Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Spooky reads for Halloween - what are your favourites?

I recently read a survey that voted The Silence of the Lambs the scariest book of all time. I haven't read that one, but I do have a few spooky reads on my bookshelves, and I thought I'd share them with you.  I was a big fan of Stephen King as a teen, and The Shining definitely features amongst my scariest reads of all time, but I've omitted him from this list, as it's pretty well know that he writes scary books! Here I've gone for books that you might not heard of before.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and if you have a favourite scary read, why not share it with me? I'd love to know!

As I mentioned in my review of The Dead of Winter  I love anything Gothic.  The Thirteenth tale by Diane Setterfield is a wonderfully Gothic tale and it's has a wonderfully Gothic setting too. This one also deals with the theme of twins, which is one that has always interested me. The ending of this book really unsettled me and stayed with me for quite a while after I read it. It's a great read - if you haven't already checked it out, you should!

Biographer Margaret Lea returns one night to her apartment above her father's antiquarian bookshop. On her steps she finds a letter. It is a hand-written request from one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved novelists. Vida Winter, gravely ill, wants to recount her life story before it is too late, and she wants Margaret to be the one to capture her history. The request takes Margaret by surprise–she doesn’t know the author, nor has she read any of Miss Winter’s dozens of novels. 

Late one night, while pondering whether to accept the task of recording Miss Winter’s personal story, Margaret begins to read her father’s rare copy of Miss Winter’s Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. She is spellbound by the stories and confused when she realizes the book only contains twelve stories. Where is the thirteenth tale? Intrigued, Margaret agrees to meet Miss Winter and act as her biographer. 

As Vida Winter unfolds her story, she shares with Margaret the dark family secrets that she has long kept hidden as she remembers her days at Angelfield, the now burnt-out estate that was her childhood home. Margaret carefully records Miss Winter’s account and finds herself more and more deeply immersed in the strange and troubling story. In the end, both women have to confront their pasts and the weight of family secrets. As well as the ghosts that haunt them still.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill is a pretty well known book, and it's deliciously creepy. I first read this after I had seen the low-budget movie of the book when I was twelve. I didn't sleep for a week after I watched it. Some truly scary scenes in that one, and the book is great too!

What real reader does not yearn, somewhere in the recesses of his or her heart, for a really literate, first-class thriller - one that chills the body with foreboding of dark deeds to come, but warms the soul with perceptions and language at once astute and vivid? In other words, a ghost story by Jane Austen.

Austen we cannot, alas, give you, but Susan Hill's remarkable Woman In Black comes as close as the late twentieth century is likely to provide. Set on the obligatory English moor, on an isolated causeway, the story has as its hero one Arthur Kipps, an up-and-coming young solicitor who has come north to attend the funeral and settle the estate of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The routine formalities he anticipates give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister and terrifying than any nightmare: the rocking chair in the nursery of the deserted Eel Marsh House, the eerie sound of pony and trap, a child's scream in the fog, and, most dreadfully, and for Kipps most tragically, the woman in black.

The Woman In Black is both a brilliant exercise in atmosphere and controlled horror and a delicious spine-tingler - proof positive that that neglected genre, the ghost story, isn't dead after all.

The Ghost Writer by John Harwood is not one of my all time favourites, but it definitely creeped me out. I haven't read anything else by this author, although his second book The Seance is also on my to-read creepy list! I love the cover of this one though - totally creeps me out!

Viola Hatherley was a writer of ghost stories in the 1890s whose work lies forgotten until her great-grandson, as a young boy in Mawson, Australia, learns how to open the secret drawer in his mother's room. There he finds a manuscript, and from the moment his mother catches him in the act, Gerard Freeman's life is irrevocably changed. What is the invisible, ever-present threat from which his mother strives so obsessively to protect him? And why should stories written a century ago entwine themselves ever more closely around events in his own life? Gerard's quest to unveil the mystery that shrouds his family, and his life, will lead him from Mawson to London, to a long-abandoned house and the terror of a ghost story come alive.


I was a huge fan of Christopher Pike's books as a teen and I remember this one really scared me. I was petrified of the cover of this book and would not even keep it in my room. It's pretty scary, huh? I'm going to have to re-read this one soon, as I don't really recall the story, but the cover still freaks me out!


Returning home one day, Roxanne and Pepper find their small town--and surrounding towns--empty. Finally they find three other teens and realize that all five are each connected through the death of Betty Sue, the plain, shy girl who committed suicide only three months before. Betty Sue had written stories about them, stories of hate, revenge, and death . . . in a dead world.

Share your favourite scary reads in comments. :)


  1. WOW! That cover for Whisper of Death is CREEPY! My favorite scary read is The Shining by Steven King. Classic :)

  2. I love anything gothic too- books and even music! The Thirteenth Tale is one of my favorites. Have you read anything by Carol Goodman? Her books generally have a gothic element to it and she is a wonderful writer.I recently read Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon - a psychological thriller with a supernatural element.

  3. @Morgan - The cover of Whisper of Death is so creepy. I can't remember if the story actually scared me but the cover sure did!

    @Misha - I hope Diane Setterfield writes another book because The Thirteenth Tale is amazing! I have read Carol Goodman! I really liked The Lake of Dead Languages and I own more of her books (The Seduction of Water & The Drowning Tree), but I haven't read them yet. I haven't read Dismantled. I'll check it out. :)

  4. Those all look good and scary. I loved The Thirteenth Tale, we did it for book club.
    Have a great week reading!
    Joy at Books and Life

  5. Silence of the Lambs is my favourite movie of all time, I can't wait for it to come out on Kindle.

    I enjoyed Prophecy of the Sisters, another Gothic read with twins, I recommend it, I'll add yours to my Wishlist.

  6. Probably one of the scariest books I've read has been The Shining. Yes, I am a cliche:) I did a paper on it in high school and had to research all the parallels between the book and Stephen King's life and it just made the story all the more real and creepy to me. *shivers*

  7. I LOVED The Thirteenth Tale. It did have this underlying creepy feeling to it which I really enjoyed and appreciated haha.


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