Although trick-or-treating and Halloween parties are off the table this year, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy Halloween at all. There are plenty of scary movies to get you in the mood for Halloween, but I am going to tell you about three brilliantly spooky books.
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
Synopsis: In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol.
But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood that surrounds Bethel – a place where the first prophet once pursued and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still walking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the diary of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.
Fascinated by secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realises the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her . . .
Verdict: This book has everything you could want in a spooky book. It has blood, gore and terrifying imagery. But it also has a plot that will grip you from the first chapter. The characters will steal your heart and make you want to protect them at all costs (some of them survive until the end). And, of course, this book contains plenty of witches to satisfy your Halloween needs.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Synopsis: Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. At her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s eight secret societies. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
When a horrific murder takes place on campus, Alex and her trainer, Darlington, must find out whether the secret societies were involved without letting the police know the societies exist…
Verdict: What you aren’t told in the synopsis (but you will learn early on in the novel) is that Alex can see ghosts. Some of these ghosts are helpful to the investigation while others are certainly a hindrance to Alex’s life in general. I think the scariest part of this book is definitely the secret societies filled with privileged students and the enormous power they have. Yale is Bardugo’s alma mater, so there are loads of specific details sprinkled into the story. The murder mystery is well thought-out and has a satisfying conclusion. This book has one of my favourite opening lines: “By the time Alex managed to get the blood out of her good wool coat, it was too warm to wear it.”
Ninth House was Bardugo’s first venture into Adult Fiction and it has been a roaring success. It will be the first in a five book series.
The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison
Synopsis: In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees…and a collection of precious “butterflies”—young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.
When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself.
As her story twists and turns, slowly shedding light on life in the Butterfly Garden, Maya reveals old grudges, new saviors, and horrific tales of a man who’d go to any length to hold beauty captive. But the more she shares, the more the agents have to wonder what she’s still hiding…
Verdict: This story is truly chilling: the idea that a rich, white man could kidnap so many girls, rape them and murder them without being caught made my skin crawl. I loved that the narrative switches between the FBI interview and Maya’s flashbacks to her time in The Butterfly Garden. What sets this book apart from other thrillers is the intricate bonds between the girls trapped in the Garden. Hutchison makes each victim a complex, layered and thought-provoking character. This is the first book in The Collector series.
Any one of these books will serve up an array of spooky delights.
Featured image via Am Reading