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The Scope of Psychological Horror Expands and Distorts With These Innovative Books

The mind has never been a scarier place. 


I’m always down for some psychological horror. The more cerebral and the more nuanced the better, with the darkness and disturbing turned up to the max.

When done right, psychological horror is capable of revealing the complexities of the human condition without holding back using the gamut of narrative devices from unreliable narrators to structural permutations.

As we inch ever closer to the latter half of 2023, it’s becoming clear that the extreme end of psychological horror has grown beyond well-worn staples like American Psycho or The Silence of the Lambs. We’re seeing the affectations of psychological horror blend deftly throughout all genres.

Let’s take a look at some innovative books that unabashedly expand the boundaries of psychological horror unabashedly, bringing their own unique sense of twisted scope to the lens.


Maeve Fly

By CJ Leede

CJ Leede’s debut Maeve Fly has been frequently mentioned by both anticipated readers and the book’s publisher, Tor Nightfire, in the same sentence as Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, and with good reason, yet Leede does so much more than the book that inspired the debut. The eponymously named Maeve Fly works at a touristy spot where she plays the role of a princess. During her spare time, she walks the Sunset Strip, obsessed with both booze and books.

There’s a complex dark side to Maeve that has everything to do with her dying grandmother and her obsession with her best friend. Leede deftly builds up the troubled psyche of Maeve for readers before letting them fully into the rollercoaster ride that makes up the greater half of the novel.

Maeve Fly is extreme in every way, and that includes the psychological landscape (or minefield?) therein. A must-read for those daring to dive into the darkness of human psychology.


I'm Thinking of Ending Things

By Iain Reid

In 2016, author Iain Reid stepped into the world of psychological horror and left a lasting mark with his novel, I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Since then he has published two more books: Foe and We Spread, which were also very good. Still, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an excellent exercise in using the page itself—and the vehicle of prose—to fluctuate between the various mood swings of fractured memory.

The premise goes something like this: the unnamed narrator is on a road trip to visit her boyfriend’s parents. She knows he’s looking to make the relationship more serious while she is moving in the opposite direction. The title hints at multiple levels of the narrative, and throughout the telling, it proves to dart across the reader’s expectations. Nothing about this book is simple—and nothing is what you think it is. This novel continues to endure as a peak psych horror road trip gone awry.

this is where we talk things out

This Is Where We Talk Things Out

By Caitlin Marceau

Sometimes some of the most traumatic and twisted relationships are the ones we have with our parents. In Caitlin Marceau’s novella, This is Where We Talk Things Out, readers are introduced to Miller at a crossroads of sorts in her life. Her dad passes away and she is left with Sylvie, her mother, the parent who never quite saw eye to eye. Their relationship has always been tumultuous, with Miller keeping a strict boundary and distance from Sylvie. But after her dad’s death, she is vulnerable enough to agree to a weekend in a cabin as an attempt to bond with her mom.

Of course, things don’t go well. Miller has an accident out in the snow and is at the whim and care of her antagonistic mother. Like a more twisted Misery, Marceau renders a toxic familial relationship in a disturbing and heart-wrenching fashion. Once you start reading, you won’t be able to stop.

Scanlines by Todd Keisling


By Todd Keisling

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve recommended Todd Keisling’s Scanlines in lists, roundups, and other articles but that won’t stop me from recommending it. In Keisling’s dark-as-hell novella, readers join Robby and his friends as they—like so many of us who grew up during the advent of the internet—digging around online, downloading files, and searching for petty thrills.

Keisling taps into urban legends and creepypasta with the “Duncan Tape,” a clip that spreads across chat rooms and message boards that, when watched, causes the viewer to commit suicide. I did say this one was dark, right?

But there’s more, because it’s not merely about the allure or fear of the unknown spread across 1s and 0s, servers, and P2P trades. Scanlines accurately captures the experience of suicidal ideation, depression, and loneliness throughout the psychology of a friend group. It's an unforgettable book and perfect for those looking for peak psychological horror.

everything the darkness eats

Everything the Darkness Eats

By Eric LaRocca

The author of memorable works like Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke and You’ve Lost a Lot of Blood, Eric LaRocca recently released his debut novel, Everything the Darkness Eats. Through dueling narratives, LaRocca introduces us to the small town of Henley’s Edge as it endures a range of disturbing occurrences and disappearances.

A deep, cosmic power surges through the town, generating hatred and causing all that is known to be shifted and all that is tender to border on the traumatic. LaRocca channels the affectations and deadly allure of Clive Barker as he blends the cosmic with the extreme and horror with heartache.

The novel threads its own lines and is a perfect example of how the scope of psychological horror is ever-expanding, changing, and evolving to satisfy readers’ desires.