Every now and then, I get in the mood for books that are going to make me want to keep the lights on at night. I think that, as human beings, we sometimes have a seriously warped need to experience things that are horrible – fictional and from a safe distance, of course. Just look at the shows we watch on television if you think I’m wrong. TV shows like Law and Order: SVU, Criminal Minds, and Bones have enjoyed double digits season numbers and they are basically about the worst of western society.
Books are no different. I’m not always in the mood for horror and it can be irritatingly difficult to find quality books in the horror genre. There is an incredibly fine line between creepy and lame. Nothing is more disappointing than reading a good scary book and having to watch it cross that line into completely, utterly STUPID.
I’m not being hollowly judgemental when I say that. I’m willing to admit that it must be incredibly hard to write a good horror story. How on earth do you properly structure a story that is going to give your reader the shivers right from the very beginning and up the ante just enough to keep them turning pages while simultaneously raising all the hairs on the back of their neck?
Honestly, most of the horror books I’ve read have definitely taken it too far and made me want to roll my eyes in exasperation. It’s kind of like when children paint: know when you’re done or you’ll end up with a soggy mess. However, there are a select few that kept me shivering beyond the final page. If you’re looking for a good old-fashioned scare, here are some books that just might do it for you:
The House on Cold Hill by Peter James
I try NOT to think about this book after dark. It is probably the single best ghost story I’ve ever read in novel form. James’ mastery of describing the ominous, bone-chilling events that occur in the Harcourt family’s new house is so refreshing after reading so many books that get it all wrong. Considering its tagline reads, “They said the dead can’t hurt you. They were wrong.” should let you know that there are no fairy tale happy endings here. There is just enough scare in this book that will raise the hair on your neck without totally going overboard and becoming ridiculous. So many scenes to love in this book! The oft-mentioned scene where the Harcourt’s daughter Jade is Facetiming in her room with a friend is a good indication of what to expect. Suffice it to say they are peacefully chatting when all of a sudden, her friend innocently asks, “Who is that lady standing behind you?” OH MY GOD. I’ve scared myself again. May not sound like much, but seriously grab this book and give it a shot. I may just have to make a trip to the library later to pick it up again.
Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
If you are born in the charming little town of Black Spring, or move there, get comfy because YOU ARE NEVER LEAVING AGAIN. Though from the outside the town looks like the perfect place to settle in and raise a family, it is also home to a curse. Not to mention the 17th century woman who WALKS AROUND THE TOWN with her eyes and mouth sewn shut. She will enter your home at will and can sometimes stand by your bed for days on end. Cross her and you’ll be sorry. Don’t roll your eyes yet. It may sound like a sorry excuse for a B-movie premise, but this book is quite well done. The inhabitants of the town are strange at best (although let’s face it, anyone would be damaged growing up with a corpse wandering aimlessly through their homes). The town has devoted itself to keeping their secret (sometimes in hilarious ways) but some of the teenagers who live there are sick of being kept prisoner within its limits and decide to go viral with the haunting. This is set-your-alarm-and-go-to-sleep-with-a-baseball-bat level scary. (Did it just get colder in here?!?)
Christine by Stephen King
Who in their right mind would ever guess that a car could be scary? If you’ve seen the movie, forget it right now because it was the lamest piece of crap ever and in no way compares to the book. Stephen King doesn’t always get it right, but this story struck horror genre gold! I remember going outside after finishing the book and suddenly freezing while trying not to crap my pants when a car drove by my house. Give it a shot. If you’re even a moderate fan of King’s work, you won’t be disappointed. I think I made my husband take out the garbage after dark for a solid week. It’s THAT good.
Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Okay, I hesitated to put this one on the list because it did cross over into that upped-the-ante-too-far-how-lame region in later pages, but the first half of this book had me up until 3am with the lights on. I was in a hotel room suddenly wishing for a freezer to hide the damn thing in (fans of Friends will get that one. I’m not crazy.) The story revolves around an aging rock star named Judas Coyne, who has a habit of collecting things that are…well…strange. He is obsessed with the paranormal and creepy. I mean, this guy has things like a witch’s confessional and a REAL SNUFF FILM. So imagine his pleasure when he gets an email about a funeral suit with a ghost attached to it. You get the rest. Idiot takes the bait, buys the suit, and soon begins seeing an old man sitting on a chair in his hallway each night. I won’t go any farther, but suffice it to say that he soon regrets his purchase and becomes the centre of a battle to banish the ghost and regain his life. Worth the read for sure.
I’m sure there are more (and I LOVE recommendations so feel free to leave your favourite shivery reads in the comments!) but these are a few that really stood out for me. They are good old-fashioned, sleep-with-a-screwdriver-by-your-pillow, lock-all-the-doors-and-windows (not that that will help) fun.
Happy reading! 😉