The best horror books of 2018 are an uncanny lot. Established authors like Paul Tremblay offered up their finest, while debut authors like Oyinkan Braithwaite astounded with their terrifying novels. The popularity of the Victorian gothic surfaced in books from Laird Hunt, Sarah Perry, and Dale Bailey, and the untrustworthy nature of our own experiences was a common thread in this year’s scariest reads. Steel yourself: These books will leave you with chills.
In the House in the Dark of Woods
Set in Colonial New England, a law-abiding, god-fearing Puritan woman goes for a walk in the woods one afternoon and disappears. The townspeople are divided over whether she left of her own accord or if she was kidnapped by something sinister. This period horror novel will delight fans of The Witch and those fascinated by the truly horrifying history of witchcraft in America.
My Sister, the Serial Killer
Being Ayoola’s older sister is no picnic, as the narrator of Braithwaite’s debut will tell you. Korede is less popular, less beautiful, less cherished by their parents … and she’s kept constantly busy cleaning up Ayoola’s murderous messes. My Sister, the Serial Killer never loses sight of terror even as its sharp wit pokes through at every corner.
Perry’s second novel The Essex Serpent was a smash success. Her third, Melmoth, is a similar feminist gothic romance. Helen Franklin has left her native England for Prague, where she finds work as a translator. Her friend Karel introduces her to the figure of Melmoth the Witness, a legendary creature that travels through time plucking unfortunate souls to join her in her eternal walk. Helen’s is desperate to know the monster’s origins, but her obsession will put her and Karel directly in Melmoth’s path.
The Cabin at the End of the World
We're not the only fans of Tremblay, whose previous work includes A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. Stephen King has also shared his admiration for one of the most interesting new horror writers. His latest book is a terrifying story about a family vacationing at a remote cabin. Wen is just seven, with her dads Eric and Andrew, when a man named Leonard appears in their front yard and tells her, chillingly, “none of what is about to happen is your fault.”
In the Night Wood
Erin and Charles Hayden have just lost their young daughter and are working to put the pieces of their lives back together. Charles hopes his biography of Caedmon Hollow, the author of a classic Victorian children’s book called In the Night Wood, will be a welcome distraction from his grief. But when Charles and Erin move into Hollow’s ancestral home, near the real-life night wood, they find they haven’t escaped the darkness but rather walked right into it.
The Ghost Notebooks
Hannah and Ben are on the run from a lackluster existence in New York City, hoping to find meaning in their lives when they move to the small town of Hibernia where Hannah takes a job as the director of a historic house that was once home to a famous Victorian philosopher. Unfortunately, though, their real problems have just begun. The house seems haunted, and one morning Ben wakes up to find Hannah has vanished into thin air.
The Third Hotel
Clare is at a film festival in Cuba minding her own business when she catches a glimpse of her husband Richard, a horror film scholar, standing outside a museum in a white linen suit. The only problem is Richard couldn’t accompany her on the trip ... seeing as he’s dead. Terrified but curious, Clare decides to follow Richard (or his ghostly figure) through the streets of Havana.
When a young woman named Eileen goes missing on a hike in the woods, police are left with a cold case. The only thing in the way of evidence is her camera that washes up, filled with disturbing images. Though there are no leads and there is no trace of Eileen, her friends are determined to take up the search themselves, and venture into the very same woods where she was last seen. Though it’s obvious once they enter the woods what happened to their friend, it’s also too late for them to make their own escape. Coates expertly blends her trademark horror with a crime thriller in Hunted.
Katsu’s fourth novel doesn’t just share a title structure with Dan Simmons’s blockbuster novel, The Terror, it also shares a horrifying approach to history, adding something deeper to an already terrifying moment. If you know anything about the Donner Party, it’s the word cannibalism. Katsu’s take makes cannibalism the least of the Donner Party’s worries as they contend with an ever-decreasing food supply, madness, a possible witch … and evil itself.
Jane Grandison is Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children’s newest pupil. Like the other children, Jane has a speech impediment that has made her life difficult. But the Sybil Joines School unleashes these children’s deeper abilities–what the headmistress calls necrophysics. Amidst visits to the land of the dead, one of the school’s students disappears. This grandiose novel, which includes photographs, multiple points-of-view, and a dazzling sense of world, will capture your imagination and leave you deeply unsettled.