Gothic novels and books have been around for more than 200 years, since the late 18th century, and a recent “gothic revival” has been taking place within the fiction genre for a couple years now. These modern gothic novels borrow heavily from traditional gothic tropes: spooky old castles, creeping wanderers and housekeepers, and even the madwoman in the attic.
Like what you hear? Below are some of the best gothic fiction reads of 2020, hand-picked by our Adult Services Department staff.
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The Sun Down Motel
by Simone St. James
Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.
Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
by Alma Katsu
Someone, or something, is haunting the ship. Between mysterious disappearances and sudden deaths, the guests of the Titanic have found themselves suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone from the moment they set sail. Several of them, including maid Annie Hebley, guest Mark Fletcher, and millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, are convinced there’s something sinister–almost otherwordly–afoot. But before they can locate the source of the danger, as the world knows, disaster strikes.
Years later, Annie, having survived that fateful night, has attempted to put her life back together. Working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic‘s sister ship, the Britannic, newly refitted as a hospital ship, she happens across an unconscious Mark, now a soldier fighting in World War I. At first, Annie is thrilled and relieved to learn that he too survived the sinking, but soon, Mark’s presence awakens deep-buried feelings and secrets, forcing her to reckon with the demons of her past–as they both discover that the terror may not yet be over.
Things in Jars
by Jess Kidd
Bridie Devine—flame-haired, pipe-smoking detective extraordinaire—is confronted with the most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors in this age of discovery.
Winding her way through the sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing secrets about her past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot-tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where nothing is quite what it seems.
by Elisabeth Thomas
Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises a future of sublime power and prestige, and that its graduates can become anything or anyone they desire.
Plain Bad Heroines
by Emily M. Danforth
Our story begins in 1902, at the Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara, two impressionable students, are obsessed with each other and with a daring young writer named Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls establish their own private club and call it the Plain Bad Heroine Society. They meet in secret in a nearby apple orchard, the setting of their wildest happiness and, ultimately, of their macabre deaths. This is where their bodies are later discovered with a copy of Mary’s book splayed beside them, the victims of a swarm of stinging, angry yellow jackets. Less than five years later, the Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors forever—but not before three more people mysteriously die on the property, each in a most troubling way.
by Tana French
Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a bucolic Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens. But when a local kid whose brother has gone missing arm-twists him into investigating, Cal uncovers layers of darkness beneath his picturesque retreat, and starts to realize that even small towns shelter dangerous secrets.
The Hollow Ones
by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Odessa Hardwicke’s life is derailed when she’s forced to turn her gun on her partner, Walt Leppo, a decorated FBI agent who turns suddenly, inexplicably violent while apprehending a rampaging murderer. The shooting, justified by self-defense, shakes the young FBI agent to her core. Devastated, Odessa is placed on desk leave pending a full investigation. But what most troubles Odessa isn’t the tragedy itself — it’s the shadowy presence she thought she saw fleeing the deceased agent’s body after his death.
From the authors who brought you The Strain Trilogy comes a strange, terrifying, and darkly wondrous world of suspense, mystery, and literary horror. The Hollow Ones is a chilling, spell-binding tale, a hauntingly original new fable from Academy Award-winning director Guillermo del Toro and bestselling author Chuck Hogan featuring their most fascinating character yet.
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