With Halloween only six months away, now is the perfect time to reacquaint your patrons with the thrills that come from reading a chilling tale. In fact, why not gather a few horror books and make a “Halfway to Halloween” display to grab your users’ attention? Here are some suggestions for terrifying stand-alones and series to get started.
Alison Littlewood’s acclaimed debut, A Cold Season (Jo Fletcher. 2013. ISBN 9781623650223. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781780871370), is an unsettling read, filled with compelling characters and familiar horror tropes that unfold in a surprising and terrifying manner. After the death of her husband, Cass and her son, Ben, relocate to the small English Highlands village where she lived as a child. Littlewood introduces a tense atmosphere from the very first line that steadily ratchets up as Cass finds the locals to be less than welcoming—and with a blizzard moving in, she is isolated even further. It is the perfect setting for horror to descend, placing Cass in a battle against evil forces in a fight for her life and her son’s soul.
The Darkling (Pegasus. 2013. ISBN 9781605984582. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781453298541) by R.B. Chesterton, a pseudonym for mystery writer Carolyn Haines, evokes Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw and Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger. Set in the backwoods swamps of 1974 Alabama, it is a grand blend of Southern gothic and psychological suspense, with a generous heaping of horror mixed in. An unreliable narrator remembers the eventful summer when she worked as a nanny for a wealthy family that took in a troubled young woman with no memory of her past. The book’s isolated, run-down, rural setting, its focus on outsiders moving in, and its twist ending add to the tension. This work will make a great YA crossover option, with its prominent adolescent characters and limited on-screen violence.
Geoffrey Girard’s Project Cain (S. & S. Books for Young Readers. 2013. ISBN 9781442476967. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781442477018) is an excellent YA novel also for adult readers. Sixteen-year-old Jeff is told by the man whom he thinks is his father that Jeff was actually built in a top-secret lab only eight years ago. And he is made entirely from the DNA of Jeffrey Dahmer! Jeff is not the only teenager created from serial killer cells. When some of the worst teens are let loose, Jeff must help stop the mayhem. Girard puts his readers through the wringer as they root for a young Jeffrey Dahmer to save the day. But can he overcome his genetics?
For readers who prefer revisiting their favorite characters and familiar worlds over and over again, the horror-tinged, supernatural series featuring James Stark is a prime destination. Richard Kadrey began the run with Sandman Slim (Voyager. 2012. ISBN 9780061714351. pap. $12.99; ebk. ISBN 9780061999444), and a sixth title is due in 2014. After 11 years plying his trade as a hit man in Hell, Stark has finally escaped and is ready for adventure and revenge. The series is fast-paced, noir-ish, and twisted, with a touch of humor. Stark is darker and a bit more evil at his core than Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, but readers of the popular Butcher series will find another satisfying urban fantasy antihero in Kadrey’s Stark.
Kevin J. Anderson’s “Shamble & Die” series is a great suggestion for readers who love their horror tropes and characters with a side of laughs. The series began with Death Warmed Over (Kensington. 2012. ISBN 9780758277343. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780758277350); a fourth installment is coming this year. Dan Chambeaux is a murdered PI who has been resurrected as a zombie owing to “The Great Uneasy,” an event that unleashed zombies, ghosts, vampires, and other paranormal creatures into the world to live alongside normal humans. The series contains an expected cast of undead characters placed in a well-fleshed-out fantasy world and is notable for the way it skewers both the horror and mystery genres.
A new dark fantasy series to watch out for is the “Chronicles of Diana Furnaval” by Lisa Morton, which starts with Netherworld (JournalStone. 2014. ISBN 9781940161082. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781940161099). Diana is a young widow in Victorian England who gets more than she expects when her husband leaves behind a unique inheritance. For generations the Furnavals have been tending to a network of supernatural portals that are scattered all across Earth. As demonic forces begin crossing over in preparation for war, Diana is quickly thrust into service and embarks on a globe-trotting adventure to avenge her husband’s death, battling a slew of terrifying and intriguing monsters along the way.