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Patrick McGrath

Another Five Reads for Halloween


It’s that special time of year again.  The nights get longer. The temperature drops. Candy corn is everywhere. The pop-up costume stores appear. And once again, my dear readers, I compile a list of books to give you the creeps. Yep it’s my latest collection of Halloween reading! Enjoy.

Off Season (1980) By Jack Ketchum, who’s been described as “the scariest guy in America” by Stephen King. A New York editor rents a cabin for her and her friends in Maine during the off season. Unbeknownst to her a savage clan of inbred cannibals happens to be living in the area as well. This one when it originally came out was considered so visceral and controversial that the original publisher withdrew support. It has since become hailed as a cult classic, and a 35th Anniversary edition including unexpurgated material has just been released.

The Bridesmaid (1989) By that master of psychological crime novels Ruth Rendell. Philip Wardman is a perfectly ordinary young man with two notable traits. Firstly, he abhors violence of any kind. Secondly, his ideal of the perfect woman is based on a Greek statue of Flora in the family garden. At his sister’s wedding, Philip meets Senta Pelham; an extraordinarily beautiful but strange young woman who is one of his sister’s bridesmaids. They have a torrid affair but Senta shocks him with an evil idea; that they prove their love to each other by each committing a murder.

Asylum (1996) British novelist Patrick McGrath delivers us this tensely plotted gothic tale of psychological suspense narrated from the POV of a psychiatrist. The beautiful Stella Raphael is the bored wife of Max, a deputy superintendent at a maximum security psychiatric facility. She becomes intimate with one of the inmates, the artist Edgar Stark who killed his wife. Stella’s passion for Edgar has horrific consequences for her and everyone around her. A movie adaption was made in 2005 starring Natasha Richardson, Ian McKellan, and Hugh Bonneville.

Blood Harvest (2010)  By S.J. Bolton. The Fletcher family moves into a beautiful house into the  seemingly idyllic community of Heptonclough. But soon after their arrival things start to go wrong. First with silly pranks and then with increasingly ominous threats.  The eldest child Tom Fletcher is convinced that someone is always, ALWAYS watching them. And then there’s the matter of the mysterious accidental deaths of three toddlers over the last ten years. It soon becomes that the beautiful village hides a very ugly and very dark secret. Blood Harvest was short-listed for the Crime Writers Association’s Gold Dagger Award.

Those Across the River (2011) This debut novel from Christopher Buehlman is set in 1935.  WWI Veteran and failed academic Frank Nichols and his wife Ava move into a house in Whitbrow Frank’s inherited from his aunt; despite her having warned him by letter never to do so.  Frank plans to write a history of the  Savoyard plantation and an cruel ancestor of Frank’s who drove his slaves to murder him.  Unfortunately, Frank’s presence helps stir something in the town.  There’s an old blood debt to be paid.  And there’s a reason the people of Whitbrow never EVER cross the river.  Nominated in 2011 by the World Fantasy Awards for Best Novel.

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