The best gothic novels for a cold winter’s night

Kim Taylor Blakemore Author Of The Companion
By Kim Taylor Blakemore

The Books I Picked & Why

See What I Have Done

By Sarah Schmidt

Book cover of See What I Have Done

Why this book?

When a friend recommended this book to me, I asked what it was about. Lizzie Borden he said. Which made me sigh and shake my head because I’m not a fan of the Lizzie Borden story. And yet – there was this book. And this book is simply one of the best books I’ve read. Incredible language, tension that twists tighter and tighter, dread that takes away the breath, a complicated family that barely tolerates each other…this is a great gothic read. Dark and haunting and so deliciously good. If you think you know the Lizzie Borden story, you may need to think again.

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The Cicada Tree

By Robert Gwaltney

Book cover of The Cicada Tree

Why this book?

Southern Gothic at its most redolent, creepy fineness. The book follows eleven-year-old best friends Etta Mae, whose preternatural voice entrances those who listen and can change and curse the rhythms of nature, and Annaliese, who falls under the spell of the rich and dazzling Mayfields. All the characters in this small 1950’s town are bound together by secrets and long pasts, and every one of them is drawn in exquisitely weird detail. Every turn of events surprised me; every page sung. This book packs a wallop of gothic goodness.

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The Silent Companions

By Laura Purcell

Book cover of The Silent Companions

Why this book?

I may be recommending gothics for a cold winter’s night, but I highly suggest not reading this at night. Unless you want to jump out of your skin at every creak and scraping sound in your house. Laura Purcell is the master of classic Gothic, and this book, with its twisting storylines – an asylum-bound woman slowly remembering why she has been committed, the incredibly creepy run-down mansion she comes to call home, the even stranger stories of occupants of that house from hundreds of years past, and the silent companions themselves – painted wood cutouts of previous members of the household that move wherever they want whenever they want – is beautifully written. The ending is one of the best I’ve ever read.

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Beloved Poison

By E.S. Thomson

Book cover of Beloved Poison

Why this book?

Jem Flockhart is an apprentice apothecary at St. Saviour’s Infirmary in London. The building is falling down around the patients. The doctors hate each other. Jem finds six tiny coffins in the crumbling dank chapel – and a murder mystery begins. This book pulled me right into the dark rancid squalor of gaslit London and doesn’t shy in its horrific details. It’s dark, it’s atmospheric, it’s an amazing read. So glad it’s the first in a series!

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By Daphne du Maurier

Book cover of Rebecca

Why this book?

No list of gothic titles is complete without this book. DuMaurier is the writer who inspires my writing. She is a master at revealing secrets in small doses – offhand comments, small details, the uncomfortable pause in a conversation. This book oozes dread and atmosphere. Secrets are peeled away ever so slowly. Yes, there are multiple film versions. But none come close to the novel itself. From the first line, "Last night I dreamed of Manderley again," you are bewitched by the wonder of the Cornish coast - and trapped, like the new Mrs. deWinter, at the grand house with its rotting core. And Mrs. Danvers. Let us not forget Mrs. Danvers…Brilliant.

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