Subtly Creepy Books to Enjoy this Halloween!

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Confession: I’m a massive wimp, and for me full-on horror films or books are an absolute no-no. When I was younger I was traumatised by E.T. the alien for weeks, and my Mum once had to walk me sobbing out of the cinema when I freaked out over Dobby in The Chamber of Secrets.

If you share my cowardly streak, you’ll love this list of books that sit safely outside of the horror genre, but still provide a creepy and unsettling vibe to get you in the mood for spooky season:

1) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley Book Cover Image

Victor Frankenstein is a scientist obsessed with the miracle of life. In an intricate but ghastly experiment, he endeavours to discover the nature of life itself by resurrecting a cobbled human corpse. The resulting creation haunts him from the secluded Scottish coastline to the breath-taking lakes of Switzerland, causing us to question the very nature of humanity…

This classic may be most well-known for igniting the science fiction genre, but it also has a distinctly gothic feel with plenty of dark, stormy nights…

Full review here.

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2) Brighton Rock by Graham Greene.

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene Book Cover Image

Brighton Rock is set in 1930s Brighton, where the holiday amusements sit in stark contrast to a sinister gang underworld. Central to our view of this underworld is Pinkie, a boy of only 17 who orchestrates the killing of rival gang informer Fred. Little does he know that Fred had befriended the uncompromisingly righteous Ada, who is determined to see justice done. As he commits more and more dark acts to protect himself and his fragile status, Pinkie is left spiralling further into a state of amorality and despair.

I found Brighton Rock disturbing in its ability to reveal the dark underbelly beneath even the sunniest location. Plus spending time with the warped thoughts of Greene’s protagonist, Pinkie, is sure to leave you feeling distinctly unsettled!

Full review here.

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3) The Corset by Laura Purcell.

Dorothea has enough of her own worries – trying to continue her studies of phrenology under the disapproving eye of her father, dodging her simpering stepmother-to-be at society balls, and dissuading men with matrimonial hopes. Yet when visiting a woman’s prison on charitable errands, she feels drawn to the tragic story of Ruth Butterham, a maid and seamstress condemned to death for the murder of her mistress.

Ruth is an enigma, a girl of only sixteen who has already endured a lifetime of suffering. Always refusing to become a victim, this young prisoner holds onto a burning core of vengefulness that allures and repels Dorothea in equal measure. Is Ruth guilty, or is her confession the product of her own disturbing delusions?

The Corset has a magical realism twist that will send shivers down your spine! Yet even without these supernatural touches, the bare historical reality of women’s suffering exposed by the story is the stuff of gothic nightmares.

Full review here.

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4) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie Book Cover Image

Shortly after confessing to a close friend that she is being blackmailed, Mrs Ferrars is found dead: the police conclude it was suicide. The case takes a much darker turn when that same friend is found murdered in his own study.

An unassuming newcomer to the village seems the last person the police will call upon for help. He spends his days fondly tending a vegetable patch. However, this newcomer is not your average hobbyist gardener, but a retired detective going by the name of Hercule Poirot…

How could I not include the queen of crime on this list?!? Agatha Christie has an uncanny ability to portray the darkness within ordinary people, the secrets in unremarkable places, and the dangerous edge to the most everyday conversations.

Full review here.

Buy Now: Better World Books | Blackwell’s | Bookshop.org

5) The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel Book Cover

When Lane’s mother commits suicide, she is invited to live with her estranged grandparents and cousin Allegra at Roanoke – their mysterious residence in a suffocating small town. On the surface, the family seems perfect. They are wealthy, rich, beautiful and charismatic.

Behind this, Lane discovers a harrowing family history of violent deaths, disappearances and dark secrets. After one summer, she becomes the only Roanoke girl to escape. However, eleven years later, when her cousin Allegra goes missing, Roanoke’s haunting secrets are clawing her back once more…

The suffocating small town setting, damaged characters, and barely repressed violence give The Roanoke Girls a twisted allure that you won’t be able to tear yourself away from!

Full review here.

Buy Now: Better World Books | Blackwell’s | Bookshop.org

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6) Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith.

Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith Book Cover Image

Victor Van Allen is proud of the ordered life he has created for himself. He runs a sought-after printing press, holds a respected position in the town, and is the father of a precocious little girl.

The only taint to this perfect façade is his wife, Melinda. Their relationship is tenuously held together by Vic sleeping in a separate room and pretending to ignore her involvements with other men. Yet a new arrival in the sleepy town of Little Wesley means Vic may not be able to look the other way for much longer…

What happens if a crime novel focusses on its characters rather than an intricate plot? It creates an atmosphere thick with suspicion, repression, and polite brutality – creepier than any gory spectacle.

Full review here.

Buy Now: Better World Books | Blackwell’s | Bookshop.org

7) The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell.

When Libby inherits a mansion from the biological parents she never knew, it offers life-changing possibilities and the ticket out of her dead-end job. However, this once-lavish house holds the story of Libby’s first months of life, and she can’t sell until the truth is uncovered.

