5 Dark, Brooding Novels to Start on a Rainy Day

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Katy Hays is a writer and adjunct art history professor. She holds an MA in art history from Williams College and pursued her PhD at UC Berkeley. She lives with her husband and dog, Queso, in Olympic Valley, California. The Cloisters is her first novel.

I’ve long been drawn to books where the world is all-encompassing. Not fantasy novels, per se—although I know that’s what so many readers find appealing about them—but novels where atmosphere and vibes reign supreme. Even better, in my opinion, is if those novels are also dark, delicious, and almost certainly brooding. There’s nothing I enjoy more than the world of a novel that seems impossible to escape—on or off the page, for better or worse. And there is no greater time I’d rather curl up with a book that has big vibes with a capital V than when the fall weather has begun—a crispness in the air makes a moody book all the more appealing!

Here are some of the books whose worlds have transported me in recent months, stories I heartily recommend as the leaves begin to turn color and the days grow shorter. They will take you from the mountains of Oaxaca to the lowlands of a Louisiana plantation, from a flooded, cut-off Venetian palazzo to a snowed-in Victorian mansion, but at every turn, these moody reads will delight, exhilarate, and surprise. I’m so excited to share them with you!

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina
by Zoraida Córdova

A gorgeous, magical saga, THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUÍDEA DIVINA tells the story of the Montoya family, who has been summoned to the house—and deathbed—of their matriarch, Orquídea Divina, to receive their inheritance, and hopefully, some answers about their family legacy. But as soon as they arrive, Orquídea Divina dies. Seven years later, their inheritance finally appears in the form of magical powers and gifts. But the simultaneous arrival of a sinister figure sends the family back to their ancestral home in a search for answers. A story about grief, family, and the sorcery we hold within ourselves, THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUÍDEA DIVINA takes the tradition of magical realism in new, delightful, and surprising directions.  

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The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina
Zoraida Córdova

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, and Sarah Addison Allen, a family searches for the truth hidden in their past in this “expertly woven tale of family power, threaded with as much mystery as magic” (V.E. Schwab, #1 New York Times bestselling author).

The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—not for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed into a ceiba tree, leaving them with more questions than answers.

Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings and powers. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, her descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.

Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is a “spellbinding tale, both timeless and fresh, that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page. Prepare to fall in love” (Kim Liggett, New York Times bestselling author).

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The Cutting Season
by Attica Locke

Attica Locke is a master of contemporary noir, and THE CUTTING SEASON showcases the author at the height of her powers. The mystery at the core of this novel unfolds on the grounds of Belle Vie, a historic Louisiana plantation where Caren Gray, the plantation’s general manager, has discovered a dead body during her morning rounds. Present-day tensions around the murder and a centuries-old unsolved mystery collide when Caren becomes convinced the police are following the wrong leads. But with the culprits of both crimes desperate to stay hidden, Caren increasingly finds herself in the crosshairs. A harrowing, richly set, and lushly told mystery, THE CUTTING SEASON is one of Attica Locke’s best.

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The Cutting Season
Attica Locke

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5 Dark, Brooding Novels to Start on a Rainy Day

By Katy Hays | November 2, 2022

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Witches
by Brenda Lozano & Heather Cleary

Brenda Lozano’s WITCHES is a wild, dark tale that tacks back and forth between the story of two women—Feliciana, an infamous, rural Oaxacan healer, and Zoe, a young journalist from Mexico City. Brought together by the murder of Paloma, Feliciana’s cousin, the two women represent divergent but equally vibrant aspects of traditional and contemporary Mexican society. Where Feliciana’s narrative is defined by her mystical and haunting beliefs, Zoe continually searches for the hard reality of what happened to Paloma. The truth, both will learn, is somewhere in between. WITCHES casts a spell that is difficult to shake long after the last page is read.    

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Witches
Brenda Lozano & Heather Cleary

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5 Dark, Brooding Novels to Start on a Rainy Day

By Katy Hays | November 2, 2022

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Palace of the Drowned
by Christine Mangan

If Mangan’s TANGERINE was her first foray into gothic historical fiction, then PALACE OF THE DROWNED cements her reputation as a writer whose skill at evoking a specific place and time is rivaled only by her ability to place her characters in increasingly sinister situations. PALACE OF THE DROWNED takes place in 1960s Venice, where writer Frankie Croy has come to lick her wounds following a damaging review and public breakdown. Squatting in a friend’s crumbling palazzo, she is befriended by the deceptively open and charming young Gilly. But as Frankie is finally able to unravel Gilly’s lies, the waters in Venice begin to rise. They will need to brace for the most catastrophic flood in Venice’s history. In the tradition of Patricia Highsmith, PALACE OF THE DROWNED shows us how easy—and dangerous—it is to form fast friendships with charismatic strangers.

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Palace of the Drowned
Christine Mangan

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5 Dark, Brooding Novels to Start on a Rainy Day

By Katy Hays | November 2, 2022

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The Writing Retreat
by Julia Bartz

Writerly ambition (and rejection) has long been a source of literary drama, but Julia Bartz ratchets up the pressure in THE WRITING RETREAT, publishing in February 2023. The story focuses on Alex, an aspiring writer who secures a last-minute spot at a competitive writing retreat hosted by horror-writer luminary Roza Vallo, and explores the lengths artists are willing to go to for their craft. Joining Alex at the remote Victorian house is a group of four fellow writers, all of whom are competing for the same book deal. The only catch: they must write the book within a month, while in residence. But the house doesn’t turn out to be the most welcoming creative environment, and soon Alex realizes that the history of the house, and its owner, hold the key to surviving this writing retreat. A gripping page-turner replete with haunted houses, cutthroat competitors, and all the literary suspense you could hope for. 

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The Writing Retreat
Julia Bartz

The Plot meets Please Join Us in this psychological suspense debut about a young author at an exclusive writer’s retreat that descends into a nightmare.

Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement.

But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she’s desperate to discover the truth and save herself.

A claustrophobic and propulsive thriller exploring the dark side of female friendships and fame, The Writing Retreat is the unputdownable debut novel from a compelling new talent.

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The Cloisters
by Katy Hays

THE CLOISTERS IS OUT NOW!

When Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, she expects to spend her summer working as a curatorial associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she finds herself assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden renowned for its medieval art collection and its group of enigmatic researchers studying the history of divination. Desperate to escape her painful past, Ann is happy to indulge the researchers’ more outlandish theories about the history of fortune telling. But what begins as academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession when Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future.

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The Cloisters
Katy Hays

The Secret History meets Ninth House in this sinister, atmospheric novel following a circle of researchers as they uncover a mysterious deck of tarot cards and shocking secrets in New York’s famed Met Cloisters.

When Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, she expects to spend her summer working as a curatorial associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she finds herself assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden renowned for its medieval art collection and its group of enigmatic researchers studying the history of divination.

Desperate to escape her painful past, Ann is happy to indulge the researchers’ more outlandish theories about the history of fortune telling. But what begins as academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession when Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future. When the dangerous game of power, seduction, and ambition at The Cloisters turns deadly, Ann becomes locked in a race for answers as the line between the arcane and the modern blurs.

A haunting and magical blend of genres, The Cloisters is a gripping debut that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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Photo credit: Simon & Schuster Canada

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