A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood: Cass and her son Ben move to Cass’ hometown after her husband is presumably killed in action in Afghanistan. They move into an old mill which is being converted into condos and apartments, and that is when strange things begin to happen. Cass is shocked to find out that they are the only tenants in the mill and dark forces are after her son… The novel is very atmospheric and chilling to the bone. The scares are subtle and downright creepy. Believability takes a bit of a hit towards the end as Cass makes some cliché stupid moves typical of characters in horror stories, but these weaknesses are forgivable given the author’s skill at weaving together a stunning tale.
The White Devil by Justin Evans: Seventeen-year old Andrew Taylor is transplanted from his elite US high school to an all-boys, British boarding school for his senior year – because he has been a thorn in the side of former educators and his parents. Andrew’s adolescent troubles are nothing compared to the haunted corridors of Harror School where deaths, visions of a spectral pale white-haired boy, and a 200 year old mystery involving the poet Lord Byron surround him at every turn. Very gothic in style and quite unnerving…
Lost Boy, Lost Girl by Peter Straub: Novelist Tim Underhill comes to stay with his brother and nephew after his sister-in-law commits suicide. One week later, the nephew disappears and Uncle Tim begins an investigation. Is the boy a victim of a serial killer roaming the area? Told from multiple perspectives, the story unfolds about a neighborhood haunted house that had been the location of grisly goings-on years before. The boy, Mark, can’t resist checking out the house, and finds secret rooms and passages - and a ghostly presence. This one made my skin crawl.
The above three stories have landed on my all-time favorite haunted-house novel list. The top positions are reserved for the classics, however. Although, I must admit referring to books that are “only” 30 years old as classics may be offensive to some. Oh, well. My all-time favorites are The Shining by Stephen King and Ghost Story by Peter Straub. Everyone knows the plots of these two, so I won’t review them again but I strongly recommend checking them both out if you haven’t read them or if it has been 30 years since you last opened their covers. The haunted hotel in The Shining has become iconic in horror literature. And, the ghosts in Ghost Story are the most malevolent phantoms ever. Perfect for Halloween.