Even though in my neck of the woods temperatures are so far refusing to fall to respectable fall levels, the approach of Halloween has put me in the mood for creepy reads befitting the season. Here are some of the books I've been scaring myself with lately. You might want to read them with the lights on!
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
This one came to my attention because it was shortlisted for the Booker, and when I read the description, I knew I couldn't pass it up. It's historical fiction set in 1800s Scotland, but it's told via a collection of artifacts that make it seem like true crime: a written confession by a killer, eyewitness accounts, and a summary of his trial. Not so much scary as it is puzzling, definitely one of those books that's more concerned with the “why” than the “who,” with an ending that's bound to leave readers with differing theories as to what really happened between Roderick Macrae and his unfortunate victims.
Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta
Bish Ortley, a British detective, is sucked back into a case from his past when his teenage daughter is involved in a bus bombing while on a school trip in France. One of the other students on the bus is the daughter of a woman Bish put away for her part in another bombing years ago, but as he delves into the new case, what he learns casts doubt on his past conclusions. Bish is one of those flawed-but-likable cop characters—I wouldn't be surprised if this book turns out to be the first in a series. I listened to the audio version, and reader Zaqi Ismail is a pro at all the requisite accents for this globe-trotting thriller.
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
This Halloween season has inspired me to (very gingerly) test the waters of the horror genre. I'm not usually in the mood for dark, twisted stuff, figuring my mind is already a verdant garden of fear and anxiety, no need to go planting new varieties from outside sources. But I've found, strangely enough, that the right kind of horror read feels like the perfect escape. This one, about a teenage girl believed to be possessed who undergoes an exorcism on reality TV, was just the right amount of scary for me. Demon possession is not something I worry about happening to me on a day-to-day basis, so I was able to handle the fear quotient and get at the bigger questions the novel asks—like, is she really possessed, or does she just want attention? And either way, how far is this going to go before her family fractures under the weight of her antics?
Malice by Keigo Higashino
This definitely won't be the last book I read by Keigo Higashino. He's one of the most well-known mystery writers in Japan, and when I saw his work compared with Agatha Christie's, I knew I needed to get in on that. Malice drew my eye because it's about a writer who murders another writer—ooh, authors behaving badly! I love it! Also, before you get mad at me, that's not a spoiler, as this is another book where the mystery is why the murder took place, not who did the murdering. You might have to adjust a little to the terse writing style—there's hardly any window dressing or flowery touches. Both Higashino and his characters get right down to brass tacks. But for me, anyway, that's hardly a complaint—sometimes you just want to cut through the bullshit and read a good story.
I'll be back soon with more great books suitable for this spooky season—I couldn't fit them all in one post! And I'm reading a couple right now that are so good, I can't wait to tell you about them. Happy Halloween (and happy reading)!