BOOK CLUB: 8 Haunting Halloween Reads

October 22, 2021

‘Tis the season to carve pumpkins, toffee some apples and curl up with a spooky, spine-tingling story or two.

 

If you like sweater weather with a side of terror, then this month’s bewitching Book Club is right up your alley! We’ve put together 8 deliciously spell-binding page-turners to get you in the spirit of things (pun intended!). From pulse-pounding thrillers to stomach-churning scaries and devilishly dark humour to poignant prose, there are treats for everyone – just be prepared to sleep with the lights on!

 

 

Home Before Dark, Riley Sager

 

Upon the death of her father, Maggie Holt is shocked to discover she has inherited Baneberry Hall – the allegedly haunted mansion her family fled from 25-years previous. Her father, Ewan, recounted the ghostly happenings in his nonfiction book House of Horrors, which grew to become a worldwide phenomenon.

 

Maggie was just five years old when her family abandoned Baneberry Hall, meaning she was too young to remember any of the events her father wrote about. What’s more, she doesn’t believe a single word of it.

 

As a restorer of old homes, Maggie returns to renovate the deserted family property in order to put it up for sale. Locals are far from thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Ewan’s work, but as Maggie spends time there, she experiences strange occurrences straight out of the pages of her father’s book.

 

A classic haunted house story with a twist – what’s more Halloween appropriate than that? The suspenseful plot alternates between Maggie’s perspective and chapters from her father’s novel. Overall, it’s perfectly paced and excellently engaging!

 

 

True Crime Story, Joseph Knox

 

Saturday, December 17th, 2011. That was the last time anyone saw Zoe Nolan. She was just nineteen at the time and leaving a party in the shared accommodation she had been living at for three months.

 

Fast forward seven years, Evelyn Mitchell, a struggling writer, finds herself fascinated with the mysterious disappearance of Zoe. As she interviews Zoe’s closest friends and family, many inconsistencies emerge, and Evelyn begins to piece together what really happened that December evening.

 

Evelyn reaches out to crime writer Joseph Knox (also author of this book) via email to share her ideas. Not long after, Joseph cuts connection as he’s busy focusing on his next novel. That is until Evelyn’s sudden death makes him change his mind and he does his very best to complete her unfinished business.

 

This compelling tale is cleverly constructed in the form of transcripts and emails, blurring the lines between true crime and fiction. There are twists and turns aplenty as secrets, deceptions and obsessions appear throughout the complicated mystery.

 

 

The Institute, Stephen King

 

Luke Ellis, a twelve-year-old child prodigy, was taken from his home in the middle of the night. When he wakes, he finds himself in a room at The Institute which is almost identical to his room back home, except for the fact that there are no windows. Beyond his door are other doors that contain other children who display special abilities such as psychic powers, telekinesis, and telepathy. They all ended up at The Institute in the exact same way Luke did.

 

Luke, along with the other captives, undergoes experiments against his will. The aim is to have their extranormal gifts extracted from them. If the children obey, they’re rewarded, but if they don’t, the punishment is brutal. Luke quickly becomes friends with the other hostages and they begin to plot their escape, but no one has ever broken free from The Institute before...

 

Of course, this list would be incomplete without a Stephen King novel, and if it’s a totally evil story that you’re after this Halloween, The Institute won’t let you down! The book starts slow, beginning with the backstory of a small-town cop, but as soon as Luke is introduced the tension becomes almost unbearable.

 

 

How To Kill Your Family, Bella Mackie

 

Villainous and enchanting protagonist, Grace Bernard, currently sits in Limehouse prison serving a sentence for a murder she didn’t commit. But that’s not to say she’s exactly innocent…

 

When Grace discovers her biological millionaire father had rejected her and her dying mother, she decides to enact her revenge by killing her entire family! Now that she finds herself sitting in prison in a strange twist of fate, she decides to write her astonishing story to relieve herself from the boredom and inane chatter of her cellmate, Kelly. Her twisted tale is filled with dark humour as she describes the juicy details of her life along with the creative ways in which she killed six family members.

