We've finally hit the spooky season!
Here are five of the best creepy stories I've read this year, to take you through October ...
5. Incarnate, Steve Stred
“Yes, it is certainly odd.
Odd that the book has no attributed author.
Odd that you're reading this while sitting in a car on the very property the Matthews house claims as its own.
Odd that you're still reading when you know damn well you've also fallen asleep and the thing that inhabited your wife is stealthily stalking towards your precious new station wagon ...”
Ryan, just turned thirteen, pleaded to stay at the shunned Matthews House over summer. He wanted something thrilling ...
Incarnate is the perfect spooky read for difficult times and already wracked emotions. Though plenty of terrible things happen Stred keeps the pace jumping by not lingering on trauma.
Not to give too much away but from a very traditional haunted house beginning Incarnate veers into unexpected and adventurous territory, and is just the tale to kick off Halloween.
4. The Wingspan of Severed Hands, Joanna Koch
“Dark, angry eyes, twin black suns sinking over lost, forbidden Carcosa. A skeleton hand reared like a banner of the king, ready to sting Adira's cheek, backside, flay her flesh to crimson strips. Lost lands and distant rivers in her mother's eyes; burning landscapes and desolate fields below broken obelisks. Nameless winds calling Adira.”
Angels and doubles, sentient weapons; the strictures of humble flesh and society gloriously slashed. Koch's rich evocative text is a feast as it spills off the page in this complex metaphysical tale, with a tip of the hat to Robert W Chambers.
Don't ask questions too early: rather, let the carmine tide carry you along and enjoy the ride toward immolation.
3. Dear Laura, Gemma Amor
“Confrontation was unavoidable, she supposed, a natural by-product of a missing child scenario, but that didn't make it any easier to deal with. Being the last person to see Bobby alive made quiet, uncommunicative young Laura a target for other people's frustration and grief. And Bobby's mother set her sights on that target early in the aftermath of her son's disappearance.”
Laura's best friend Bobby has gone missing, and every year she gets a letter that she can't ignore. Missives that keep her trapped in the neverending now of loss, unable to move forward. But they are also so much worse than that.
Amor pulls no punches in this story of power, victimization, and how far one might go for answers - in fact Dear Laura will knock you flat.
Dear Laura is so baldly and realistically written that it genuinely damaged my sense of safety for some time after reading so please approach this harrowing experience cautiously if you are vulnerable.
2. Negative Space, BR Yeager
“He told me he saw her. Perched over a lantern and an array of shimmering stones. Humming to herself. Her hands wet with red, dancing in the deep orange light. The way he described her, I could see her in my mind. Weeks later I was still seeing her in my dreams. It wasn't until I broke down in class, weeping crazy after five days of no sleep, that he finally admitted he'd made the whole thing up.”
The nuclear obsession of teen relationships, a suicide epidemic mediated online in the claustrophobia of a small town, and a new drug that promises much more than mere life has to offer. All told from interspersed perspectives, each of clarion clarity.
Don't expect spoon feeding from Yeager: you'll need to get your brain cells out to appreciate what Negative Space has to offer.
Although standard novel size, the scope of this story made it feel like a true epic. A jumble of threads which are drawn back together for a deeply satisfying conclusion.
1. Like Jagged Teeth, Betty Rocksteady
“There was a rhythmic ticking, so there had to be a clock here somewhere. Or was that the clicking of teeth? She could picture it all too well, her grandfather sitting behind those shadows, his thin frame crunched under a chair and his teeth in his hand, clicking and clicking rhythmically while his empty mouth smiled wide and she could practically see it and her breath came raspy and terrified and she could not sleep she would not ...”
Jacalyn's Poppa appears like a miracle to save her from a bad situation ... but from there reality stretches like rancid treacle running down a wall.
This is classic Rocksteady and if you've never tried her work before would make the perfect intro.
I chose it as my #1 Halloween read because it's lyrical, refreshing, immersive but not hopeless, with a horror that will really get under your skin.
That's it, my top 5 for this year! If you haven't read any of these yet I hope I've convinced you to take a chance on them and I really hope you enjoy them. Happy Halloween!