Share 7 Thriller Novels We Think Are Creepier Than Campfire Stories

7 Thriller Novels We Think Are Creepier Than Campfire Stories

Hannah Schaffer is the Senior Digital Content Manager for Off the Shelf & Book Club Favorites. When she’s not watching melodramatic television or reading magical realism, she’s reading memoir, watching The Great British Bake Off, or eating her way around New York.

I love campfires. There’s something about a warm fire during a chilly day (or night) in the woods that stirs up the best fall feelings. And while some people love creepy campfire stories, I prefer sidling up with a good book—and there are some excellent, bone-chilling books way creepier than your average campfire story. So pass the graham crackers and marshmallows, and crack open one of these thrillers set deep in forests and nature.


In a Dark, Dark Wood
by Ruth Ware

A few friends descend into the English countryside for a bachelorette party, staying in a house made of glass. Cue: murder. (Gasp!) The novel cuts back and forth between the present—the main character wakes up in a hospital and tries to piece together what happened—and the weekend away. It’s a twisty-turny, atmospheric novel that will leave you feeling like someone is watching you from behind the bushes near your campsite.

Read the full review of IN A DARK, DARK WOOD.

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In a Dark, Dark Wood
Ruth Ware

During a weekend away with a friend in an eerie glass house, crime writer Leonora wakes up in a hospital bed injured wondering not “What happened?” but “What have I done?” This one is for fans of GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

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The River at Night
by Erica Ferencik

Erica Ferencik’s novel is a totally visceral, hear-your-heart-in-your-ears story about friendship and survival. Imagine taking a nice little trip into nature with your friends: time to relax, smell the trees, do some river rafting . . . and then you have a terrible accident, get stranded without everything you need to survive, have to wander at night until you come upon some people who offer hope, only to discover that their intentions are way more horrifying than you could have imagined, and you have to fight for your survival not only against them but against nature and your friends. Yeah, scary—and also terrifyingly good.

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The River at Night
Erica Ferencik

A “raw, relentless, and heart-poundingly real” (Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author) thriller set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, The River at Night charts the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident.

Winifred Allen needs a vacation.

Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.

What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare; a freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.

With intimately observed characters and visceral prose, The River at Night “will leave you gasping, your heart racing, eyes peering over your shoulder to see what follows from behind” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author). This is a dark exploration of creatures—both friend and foe—that you won’t soon forget.

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The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
by Stephen King

A girl wanders off into the forest away from her family and listens to her radio for company, completely unaware (at least at first) of the threatening entity that is following and watching her. It’s a Stephen King masterpiece: enchanting writing, compelling plot, and a little something to keep you thinking things go bump in the night.

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The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
Stephen King

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In the Woods
by Tana French

Tana French’s debut begins in a small Dublin suburb in 1984. Three children don’t return home from a day playing in the woods, and when the police search for them, they find only one—Rob, and he’s covered in blood and unable to remember anything from the previous few hours. Twenty years later, Rob has to investigate the murder of a small child in the same woods, and as he digs deeper, his own unsolved mystery unravels to a chilling—and surprising—effect.

Read the full review of IN THE WOODS.

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In the Woods
Tana French

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The River
by Peter Heller

Two college friends venture out into the Canadian wilderness and hear a couple fighting. But when they run into the man, there’s no woman in sight. One thing leads to another, and they are battling for their survival—and not just against white water rapids and cold forest nights. Days away from civilization, and without phones, their predicament becomes dangerous and violent. It’s a heart-poundingly intense novel that will keep you glued to the page—and away from the riverside.

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The River
Peter Heller

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Desolation Mountain
by William Kent Krueger

When a senator dies in a private plane crash on Desolation Mountain, father-son duo Cork and Stephen set off to investigate, despite pushback and lies from every government group also looking into the accident. As they dig deeper, they come face-to-face with a deeper evil hiding in the woods.

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Desolation Mountain
William Kent Krueger

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Edgar Award-winning author William Kent Krueger delivers another heart-pounding thriller filled with “dynamic action scenes” (The New York Times) as Cork O’Connor and his son Stephen work together to uncover the truth behind the death of a senator on Desolation Mountain and the mysterious disappearances of several first responders.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

To Stephen O’Connor, Hamlet’s dour observation is more than just words. All his life, he has had visions of tragedies to come. When he experiences the vision of a great bird shot from the sky, he knows something terrible is about to happen. The crash of a private plane on Desolation Mountain in a remote part of the Iron Lake Reservation, which kills a United States senator and most of her family, confirms Stephen’s worst fears.

Stephen joins his father, Cork O’Connor and a few Ojibwe men from the nearby Iron Lake reservation to sift through the smoldering wreckage when the FBI arrives and quickly assumes control of the situation. As he initiates his own probe, Cork stumbles upon a familiar face in Bo Thorson, a private security consultant whose unnamed clients have hired him to look quietly into the cause of the crash. The men agree to join forces in their investigation, but soon Cork begins to wonder if Thorson’s loyalties lie elsewhere.

Roadblocked by lies from the highest levels of government, uncertain who to trust, and facing growing threats the deeper they dig for answers, Cork, Stephen, and Bo finally understand that to get to the truth, they will have to face the great menace, a beast of true evil lurking in the woods—a beast with a murderous intent of unimaginable scale. Krueger delivers yet another “punch-to-the-gut blend of detective story and investigative fiction” (Booklist, starred review).

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