A newspaper article records how the house became infamous decades ago, when three adults were found dead in what was suspected to be a cult-related suicide pact. Concerned locals reported children living there too, but their identities were unknown and no trace of them remained. These missing children could be the only family Libby has ever known: the question is whether they want to be found.

If you love the gothic atmosphere that can only belong to a desolate house full of secrets, The Family Upstairs is the perfect thriller to keep you up at night.

Full review here.

Buy Now: Better World Books | Blackwell’s | Bookshop.org

8) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

oscar wilde the picture of dorian gray book cover image

Dorian Gray is a beautiful, striking young man – the darling of London society. When a friend paints his uncannily lifelike portrait, Dorian is struck by a moment of vanity and fear. In terror of age and degradation, he strikes a bargain that will allow him to remain in youthful beauty forever. Only the cherished portrait will bear the marks of age, excess and sin.

This classic by Oscar Wilde will immerse you in a hypnotic world of sensuality, decadence and despair!

Full review here.

Buy Now: Better World Books | Blackwell’s | Bookshop.org

9) The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances.

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances Book Cover

Laura is a woman who seems to have it all – a satisfying career, a beautiful house, a loving son about to start medical school. But when her son Daniel brings home Cherry, lower-class yet sharply ambitious, something just doesn’t feel quite right. After an unforgivable lie, both mother and girlfriend find themselves drawn into a dark game of lies and manipulation.

This chilling psychological thriller will make you question reality as the characters descend into instability and paranoia.

Full review here.

Buy Now: Better World Books | Blackwell’s

10) My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier.

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier Book Cover Image

“Someday, somehow, I would repay my cousin Rachel.”

Ambrose has been like a father to Philip, raising him single-handedly ever since the death of his parents. They live undisturbed on their Cornish estate, surrounded entirely by men – not even a female housekeeper. So when Ambrose travels abroad for his health, only to send word he has fallen in love and married, it is understandable for Philip to be jealous.

His feelings of hatred towards this woman only increase when Ambrose dies in Italy, with his new wife by his side. Philip is left the grand estate, but no chance to say goodbye. However, this bitterness soon alleviates upon meeting Ambrose’s widow, the beautiful and enigmatic Rachel. He may be falling for her. And that may be exactly what she wants.

Nobody does the gothic quite like Daphne du Maurier! With an unreliable narrator, as well as an enigmatic and transgressive woman at its centre, this unsettling story moves just out of reach every time you try to grasp at truth.

Full review here.

Buy Now: Better World Books | Blackwell’s | Bookshop.org

11) The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sherlock Holmes the Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Book Cover Image

Sir Charles Baskerville confesses to a close friend that he feels haunted by his family history. According to legend, his cruel ancestor Hugo Baskerville received recompense in the form of a hell-hound set loose on the moors to hunt him down.

A few days later, Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead in his garden at the edge of the moor. There is only one detective who can separate fact from folklore in this case: his name is Sherlock Holmes.

Combining the infamous analytical sleuthing skills of Sherlock Holmes with a creepy folk-tale ghost story makes for a rollicking read!

Full review here.

Buy Now: Better World Books | Blackwell’s | Bookshop.org

12) The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides Book Cover Image

Theo has just started a new job at The Grove, a psychiatric unit for violent female criminals. Top of the list of new patients he must take on is Alicia. Alicia seemed to have it all – a flourishing career as an artist and a loving husband – until the night she shot him in the head. Since that fateful night, Alicia has refused to speak a word.

Disentangling Alicia’s past and the motives for her crime is not going to be easy – especially when The Grove is hiding secrets of its own.

Last, but by no means least, I had to feature my favourite thriller of 2020! This disturbing psychological thriller kept me guessing throughout, trying to piece together a reliable picture from tormented minds.

Full review here.

Buy Now: Better World Books | Blackwell’s | Bookshop.org

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Have you read any of the books on this list? Do you prefer a slight hint of creepiness or no-holds-barred horror? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you! 

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4 thoughts on “Subtly Creepy Books to Enjoy this Halloween!”

  1. I’m a total wimp with horror too, although I do want to read it more. I’m definitely more into subtly creepy & gothic though. The Roanoke Girls was definitely disturbing!! And I really do need to get The Corset read. I’ve read and loved/really enjoyed two of the authors books but somehow haven’t gotten to that one yet. And I forgot all about The Family Upstairs. I’ll really need to read that soon too as I’ve seen a fair few rave reviews for it. Same with The Silent Patient although I am now slightly wary of that one as I really didn’t enjoy The Maidens

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha, I’m glad I’m not the only one then! The Corset is the only book I’ve read by Laura Purcell but I loved it so I’ll definitely be reading more of the author’s backlist. I’m the other way around with Alex Michaelides’ books – I really enjoyed The Silent Patient but now I’m nervous to read The Maidens because so many people haven’t been keen on it. Thank you very much for commenting Charlotte! 📚❤️ X x x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I enjoyed both of the other books I read by her but my favourite was The Corset. I found her historical fiction interesting too. Aww well fingers crossed you enjoy it more than those people then. And if not then hopefully their next book will be better 💗

        Liked by 1 person

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