be a little nuts to come up with some of her stories).
If you’ve never read this classic, do yourself a favor and pick it up. Oh, and don’t read it when you’re invited to a deserted mansion in the middle of nowhere by an unknown host.
Other favorite works by Agatha Christie: The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side, Cat Among the Pigeons
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Libby’s mother and two sisters were brutally murdered one night when she was 7 years old, leaving Libby to be the only one to tell the police what happened. Based on her testimony, her brother Ben was found to be the killer and he’s been locked away for 25 years. Not everyone believes that he is guilty, though—there is a secret society dedicated to finding out the truth. They want Libby to help them prove that Ben is innocent…and catch the real killer.
Fan of Gone Girl? Well, then you must know that Gillian Flynn’s novels are screwed up mind f*$&s. I found this to be the most twisted off all her novels thus far. Not only with the secrets that are revealed, but the incredibly messed up nature and motivation of the actual murders. Don’t read this one when you’re home alone.
Other favorite works by Gillian Flynn: Sharp Objects
Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon
Lisa went into the woods when she was 12 years old and never came out. Before she disappeared, she told her little brother Sam that she was going to marry the fairy King and be the queen of the fairies by entering a magical door in the woods. She was never found.
Several years later, Sam is grown up with a girlfriend, Phoebe. He is practical and doesn’t believe in any of the mystical ideas that his sister had put in his head when he was a child. Until very strange and unexplained occurrences begin to happen. Things that may lead back to Lisa all those years ago.
Besides Stephen King, I rarely read any supernatural or paranormal mystery/ horror. But this book and its story just gripped me tight from the very beginning and pulled me into this eerie world. I read it on vacation in Maine, woods and trees surrounding me…it definitely added to the creepy vibe of the novel. The hairs on my arms were literally standing on end.
Other favorite works by Jennifer McMahon: The One I Left Behind
Now You See Me by S.J. Boulton
Detective Lacey Flint comes across a body of a woman in a parking lot, killed mere moments before Lacey arrived. A reporter receives a letter the next day, pointing out the similarities between this murder and the Ripper murders. The murderer seems to be taunting Lacey, and promises to recreate Jack the Ripper’s bloody crimes. The only way for Lacey to stop the killer is to go after him herself.
This was the first book I read by S.J. Boulton and definitely my favorite. For some creepy reason, I find the history of Jack the Ripper fascinating and Boulton’s ability to seamlessly weave it into a modern tale is fantastic. Most of the Lacey Flint novels are superb, due to the incredible character of Lacey herself—flawed, broken, and hell bent on solving crimes.
Other favorites by S.J. Boulton: Lost, Daisy in Chains
Final Girls by Riley Sager
Quincy Carpenter is a “Final Girl”, the term given to the last woman or girl alive in a horror film. Quincy lived her own horror film back in college when she went on vacation with five friends and was the only one left alive. She’s trying to get her life back on track with the help of another “final girl” that she never actually meets, Lisa, who survived a deadly sorority house massacre, her boyfriend Jeff, and Cooper, the cop who found her in the woods on the night of the deadly attack. And she probably would be on track had Lisa not been discovered dead in her bathtub with her wrists slit. Suicide or murder ?
Enter Sam, another “final girl”, a survivor of another massacre. Like Lisa, Quincy never met Sam, but now that Lisa is dead, Sam is the only person who truly understands the horror that Quincy has been through. And the current horror—what if someone is targeting “Final girls” in order to finish them off? Thus ensues a crazy series of event that has you questioning everyone in Quincy’s life and their motives. In the end…nothing is really what it seems.
I know, I know. I put this on my The 5 Best Books of Summer 2018 list. But seriously. This book was crazy good and sent chills up my spine. It’ll have you suspicious of everyone.
I See You by Clare Mackintosh
Zoe takes the same route to work every day. She never suspects that she’s being watched…until the day she finds her picture in the paper…under a classified ad. Her family tries to convince her that it’s not her in the ad, but she’s certain that it is, causing her to investigate further. She soon discovers the other women in those ads are finding themselves in dangerous situations—assaulted, raped, even murdered.
Who is behind these heinous crimes and is Zoe in danger? And who can she trust?
Absolutely terrifying if you consider how easily this might be done in real life. We are incredibly predictable with our routines. Who may be watching us? And what might they do with this information? This book will have you looking over your shoulder and reassessing everything…and everyone…you know.
Other favorite works by Clare Mackintosh: I Let You Go
Christine by Stephen King
Two high school students, Arnie and Dennis, fix up a dilapidated old Plymouth Fury that they discovered rusting on a neighbor’s lawn. The previous owner had named the car Christine, so the boys kept the name. She proved to be a chick magnet for the once dorky Arnie, but soon starts to consume every aspect of his life…taking on a life of her own. Christine has her own agenda for Arnie, and she’s not a fan of his new girlfriend. In fact, she wants to kill her.
No scary book list is complete without the king of horror. I’ve read most of Stephen King’s books and they’ve all succeed in terrifying me to death. When you think of Stephen King, you can easily rattle off at least 10 of his most frightening tomes.
But I don’t think any of his other books sent me into such panic as Christine did. I was 15 years old when I read this and petrified of cars for a good two weeks. Yikes. Don’t read this book in the car. Or if you need to go in a car any time soon. And never, ever name a car Christine.
Other favorite works by Stephen King: The Shining, Mr. Mercedes