By Sidney Williams
With spooky season in full swing, it is prime time to pick up a book to match the scary movies that I’m sure you’re watching. Books have the advantage of your imagination, creating images hundreds of times scarier than (especially modern day) CGI departments. In honor of the first Friday the 13th in five years, BookPeople of Moscow presents to you 13 horror (and thriller) novels. Some focusing on supernatural horrors, others on the atrocities of man. Regardless, here are 13 suggestions to sink your teeth into.
House of Leaves
We open with a family moving into a seemingly small home only to find that it is larger on the inside, as the story progresses they begin to notice physical features of it changing. The husband is a world-class filmographer and decides to document the strange happenings in a Blair Witch Project-esque venture, but this leads to a new door and hallway appearing. What’s unique about House of Leaves is that it is written as a story within a story…within a story, meaning that the whole book is wrapped in the perspective of a young man who broke into a dead man’s house, stealing the notes he was taking on the husband’s documentary. The book is then written as if it were these notes, with footnotes, fake references, and poems interspersed. Truely Danielewski put in a Herculean amount of effort here, resulting in something very immersive and complex. This can lose some people, but if that sort of complexity is your cup of tea, then this book will creep under your skin and take up residence there.
The Silence of the Lambs
An absolute classic. Considered by many to be a landmark in horror, spawning a movie and then a continuing book series, Silence of the Lambs is the seminal Hannibal Lecter story despite being his second appearance. More of a realistic treatment of horror devoid of the supernatural and focused on grisly murders and psychological torture, it is definitely more suited to those that like murder mysteries than fantasy.
Jessie Burlingame starts the book handcuffed to a bed in a remote country cabin participating in her husband, Gerald’s, sexual fantasy. Halfway through this game, Jessie is done, but Gerald isn’t having it and prepares to rape her. Full of fear and needing to defend herself, Jessie kicks him, inadvertently triggering a heart attack, leaving Gerald dead. This book is a great example of body horror, and psychological torment, focusing on Jessie’s mental and physical state as she desperately tries to find a way to free herself before she dies of dehydration. Certainly not for the faint of heart, nor someone looking for a good old monster thriller, but it does do a wonderful job of showcasing King’s multi-note storytelling, not just focusing on descriptions of body horror, but really leaning into the discomfort of confronting one’s own psyche.
Very possibly the most well known modern horror story, with two movies just approaching the retelling in different ways. Following a set of kids in the 50s and again the same group of people as adults in the 80s…the timeline is nonlinear. In each time period, kids are vanishing in the town of Derry due to a shapeshifting demon named IT. This massive book follow these people trying to figure out how to kill the monster and eventually succeeding. It is very hard to summarize all of the things that happen in this story, but it is a classic for a reason, if you’re up for the commitment of over 1,100 pages IT will not disappoint.
The Perfect Place To Die, By Bryce Moore
Based off of the H. H. Holmes murders, during the 1893 Chicago World's fair. The Perfect Place to Die follows Zurretta as she searches for her missing sister, unaware of the man made slaughter house she's working and living in. If you know nothing of these murders, H. H. Holmes was America’s first serial killer. Having erected a labyrinthine building with stores and apartments that would later be labeled “the murder castle”, he claimed to have killed over 200 people, but the jury is still out on exact numbers. Reports from the time talk about secret tunnels, soundproof rooms, and vats of acid, although many were likely embellished, Holmes’ actions placed him securely in the set of history’s most detestable people. We recommend this book because the story itself was written and told well, and it's easy to get invested in. Bryce Moore keeps the reader alert and wondering when the killer will strike, or if he's going to keep playing his game of cat and mouse.
Chasing The Boogeyman By Richard Chizmar
A fictional account of the murders that happened in Chizmar’s hometown. Chizmar includes real accounts from his friends, family, and town, making the feel of the book very similar to a found footage horror movie. Most of the characters are real people, though some liberty was taken for the sake of the story. For example, though the serial killer was made for the book itself, the actual perpetrator, the “Phantom Fondler”, was very real. A great mix of horror and murder mystery. The fact that the story was closely based off of real events really gives the horror aspect a bigger impact, as the reader can easily relate certain scenarios and places to those in their normal lives. On top of that, just this month the second book has come out to continue the investigation.
Birnam Wood By Eleanor Catton
Set in a wood in New Zealand based off of the forest in Macbeth Birnam Wood is an eco-thriller about a guerrilla gardening group accidentally sharing a plot of land with a billionaire building his end of the world bunker. The author does an amazing job writing each character out, revealing that each one has some ulterior motive or another which leads to betrayals and the ultimate apocalypse, which was the party's main goal to stop.
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle By Stuart Turton
A murder mystery that’s a mix of Groundhog's day and Alice and wonderland. The main Protagonist finds himself waking up in someone else's body. He learns that he has 8 days to try and solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, using a new host each day. But he must be careful, because Evelyn isn't the only person someone wants dead. The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle has an incredibly immersive world and story, and numerous twists and turns along the way that keep the reader reading. One of our booksellers (actually the one who recommended a lot of the books on this list), Lukas Foutch, found themselves annotating and writing information down to try to figure the mystery out before the story ended.
