Horror on audio is an immersive, thrilling experience. The three upcoming releases highlighted here are definitely worth pre-ordering or placing a hold at your local library, but the listen-alike titles are all equally fun and scary and well worth checking out.
Macmillan Audio, Jan. Narrated by Vikas Adam.
This month, Partridge’s 2007 Bram Stoker Award-winning work of folk horror will be available as an audiobook for the first time. On Halloween in 1963, Pete McCormick is about to join the other teenage boys in his small town on the Run, the annual attempt to capture the menacing and dangerous October Boy, who comes out of the cornfields to stalk the townsfolk every year. Killing the October Boy is the only way Pete can see to have a future for him and his sister away from his hard-drinking father, even if he has to risk his own life to do it. But when he finally confronts the October Boy, he’ll learn the town’s horrifying truth.
- Folk horror often addresses the concept of something unknown and (at the very least) uncanny under the surface of the people and places we know. Cherie Dimaline’s Empire of Wild draws on the Canadian Métis legend of the werewolf-like Rogarou to tell the story of Joan, whose missing husband Victor seems to have reappeared in the guise of a revival preacher who doesn’t recognize her at all. Narrated by Michelle St. John.
- Like Pete, Will Burgess, the protagonist of Jonathan Janz’s Children of the Dark, is also a high school student with a younger sister and dysfunctional parents who has to defend his town against a deadly threat–in this case, prison escapee the Moonlight Killer plus an ancient, unfathomable horror in the woods. Narrated by Matt Godfrey.
- Thomas Tryon’s Harvest Home features the Constantine family, who have moved to the New England countryside from New York City. When the town matriarch, the Widow Fortune, invites them to join the annual Harvest Home festival, the Constantines have no idea what kind of evil they’re about to confront. Jonathan Yen narrates.
- Devil’s Day, by Andrew Michael Hurley, features another annual ritual: bringing in the sheep from the moors for the winter. Before this year, John Pentecost has assisted his grandfather every fall with redrawing the village’s boundary lines, drawing on memories and rites to protect them from the Devil. But now John is on his own, and the Devil may already be among them. Narrated by Richard Burnip.
- Of course, it’s impossible to talk about dark, small-town traditions without considering “The Lottery,” but the other selections in Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, and Other Stories are equally worthy. The two dozen tales are narrated by Cassandra Campbell, Gabrielle de Cuir, Kathe Mazur, and Stefan Rudnicki.
Beneath the Stairs
S. & S. Audio, Feb. Narrated by Carolina Hoyos.
When they were 14, Clare and Abby broke into the Octagon House, a home deep in the woods that had been the site of an act of shocking violence. Though they emerged physically fine, Abby was never the same afterward. When adult Clare learns that Abby has attempted suicide inside the Octagon House and is in a coma, she travels back to try to see if she can figure out what happened 20 years earlier.
- An attempt to understand present-day violence by unraveling the past also drives Jennifer McMahon’s The Night Sister. After their childhood friend Amy kills her family and herself, Piper and her sister Margot revisit the memories of the events that ended their friendship. Narrated by Cassandra Campbell.
- Angela Toussaint, the protagonist of Tananarive Due’s The Good House, is attempting to move forward after her son dies by suicide. When she visits the family home where the death took place, she ends up confronting a sinister force. Narrated by Robin Miles.
- T. Marie Vandelly’s Theme Music features Dixie, the only survivor of her family’s massacre, moving into her childhood home, where she has to cope with the shadows of her past. Narrated by Sarah Mollo-Christensen.
- Riley Sager’s Home Before Dark also has a protagonist returning to her family home and making disturbing discoveries that change what she thinks she knows. Maggie’s father had written an extremely successful memoir about the paranormal activity that caused his family to flee the old mansion, but she thinks he invented the story out of whole cloth. But when she starts renovating the place in order to sell it, she’s forced to reconsider that stance. Narrated by Cady McClain and Jon Lindstrom.
- Families also run in fear in their pajamas in the middle of the night from Marwick House in Darcy Coates’s The House Next Door. When neighbor Jo befriends a new inhabitant, Anna, she ends up staying over at Marwick House and experiencing the haunting from the inside. Narrated by Emily Sutton-Smith.
Penguin Audio, Jan. Narrated by Carlotta Brentan.
In Mayquist’s Gothic debut, med-school dropout Lena is desperate for a job and accepts a position with the elite Verdeau family. During the day she helps the family doctor treat Jonathan, the deeply unpleasant heir who suffers from a mysterious illness. At night, she works at the family’s lavish parties, where she finds herself captivated by their daughter, Audrey. But when she learns that her employer is responsible for her own family’s downfall, Lena vows to get revenge.
- Wendy Webb’s The Vanishing also features a protagonist, Julia, who works as a caregiver to a member of a secretive family. Amaris Sinclair was a famous horror novelist who withdrew so far from the world that most people believe her to be dead. As Julia gets to know her and the Sinclair estate, Havenwood, she finds that the house holds mysterious connections to her own life and that she may be in danger. Narrated by Xe Sands.
- The titular heroine of Caitlin Starling’s The Death of Jane Lawrence also assists a doctor–in this case, the husband to whom she has proposed a marriage of convenience. When a storm strands her at his family’s decrepit estate outside of town and she becomes aware of the malevolent forces that have him in their thrall, she must fight for both their lives. Narrated by Mandy Weston.
- The Animals at Lockwood Manor, Jane Healey’s World War II-set Gothic debut, follows Hetty Cartwright, who has come to the manor house to oversee a natural history museum collection moved out of London to keep it safe from bombs. She’s drawn to beautiful Lucy Lockwood, but also must contend with the stuffed animals moving on their own and other mysterious happenings. Narrated by Sarah Lambie.
- In Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic, in 1950s Mexico, glamorous socialite Noemí Taboada travels to the isolated estate where her cousin lives with her new husband and his family after her cousin had written asking for help. Both the family and the house itself are menacing and strange, and Noemí soon finds the line between fantasy and reality blurring. Narrated by Frankie Corzo.
- Emily M. Danforth’s Plain Bad Heroines features dual timelines, both set at a cursed girls’ school on the Rhode Island coast. Sapphic love blossoms, poisonous plants tempt the curious, and a horror-movie production of the historical events goes spectacularly off the rails. Narrated by Xe Sands.