The best gothic novels by modern women

Who am I?

Gothic fiction is the Wednesday’s child of literature, rife with melancholic darkness and woe. More a mood than a subgenre, it enhances paranormals, suspense, mystery, and romance novels alike. I love the creepiness of it all, how the words make me long to burrow under a warm blankie with a cup of tea and wallow in their morbidity. And no one did horror-stricken grief better than the ladies (although Poe gave them a run for their money.) Ann Radcliffe, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, Mary Shelley, Daphne du Maurier…these were the early Queens of Goth. Here are five for the modern age. Read ‘em and weep.


I wrote...

The Photo Thief

By J. L. Delozier,

Book cover of The Photo Thief

What is my book about?

Detective Dan Brennan is grieving his daughter’s death when he’s assigned to investigate a socialite’s fatal fall down her Philadelphia mansion’s stairs. The victim's epileptic daughter alleges her mother was murdered. Her evidence? The dead. Vintage crime-scene photographs displayed on the mansion's walls have told her so.

Compelled by the reclusive teen's pleas, Brennan investigates her mother's death and the secrets hidden in plain sight on the mansion's walls. He soon discovers the vintage photographs are tied to a quartet of cold cases with a disturbing commonality. As the wealthy family's long, sordid history threatens to bury him, Brennan's forced to make a choice: save his career, or risk it all for the chance to hear his dead daughter's voice again.

The books I picked & why

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The Hitman's Daughter

By Carolyne Topdjian,

Book cover of The Hitman's Daughter

Why this book?

Published in February, 2022, this is the most modern of my five choices. An impressive debut by an author who lives in a one-hundred-and-fourteen-year-old haunted house, The Hitman’s Daughter embodies modern Gothic, with its atmospheric setting in a haunted, historic, past-its-prime hotel/chateau, a gruesome murder, a whiff of the supernatural, and a kick-ass heroine (Mave) plagued by her past (and daddy issues.) Thanks to a massive New Year’s Eve blizzard that traps Mave and the chateau’s high-society guests at the scene of a crime, this felt like a twisted, claustrophobic game of Clue.

The Hitman's Daughter

By Carolyne Topdjian,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hitman's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Château du Ciel was once the destination for the rich and famous to play, drink and ski—complete with a private railway to shuttle those desiring extra privacy—now, however, the guests are few and far between. The New Year’s Eve party was supposed to hoist the rundown hotel back to its former status, until a massive blizzard hits, trapping the guests who’ve come to celebrate the grand hotel’s last hurrah. The circumstances might even be romantic, if the hotel wasn't reputed to be haunted. 

When hotel employee Mave Michael finds the resident artist dead, and shortly thereafter hotel security finds…


The Haunting of Hill House

By Shirley Jackson,

Book cover of The Haunting of Hill House

Why this book?

Far from just another Gothic story set in yet another ostensibly haunted mansion, Hill House is, in my opinion, the best psychological horror novel of all time (sorry Stephen King!) A bold statement, I know, but I consider Shirley Jackson my muse. When an agent once compared my writing to hers, I printed the email and taped it onto my computer as a firewall against doubt and insecurity. 

The question Jackson so subtly asks is the same one that appears (more clumsily, I’m sure) in many of my own works—is it the location or the person (in this case, Eleanor) who is haunted? Or perhaps Eleanor is insane. What do you, dear reader, want to believe? Your decision reveals as much about you as it does the character.

The Haunting of Hill House

By Shirley Jackson,

Why should I read it?

25 authors picked The Haunting of Hill House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Part of a new six-volume series of the best in classic horror, selected by Academy Award-winning director of The Shape of Water Guillermo del Toro

Filmmaker and longtime horror literature fan Guillermo del Toro serves as the curator for the Penguin Horror series, a new collection of classic tales and poems by masters of the genre. Included here are some of del Toro's favorites, from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Ray Russell's short story "Sardonicus," considered by Stephen King to be "perhaps the finest example of the modern Gothic ever written," to Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and stories…


Mexican Gothic

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia,

Book cover of Mexican Gothic

Why this book?

The title says it all. Unsettling and at times just plain weird, this book features another mansion, not so much haunted as alive in the worst possible way. Decay is everywhere, from the wallpaper on the mansion’s wall to the flesh, humanity, and sanity of its occupants. Wholly original and beautifully written (I learned two new-to-me words I now use regularly*), it’s a dark, immersive, and surprisingly gory read. I’ve never read anything like it.

* Susurrus and miasma, for the curious

Mexican Gothic

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Mexican Gothic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The award-winning author of Gods of Jade and Shadow (one of the 100 best fantasy novels of all time, TIME magazine) returns with a mesmerising feminist Gothic fantasy, in which a glamorous young socialite discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico.

He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemi. You have to save me.

When glamorous socialite Noemi Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging to be rescued from a mysterious doom, it's clear something is desperately amiss. Catalina has always had a flair for the dramatic, but…


The Silent Companions

By Laura Purcell,

Book cover of The Silent Companions

Why this book?

Laura Purcell writes classic Victorian, historical Gothic horror novels updated for modern sensibilities. My two favorites of hers are The Silent Companions and The Poison Thread. Both are creepy as hell and unrelentingly grim, but The Silent Companions checks all the Gothic boxes from the isolated country estate with a mysterious locked door to its sinister doll-like carved companions, with a descent into madness to boot. Eerie and psychologically complex, it would make du Maurier proud. A great Halloween read, or perfect for any dark and stormy night.

The Silent Companions

By Laura Purcell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Silent Companions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"[An] extraordinary, memorable and truly haunting book." -Jojo Moyes, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Laura Purcell's THE SHAPE OF DARKNESS is now out from Penguin!

Some doors are locked for a reason.

When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But pregnant and widowed just weeks after their wedding, with her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her late husband's awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure-a…


Interview with the Vampire

By Anne Rice,

Book cover of Interview with the Vampire

Why this book?

Finally, a Gothic novel not entirely set in a haunted mansion! Seriously, though – for me, this one broke all the rules in the best possible way. If you’ve made it this far, you realize the others in the list all had the same profile: a claustrophobic, creepy setting; a theme of reality versus paranormal versus insanity; a female heroine. In contrast, Interview with the Vampire spans centuries and continents with a male protagonist and huge cast of characters. It’s Goth on steroids.

Ann Rice, may she RIP, was arguably the modern queen of Gothic literature before her death in 2021. I debated choosing book two of the Vampire Chronicles, The Vampire Lestat, but went with the lush, atmospheric, and angst-filled original, both for its unique premise—a modern reporter interviewing a 200-year-old vampire—and for its depiction of a moldering, plague-ridden New Orleans. Rice claimed her vampires were “metaphors for lost souls” and that she wrote them out of “grief for lost faith.” You can’t get any more Gothic than that.

Interview with the Vampire

By Anne Rice,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Interview with the Vampire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Anne Rice, this sensuously written spellbinding classic remains 'the most successful vampire story since Bram Stoker's Dracula' (The Times)

In a darkened room a young man sits telling the macabre and eerie story of his life - the story of a vampire, gifted with eternal life, cursed with an exquisite craving for human blood.

When Interview with the Vampire was published the Washington Post said it was a 'thrilling, strikingly original work of the imagination . . . sometimes horrible, sometimes beautiful, always unforgettable'. Now, more than forty years since its release, Anne…


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