Saturday, 10 November 2012

Top Ten Hauntingly Spooky Thrillers to Buy an Avid Reader for Cold, Dark Nights

Wondering what thriller to buy for an avid reader this Christmas or similar winter holiday? The season of dark nights is a great time to read a really spooky mystery or a creepy psychological thriller. I buy thrillers as gifts because I love them and am prone to a sneak preview myself! My top ten recommendations in psychological thrillers and mysteries can be found below. In no particular order.

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

Tales of horror
Click to buy
from Amazon
I raced through this book in three days. The main character, disenchanted Jack goes off to the Arctic on an expedition hoping to find something more exciting than dull 1930s London. Paver’s vivid descriptions of the Northern landscape add tension to the story, like the spooky sound of the ice creaking and the dark that presses against the windows during the endless Arctic night. In isolation, Jack gradually goes mad in an old trapper’s hut that conceals a murky past. This novel makes the point; it is the silent things you have to watch out for. Ultimately, Paver forces the reader to ask whether Jack really imagined the things that fuelled his paranoia, or was it something real? A gripping and unnerving read.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

I thought this story was written at the turn of the century, as Hill cleverly convinces us this is truly an old story. Both the London smog and Norfolk’s ‘frets,’ (mists that suddenly descend over the Wash in Eastern England) are creepy and insidious, both seeming to hide something. On solicitor Arthur’s arrival in Crythin Gifford, a bleak town in Norfolk to take care of a dead woman’s affairs, we soon learn the place is haunted by a nasty spectre, a woman dressed in black. She has some unfinished business and no one will talk about her. Arthur stops at the dead woman’s abode in Eel Marsh House at the end of a causeway. His nights there are truly disturbing as he sees and hears things he dare not contemplate. The horrifying truth about the woman in black soon makes Arthur wish he had never stepped foot in the house. Glad I read the book before watching the film.

Ghost Story by Peter Straub

The ‘chowder group,’ four old friends from New York meet up to swap memories and secrets. The story starts slowly before creeping insidiously. The friends share an unspeakable secret, the image of a woman they thought dead staring out of the window of a car sinking into a muddy lake. There appears to be a connection between their collusion in her death and the mysterious death of Edward, one of the group members, apparently of fright after being swept off his feet by ‘Anne’, who isn’t what she seems. The scene, in which he does so, is brilliantly-written and highlights how one ‘in love’ does not always see the truth, which in this case, is horrifying. One by one, the friend begin to die. A creepy, mysterious tale I found unputdownable.

The Shuttered Room by Charles J Harwood

A lesser-known story telling the story of a well-to-do, cynical woman’s incarceration in an upstairs room by three captors demanding ransom money. We soon learn that she secretly ‘speaks’ people’s thoughts by their body language. This she is able to do because (in an attempt to escape) she has cut a small hole in the ceiling and spies upon what her kidnappers are doing. In deeper psychosis, her ‘itch’ to speak their thoughts becomes visual, presenting ‘toady apparitions’. Only trouble is, she is unable to locate the ‘inner voice’ or the apparition of one of her captors, but what she eventually sees within him is truly creepy. She ultimately learns in her dangerous mind games, that the dynamics are not what they seem in the group. A brilliant thriller that dares to be different.

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Set in the 1950s, a US marshall and his partner are sent to an isolated penal institute on Shutter Island where drug use, lobotomies and mental conditioning are rife within this creepy hospital. A child murderer has gone missing and it is the marshall’s assignment to find her. Cut off by a hurricane, we soon discover that nothing the patients had to say were remotely true, and more disturbingly, his partner’s trust is called into question. Nothing is what it seems. I haven’t seen the film but after reading the book, don’t feel the need to. A creepy, Gothic-style tale that pulls the rug from right beneath you.

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

A disturbing thriller about domestic abuse and OCD. The story unfolds in two timelines, which is a little confusing at first, but the story soon grips you as you see the startling comparison of the ‘normal person’ Catherine used to be before the traumatic events that befell her within a damaging and controlling relationship with Lee. And then after when her life is shattered. Some very unsettling scenes involving violence and sex abuse turn out to be vital to the storyline. The final 100 pages were spellbinding. A compelling account of what it is to be a sufferer of OCD and post traumatic stress disorder.

Before I Go to Sleep by S J Watson

A story that relates on Chrissie who loses her memory every time she goes to sleep due to a mysterious and traumatic incident of her past. She is not sure who everyone is in her life, including her husband and a mysterious doctor whom she meets up with every day. To help her, she keeps a journal to remind her of the past events. Only trouble is, a creeping suspicion grows within at the true motives of the characters around her. Are they really what they claim to be? I loved some of the twists, some of which I did not see until the end. There were a few plot holes but a riveting read that took but two days.

You’re Next by Gregg Hurwitz

A gripping opener to a spellbinding crime novel that poses questions I had to know the answer to. Mike is haunted by the memory of the day he last saw his father before being dramatically abandoned at the age of 4. In a children’s home, he dreams his parents will come back, but there is more to his past than he realises, when two sinister characters keep bumping into his life. They want something from him, and it has something to do with a past he barely remembers. The ‘baddies’ were truly horrible and importantly, were believable. The scene when Mike can hear voices in his ‘baby monitor’ where his daughter sleeps upstairs sent chills up my spine. Hurwitz’ writing is dense and compelling. I will be reading more by this author!

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke

For something a little different or for Sci-Fi fans. A SF ghost story that spans deep space and a time before humans existed. A mysterious giant cylindrical shape, christened Rama, enters our solar system. Before disappearing back into deep space, a human expedition, Endeavour, headed by Norton must investigate what it is. The place seems deserted, yet we discover astounding, yet creepy things within its bowels, such as a frozen sea and weird landscapes held in place by the vessel’s centrifugal force. Bots become animated as the vessel approaches the sun. What I loved most about the story is that it poses more questions than answers, and not in an annoying way. However, don’t bother with stories two and three of the trilogy, which take the wonder and mystery away from this story. In retrospect, I would be been happy to have read this story alone.

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

OK so this is not a psychological fiction story, as it tells a real-life survival account, but it is certainly spooky and thought-provoking. Joe and his partner Simon attempt to climb the Suila Grande, a range of mountains in the Peruvian Andes. What starts off as a routine climbing expedition turns into a nightmare when after a mishap, Joe is left suspended over a deep chasm by a rope and Simon is forced to make the horrible decision to cut. What follows is a frightening account of what it is like to be entombed within a deep chasm left for dead. Joe’s descriptions are enthralling as he experiences the edges of sanity within an alien and inhospitable world. This ice cavern seems haunted. But his haunting state of mind follows him on his punishing trudge back to the camp across the ice floes. A book that stayed with me for days.

Gift Ideas for a Book Lover

I love curling up on a cold, dark evening to read a gripping psychological thriller or spooky tale that will stay with me for days. I often buy such books as gifts to reflect my book preference. But finding the right psychological thriller or spooky mystery to suit is not always easy when there is so much choice out there. My personal book recommendations may help, but of course, tastes will differ.

More Gift Ideas for Holidays

Ideas for Valentine's Day trips
Cheap Christmas gift ideas for a large family
Silly gift ideas for a boyfriend
My crime bookshop