The best novels with creepy settings

Who am I?

I have a passion for novels with creepy settings, because I grew up in a haunted house and also spent my summers at a cottage on a lake with a long history of hauntings. I’m very familiar with the sensation of someone coming up behind you but when you turn around, nobody’s there, with lights flickering and the sound of unaccounted for footsteps, with shadowy corners, and chills running down your spine. As a child I loved to explore dark woods, abandoned buildings, and hold seances. As an adult I still explore these kinds of settings through my own writing and through the reading of some very creepy novels.  

I wrote...

What You Never Knew

By Jessica Hamilton,

Book cover of What You Never Knew

What is my book about?

Told in alternating points of view between one living sister, June, and one dead, May, What You Never Knew is a story about family secrets and lies. After the death of her older sister, June returns to Avril Island, her family cottage, which she believed her mother had sold thirty years before. Once there June learns of her mother’s decades-long affair, her father’s suspicious disappearance, and the many ghosts which haunt Avril Island.

The books I picked & why

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The Resting Place

By Camilla Sten, Alexandra Fleming (translator),

Book cover of The Resting Place

Why this book?

I loved the unique premise of the protagonist, Eleanor, having prosopagnosia which is known as face blindness—the inability to recognize a familiar person’s face. I also loved the setting of an old mansion deep in the woods of Sweden. The house had been kept a secret until Eleanor’s grandmother died, leaving it to Eleanor in her will. She returns there to prepare it for sale, but things do not go as smoothly as she’d hoped. I enjoyed the atmospheric, creepy setting of the old home full of family secrets, shadows, and things that should never have been disturbed.  

The Guest List

By Lucy Foley,

Book cover of The Guest List

Why this book?

This is one of my favourite book recommendations because I really enjoy the terrifying element of characters being trapped somewhere, unable to escape. This novel takes place on an island off the coast of Ireland, which is the chosen locale for a grand, celebrity wedding. The weather is stormy, the waters are choppy, and there is limited cell reception, which greatly ups the creep factor of this novel because no one can get off the island safely or call for help. Everyone arrives with secrets, some more sinister than others, and when tensions start to rise and then someone ends up dead it appears as though no one is safe and there is no escape. 

The Last House on Needless Street

By Catriona Ward,

Book cover of The Last House on Needless Street

Why this book?

The Last House on Needless Street gets my recommendation because of the deeply unsettling house where most of the story takes place. Located at the end of the street, on the edge of a dark forest with boarded-up windows and falling into disrepair, this house is the ultimate in creepiness. The story of a serial killer, a child who has been kidnapped, a very disturbed protagonist who is haunted by his horrible mother and a black cat imprisoned in the terrifying house. Each page is creepier than the next and the ending shocked me speechless.  

Death in the Family

By Tessa Wegert,

Book cover of Death in the Family

Why this book?

Death in the Family is the first book in the Shana Merchant series and my personal recommendation due to the island setting, which I clearly love. This novel takes place in The Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York on an island owned by a wealthy family, not so different from the setting of my own novel. Senior Investigator Shana Merchant is called out to the island when someone turns up dead at a family gathering.  A big storm prevents anyone from leaving and it quickly becomes clear that there is a killer in the midst with no possible escape. A remote island, a big storm, a dead body, and a family with secrets, you can’t get creepier than that. 

Home Before Dark

By Riley Sager,

Book cover of Home Before Dark

Why this book?

Sager’s novel Home Before Dark is set in a large Victorian mansion in the Vermont woods. Nicknamed the House of Horrors, the creep factor for this setting is high. Our protagonist, Maggie, returns after twenty-five years away to learn the truth of what drove her family out of the house late one night when she was only a child. Was the house really haunted as her mother and father had told her for all of those years or is there a logical explanation for the horrible things that had happened there? This novel gets my recommendation because it has three of my favourite things, ghosts, an old, abandoned building, and a protagonist returning to learn the truth. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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