I've had a love for horror literature ever since I was a teenager, reading my Grandma's collection of Stephen King and Dean Koontz novels, the Time Life book series Mysteries of the Unknown, and the vampire books written by Anne Rice. After I finished my list of household chores and creative projects during Lockdown Season 2020, I finally got to reading the giant stack of TBR's that had taken over my bookshelf space. And now, I share my top picks for Horror Literature that I read in 2020-2021!
Note: a few of these selections were published prior to 2020-2021, but a majority of them were published within the past 2 years.
My Top 5 Selections
The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman
Ella Louise has lived in the woods surrounding Pilot's Creek, Virginia, for nearly a decade. Publicly, she and her daughter, Jessica, are shunned by upper-crust family and the local residents. Privately, desperate characters visit her apothecary for a cure to what ails them -- until Ella Louise is blamed for the death of a prominent customer. Accused of witchcraft, Ella Louise and Jessica are burned at the stake in the middle of the night. Ella Louise's burial site is never found, but the little girl has the most famous grave in the South: a steel-reinforced coffin surrounded by a fence of interconnected white crosses. Their story will take the shape of an urban legend as it's told around a campfire by a man forever marked by his childhood encounters with Jessica. Decades later, a boy at that campfire will cast Amber Pendleton as Jessica in a '70s horror movie inspired by the Witch Girl of Pilot's Creek. Amber's experiences on the set and its meta-remake in the '90s will ripple through pop culture, ruining her life and career after she becomes the target of a witch hunt. Amber's best chance to break the cycle of horror comes when a true-crime investigator trackers her down to interview her for his popular podcast. But will this final act of storytelling redeem her -- or will it bring the story full circle, ready to be told once again. And again. And again..
The Return by Rachel Harrison
"An edgy and haunting debut novel about a group of friends who reunite after one of them has returned from a mysterious two-year disappearance. Julie is missing, and the missing don't often return. But Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and she feels in her bones that her best friend is out there, and that one day she'll come back. She's right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she's been or what happened to her. Along with Molly and Mae, their two close friends from college, the women decide to reunite at the eccentric, remote Red Honey Inn. But the second Elise sees Julie, she knows something is wrong--she's emaciated, with sallow skin, chipped teeth and odd appetites. In so many ways, Julie seems to be the friend they all loved and lost. But in others, she seems to be a stranger. When bad weather traps them inside the hotel, tensions flare. Elise begins to hear scratching within the walls, to see the slither of shadows cast by nothing. And as the weekend unfurls, it becomes impossible to deny that the Julie who vanished two years ago is not the same Julie who came back. But then who--or what--is she?"--Provided by publisher.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemi Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She's not sure what she will find--her cousin's husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemi knows little about the region. Noemi is also an unlikely rescuer: She's a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she's also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin's new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemi; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi's dreams with visions of blood and doom. Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family's youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemi, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family's past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family's once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemi digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling
Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town. Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man-one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him. By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to. Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Caitlin Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon.
The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
"A supernatural thriller set in South Carolina in the '90s about a women's book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious stranger who turns out to be a real monster."
Other Chilling Selections Not to Be Missed
Hopefully the new year will bring us more well written horror and gothic genre novels. Stay Spooky!