Bone Chilling Reads for Hot Summer Days

August 17, 2020 | M. Elwood

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Every reader has their own form of escapism.

I realize these past few months that some of us feel like we're trapped inside a horror novel. So you might not feel like reading an actual horror novel. For some of us, though, it might be just what we need. We want to read a book about strong, capable people who have been blindsided by forces beyond their control and are learning to cope with the new reality they are facing.

This is a list of recent horror novels – some with traditional monsters and others with philosophical terror – that will distract you during these trying times. Besides, on these hot days those little spine tingles can really cool you down. 

I've avoided pandemic fiction on this list, but if you're interested in that sort of book should take a look at my Pandemic Fiction book list.

The Ancestor

The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni

What at first appears to be great fortune turns out to be a curse when Bert Monte learns she has inherited a castle in the Italian Alps. Bert is taken to the remote location and soon finds herself stranded. While waiting for rescue, she explores the castle and researches her family's history uncovering its darkest secrets. 

Beneath the Rising

Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed

Joanna "Johnny" Chambers is a brilliant teenage inventor who creates a method of making free non-polluting energy. Unfortunately, she accidentally breaks reality releasing otherworldly horror into our world. She and her best friend Nick, an unexceptional Canadian, scramble to fix things before the world is overrun by unimaginable evil. 

Boatman's daughter

The Boatman's Daughter by Andy Davidson

Miranda Crabtree smuggles contraband for an unstable preacher in her Arkansas town. The money she makes helps her to support her adopted family – a witch and the unusual child they are hiding from the world. When the preacher's followers dwindle and his health declines, his business takes a sinister turn and Miranda's refusal to play along may be deadly. 

Death in her hands

Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh

Vesta Gul is a widow in her 70s living in isolation. One day walking in the woods near her home she finds a note pinned to the ground that reads "Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body." There is no dead body but Vesta decides that she will solve the crime. This blend of horror, psychological thriller and black comedy is unlike anything you've ever read. 


Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks

Kate Holland and her husband have moved into an environmentally conscious community in the Pacific Northwest. They live with only limited contact with the outside world – groceries are delivered by drone. When Mount Rainier erupts, however, they find themselves truly isolated. The roads back to civilization are gone as is their contact with the outside world. Then they notice strange noises and see local wildlife fleeing and realize that something in the woods is angry.

The deep

The Deep by Alma Katsu

This novel adds a supernatural twist to historical events. In 1912, Annie Hebbley was a stewardess on the Titanic. She suspects that the misfortunes that have followed the survivors of the shipwreck have paranormal origins. She takes a job as a nurse on Titanic's sister ship, Britannic which is being used as a floating hospital. Soon Annie notices strange things here too. 

Mexican gothic

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Noemí Taboada, an ambitious socialite, travels to see her recently married cousin Catalina who has been sending unsettling letters to her family. High Place, the crumbling mansion where Catalina lives is creepy, her new in-laws are eccentric and intimidating and Noemí's sleep is disturbed by violent and unsettling dreams. It's clear there's a problem here. Noemí begins uncovering long hidden secrets but is it too late to save Catalina?

The only good indians

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Four Blackfeet men are haunted (literally) a decade after their slaughter of an elk herd. The 10-year hunting ban for their crime is about to expire but there are forces that don't think the men have been punished enough. 

The Southern book club's guide to slaying vampires

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

A genteel group of women living outside Charleston, South Carolina form a book club to indulge their more indelicate interests in true crime and mystery novels. One of them ties the strange events in their community to a new neighbour and soon the book club members become vampire hunters in this blend of horror and humour.

The sun down motel

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

There's a terrible secret about the rundown Sun Down Motel outside Fell, New York. In 1982, Vivian Delaney gets a job at the motel and quickly notices that something isn't quite right. She begins to investigate whether the motel is haunted but disappears. Now 35 years later, Vivian's niece Carly has come to learn the truth about her aunt's disappearance. 


Wonderland by Zoje Stage

Ballet dancer Orla retires, she and her husband Shaw decide to move to the country with their children so he can have time to work on his art. They buy a farm house in New York State and it seems perfect until there's a massive snowfall essentially trapping them and strange things start happening – the trees around the house seem to be moving, for example. What is going on in the woods and how can Orla stop it?


Do you have more chillers to recommend? Share them in the comments below!