With Halloween approaching, I've been thinking about my favorite books that are perfect for the holiday. Some of them are scary, some are not. Some are written for adults, others for children. Some are mysteries, some are horror, and some engage with the paranormal. Significantly, none of them are new, because I know a lot of phenomenal book bloggers covering new content, so I'm going to look back on some books that didn't come out this year, because they need love, too!
Each book bellow kept me on the edge of my seat at some point in my life, and I hope you like them as much as I do.
(As a warning, given the nature of the theme of this post, many dark and possibly disturbing themes are engaged with in these books.)
The Queen's Man (by Sharon Kay Penman)
I have long wished that there would be more Justin de Quincy mysteries, but alas with the death of Ms. Penman, that will likely never occur. Luckily, though, we have several, of which this is the first. Set in the 12th century during the reign of Richard I, Justin de Quincy witnesses a death that causes him to unintentionally become involved in court intrigue, where he serves none other than Eleanor of Aquitaine. Yes, please.
The Dead House (by Dawn Kurtagich) Because I am easily scared, I probably would not have picked up The Dead House on my own, but I received a copy at BookCon and decided to test my scaredy-cat nature and read it. Written for a YA (possibly NA) audience, The Dead House uses non-traditional storytelling methods, consisting of interview transcripts, diary entries, and more, to set up a story about a destroyed school and multiple deaths. The book does engage with mental health issues in a horror context, which author Dawn Kurtagich addressed here.
Bad Day at the Vulture Club (by Vaseem Khan) For the record: I think everyone should read every single Baby Ganesh Agency Mystery, but I limited myself to one book per author for this list. Here, Inspector Chopra (Rtd) and his fabulous baby elephant sidekick, Ganesha, investigate the murder of a wealthy man whose body was left in the Tower of Silence -- a special place for the Parsee community because it is where their dead are left to be consumed by vultures.
Fall into Darkness (by Christopher Pike)
Christopher Pike is known for his killer (pun intended) YA thrillers, and this and Starlight Crystal are my favorites from his oeuvre. Here, flashbacks and trial proceedings are used to unravel a murky situation: a girl named Sharon McKay is on trial for allegedly pushing her best friend off of a cliff. It's pulpy and dark (probably too dark for the very young age I was when I read it) with twists and turns, and heavy themes (drugs, sex, and suicide all feature.) It grabbed me by the collar and didn't let me go as a young reader, to the point where it was the first book I thought of when contemplating this list.
By the Pricking of My Thumbs (by Agatha Christie)
There are hundreds of Agatha Christie books I could have included on this list, so I can just see my Christie-loving friends wondering why I picked one of her less-popular ones. Here's the reason: I loved it. I'm a sucker for Tommy and Tuppence mysteries and the fact that Christie had her sleuthing-couple age as the books went on. In this installment, the mystery involves an old-age home, a mysterious doll, and an unidentified murderer of children.
The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern (by Lilian Jackson Braun)
Jim Qwilleran and his cats are pretty awesome at solving mysteries. So awesome, in fact, that The Cat Who... series went on for many, many years. In this, one of the early stories, Qwilleran is involved in a case surrounding interior design, jade collection, and of course, murder! It is a cozy read worthy of a warm cup of tea.
The Little Stranger (by Sarah Waters)
This book is masterful at building anticipation as it follows Dr. Faraday, a man called upon to tend to a patient in an old home that may not have only the living residing in it. The postwar England setting is evocative and the characters dealing with the decay of their lifestyle are well-drawn. (This book also exists in feature film form.)
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (by Patrick Süskind)
Perfume is, as advertised, all about scent and murder. It follows an orphan named Jean-Baptiste Grenouille who, due to his extraordinary sense of smell, becomes a perfumer. Things turn dark, however, when he comes across a girl whose scent is so magnificent it surpasses anything he has ever smelled before. (This book also exists in feature film form.)
Bunnicula (by Deborah and James Howe) A sweet children's tale where a family discovers a rabbit at a film showing of Dracula, brings him home and names him - yup - Bunnicula. Only then, the family dog starts to believe Bunnicula is something akin to a vampire...a rabbit who sucks the life out of vegetables!
The Pillowman (by Martin McDonagh)
I've written about this play before and I am sure I will write about it again because I love it that much. Katurian Katurian has been arrested because a series of murders of children have occurred that are very similar to stories he has written. Between the truth of what actually happened to the children coming out and the reflections on the plots of his stories (in particular, The Little Jesus), this play is full of darkness that will get you turning the pages and maybe keeping the light on.
The Meaning of Night (by Michael Cox)
Set in Victorian England, The Meaning of Night is a long but engrossing novel that digs into the origins of a murder - by telling it from the murderer's perspective. It includes family secrets, bullying, rivalry, and revenge.
Shining City (by Conor McPherson)
The second play on this list, it was also the first play I ever saw that contained a scene where I cursed audibly out of fright. Reading it, it surprisingly, retains it's eeriness despite the lack of a visual scary moment. It's not a horror story, but a slow-burning ghost story about a widower who is visiting his therapist because he continually thinks he sees his dead wife in his house.
Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas (by Stephanie Barron)
My favorite thing to do around Halloween time is get in the mood for Christmas. I haven't read one of Stephanie Barron's cozy Jane Austen mysteries that I didn't like, but this one in particular puts me in the festive spirit. Here, as the twelve days of Christmas progress, a murder that was made to look like an accident occurs, and Jane sets out to find who did it.