The Graveyard Book By Neil Gaiman
One night, a man breaks into a family's house as he murders them all in an attempt to stop a prophecy from coming into fruition, but he fails, missing the young infant. The baby wanders into a graveyard, where the ghosts and monsters tied there decide to raise him as their own. But as the prophesized event comes closer and closer, the failed murderer is bound to me close behind. Strictly supernatural,
The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers
Based off of the cursed play The King in Yellow, The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers actually inspired Lovecraft before Lovecraft made it a part of his Lovecraftian world. The multiple stories in the book mainly focus on the planet Carcosa which the king in yellow resides on. Chambers lays out the world’s rules and how it interacts with our own really well, explaining how mortals are infatuated, manipulated and hypnotized into following this eldritch god "willingly' to their demise. A prototype and lore piece of H.P. Lovecraft’s works, A King in Yellow is a cool and terrifying initial introduction to Lovecraftian-style horror.
The Call of Cthuhlu by H.P. Lovecraft
Another absolute classic, the story "The Call of Cthulhu" specifically follows the Protagonist as he goes through his dead uncle's notes and learns of a cult that worships the Lovecraftian being. The rest of the collection of stories take place in the real world, but illustrates the god's existence through cult practices, which is a bit more on par to what we are used to literature wise. Instead of being based in it's own realm it's seen actually interacting with our world and actively threatening the peace, instead of doing so from far away (This is referring to the King in Yellow, as it is only when the light of Carcosa hits the earth that the king in yellow can freely travel to both worlds, disappearing when the light dissipates). This is undoubtably the seminal work of Lovecraftian horror, defining an entire genre of books, movies and videos games, and as such it is fantastic.
She is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran
Opening with a daughter traveling to Vietnam to cut a deal for college money with an estranged father, She is a Haunting follows Jade Nguyen as she tries to help restore an old French colonial house while appearing straight enough to gain approval. Each night, however, the house seems to come alive in a horrific way tying the present to the past. This book covers a lot bases, examining cultural expectations and homophobia along with its horror elements, all of which are done very well with vibrant descriptions and well thought out examinations of social issues. Unfortunately, it is on the extreme side of a slow burn, too slow in many places, but if that won’t bother you, Trang Thanh Tran has produced a very well done haunted house story that covers some interesting topics.
Man Made Monsters
Man Made Monsters follows a Cherokee family line throughout history as terrible, terrible things keep happening to them. The progression through time is handled by including multiple short stories, each at a different time period. Throughout the book there are many supernatural scares, but usually it focuses on how horrifying people can be. Personally, this is my favorite book on the list, being from an indigenous author on indigenous topics.
Don't stay up too late...happy haunting...
THE MIND-BENDING CULT CLASSIC ABOUT A HOUSE THAT’S LARGER ON THE INSIDE THAN ON THE OUTSIDE • A masterpiece of horror and an astonishingly immersive, maze-like reading experience that redefines the boundaries of a novel.
An ingenious, masterfully written novel, Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs is a classic of suspense and storytelling and the basis for the Oscar award-winning horror film starring Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling and Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
Now a Netflix movie directed by Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) and starring Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood.
Master storyteller Stephen King presents this classic, terrifying #1 New York Times bestseller.
It: Chapter Two—now a major motion picture!
Stephen King’s terrifying, classic #1 New York Times bestseller, “a landmark in American literature” (Chicago Sun-Times)—about seven adults who return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they had first stumbled on as teenagers…an evil without a name: It.
"Fans of true-crime murder mysteries won't want to miss this one."—Booklist, STARRED Review
Stalking Jack the Ripper meets Devil in the White City in this terrifying historical fiction debut about one of the world's most notorious serial killers.
The acclaimed New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling novel of small-town evil that “is genuinely chilling and something brand-new and exciting” (Stephen King) and “unforgettable” (Harlan Coben).
In the summer of 1988, the mutilated bodies of several missing girls begin to turn up in a small Maryland town.
A Best Book of the Year: The New York Times Book Review, NPR, Time, The Financial Times, The Chicago Public Library, Kirkus
A Notable Book of the Year at The Washington Post
A Best Book of the Year (So Far) at The New Yorker, The BBC, Vulture, CrimeReads
"Pop your favorite Agatha Christie whodunnit into a blender with a scoop of Downton Abbey, a dash of Quantum Leap, and a liberal sprinkling of Groundhog Day and you'll get this unique murder mystery." —Harper's Bazaar
THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER!
The 10th anniversary edition of The Graveyard Book includes a foreword by Margaret Atwood as well as sketches from the illustrator, handwritten drafts, and Neil Gaiman’s Newbery acceptance speech.
IT TAKES A GRAVEYARD TO RAISE A CHILD.
Who dares to read The King in Yellow?
The essential literary collection of H. P. Lovecraft’s ten finest short stories, from the celebrated editor of the two-volume New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft.
Instant New York Times and Indie Bestseller!
This house eats and is eaten . . .
Walter Dean Myers Award Winner
International Literacy Association Book Award Winner
Whippoorwhill Award Winner
Reading the West Book Awards Shortlist
BEST OF THE YEAR
Washington Post · Booklist Editors’ Choice · Publishers Weekly · Horn Book · New York Public Library
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