 

This chilling novel is a fun and fresh take on a crime mystery with a brilliant twist waiting for you right at the end. How To Kill Your Family has become one of the most popular releases of 2021 and what better time to get your teeth stuck into it than spooky season?

 

 

The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides

 

Alicia Berenson has it all: a successful career as a famous painter, a luxurious house overlooking the park, and a happy marriage with an in-demand fashion photographer, Gabriel.  

 

One evening, Gabriel returns home late from work and Alicia shoots her husband five times in the face before going completely silent. Her refusal to utter another word turns the tragedy into something far grander – a mystery that enthrals the public and casts Alicia into notoriety.

 

As Alicia resides in a psychiatric facility, Theo Faber, a flawed criminal psychotherapist, takes a job at the home with the objective of getting Alicia to talk and solving the secrecy behind the murder. Through Theo’s perspective and investigation, and Alicia’s own diary entries, the reader is brought along on a hair-raising thriller ride.

 

This is a page-turner that you won't be able to put down as it isn’t until the very last pages do we understand why Alicia fell silent and why Theo is so deeply fascinated with the investigation. Without plans this Halloween? The Silent Patient has got you covered.

 

 

 

My Heart Is A Chainsaw, Stephen Graham Jones

 

Jade Daniels is a social outcast with an abusive father and absent mother. As an indigenous girl in a predominantly white Idaho town, she finds comfort in her sphere of horror movies – particularly those where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them.

 

Jade’s consuming obsession with slasher movies reaches new heights when she is convinced the plot of one is emerging right on her doorstep when a tourist’s bloody body floats to the top of the town’s lake. With her extensive knowledge, Jade is able to predict how things are going to unfold and through that, we learn about her past and her vulnerabilities.

 

This gory novel is a slow burn that requires concentration but stick with it as the pace dramatically speeds up for a wild ride in the second half and a final punch in the gut that will take you a long time to forget! My Heart Is A Chainsaw is a love letter to horror movies, seasoned throughout with references to the classics, making it the ideal read this Halloween.

 

 

Nineteen Minutes, Jodi Picoult

 

This psychological thriller is one that seems all too real in this day and age. In just nineteen minutes, an ordinary New Hampshire town is changed forever. A high school student shoots his classmates, killing ten and injuring nine. In the aftermath of the shocking act of violence, the locals must seek justice so their town can heal whilst also coming to terms with the role they played in the tragedy.

 

This emotionally complex situation tackles all angles of the controversial, sensitive and relevant subject matter in such a dignified way that the reader is able to grasp an understanding of all perspectives. This story follows a difficult plot but one that is powerful, poignant, and surprisingly introspective. If you’re not a fan of horror stories, Nineteen Minutes could be your perfect Halloween read as it will haunt you nonetheless.

 

 

The Silence, Daisy Pearce

 

Former TV star, Stella Wiseman, has grown up. Now in her thirties, Stella's alone and stuck in a dead-end job. Just as she's on the verge of hitting rock bottom, she meets Marco – an older man who offers to help her get back on her feet.

 

Marco lavishes her with money and offers her pills to calm her nerves. It's not long before her memories become foggy, and Marco whisks her away to a secluded cottage where she’s isolated from everyone except him. He tells her she just needs time away from the world but as she begins to question what is real and what is not, she also wonders if Marco is really fighting for her survival or actually her biggest threat.

 

Pearce’s portrayal of gaslighting between the central characters is so convincing it may be worth noting a trigger warning. This psychological thriller is twisty and gripping as it leads the reader through a jovial dance – once you think you’ve figured out what is happening, you find those very theories contradicted in the following chapter! The Silence is a Halloween read that can easily be devoured in just one sitting.

Emily Davies
Book Club

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