Even in a genre as dark and depraved as horror, there can be parts that bring you comfort. Whether it’s a favorite character, a fantastical location, or a story that manages to end in a satisfying manner, horror can have its creature comforts. But make no mistake, just because these books provide some soothing characters or locations, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have thrills and chills awaiting you between the covers. If you’re looking for your newest comfort character, or just want a horror read that has some lightness to keep it from getting too dark, here are eight novels you should pick up.
There are a lot of memorable Stephen King characters, but few are as beloved as detective Holly Gibney. First appearing in MR. MERCEDES, Holly is a super-smart, unfiltered mind who is fantastic at picking up on small details and not so great at dealing with people. So for fans of this character, you’re in luck! The new novel, HOLLY, is all about our favorite PI investigating the disappearance of a girl named Bonnie. But as she digs deeper, reluctantly at first, she finds several clues pointing back to a suspicious elderly couple who are looking to live just a little longer. Especially when all clues start pointing back to a suspicious elderly couple who are looking to live just a little longer. Follow Holly as she navigates both this dark mystery and an ever-shifting world.
Holly Gibney, one of Stephen King’s most compelling and ingeniously resourceful characters, returns in this thrilling novel to solve the gruesome truth behind multiple disappearances in a midwestern town.
“Sometimes the universe throws you a rope.” —BILL HODGES
Stephen King’s Holly marks the triumphant return of beloved King character Holly Gibney. Readers have witnessed Holly’s gradual transformation from a shy (but also brave and ethical) recluse in Mr. Mercedes to Bill Hodges’s partner in Finders Keepers to a full-fledged, smart, and occasionally tough private detective in The Outsider. In King’s new novel, Holly is on her own, and up against a pair of unimaginably depraved and brilliantly disguised adversaries.
When Penny Dahl calls the Finders Keepers detective agency hoping for help locating her missing daughter, Holly is reluctant to accept the case. Her partner, Pete, has Covid. Her (very complicated) mother has just died. And Holly is meant to be on leave. But something in Penny Dahl’s desperate voice makes it impossible for Holly to turn her down.
Mere blocks from where Bonnie Dahl disappeared live Professors Rodney and Emily Harris. They are the picture of bourgeois respectability: married octogenarians, devoted to each other, and semi-retired lifelong academics. But they are harboring an unholy secret in the basement of their well-kept, book-lined home, one that may be related to Bonnie’s disappearance. And it will prove nearly impossible to discover what they are up to: they are savvy, they are patient, and they are ruthless.
Holly must summon all her formidable talents to outthink and outmaneuver the shockingly twisted professors in this chilling new masterwork from Stephen King.
“I could never let Holly Gibney go. She was supposed to be a walk-on character in Mr. Mercedes and she just kind of stole the book and stole my heart. Holly is all her.” —STEPHEN KING
What horror great Stephen Graham Jones is a master of, besides scaring the crap out of people, is writing engaging characters that you can’t help but root for. The protagonist of MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW, and its sequel DON’T FEAR THE REAPER, is no exception. Jade Daniels is a huge horror nerd, which doesn’t exactly make her popular among her peers. But being a loner might not be such a bad thing when people in her community start dying—and her horror film fanaticism begins paying off to keep her alive. Jade is witty, funny, and a little sad, which makes her the perfect character to root for in a novel as scary as this one.
In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for in this latest chilling novel that “will give you nightmares. The good kind, of course” (BuzzFeed) from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones.
“Some girls just don’t know how to die…”
Shirley Jackson meets Friday the 13th in My Heart Is a Chainsaw, written by the New York Times bestselling author of The Only Good Indians Stephen Graham Jones, called “a literary master” by National Book Award winner Tananarive Due and “one of our most talented living writers” by Tommy Orange.
Alma Katsu calls My Heart Is a Chainsaw “a homage to slasher films that also manages to defy and transcend genre.” On the surface is a story of murder in small-town America. But beneath is its beating heart: a biting critique of American colonialism, Indigenous displacement, and gentrification, and a heartbreaking portrait of a broken young girl who uses horror movies to cope with the horror of her own life.
Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.
Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.
Imagine a beautiful Polynesian paradise awaiting you, all warm sands and clear waters, and mystical murder. Okay, maybe that last one doesn’t quite fit with the aesthetic, but there’s just something in the way that Lloyd Shepherd writes about Tahiti in 1812 that makes me think of a nice, relaxing vacation. And, well, it’s unlikely that I’ll end up like the crew of the Solander, which brings back hundreds of plants from Tahiti to England and suddenly, the crew starts dying off. Are these deaths magical or botanical? That’s what Thames River Police Chief Charles Horton has to figure out, and time is of the essence.
A brilliant young police officer discovers a series of bizarre deaths are connected to the cargo of a research vessel bound for Kew Gardens in this fantasy-tinged historical thriller set in early nineteenth-century London.
Tahiti 1769. English sailors arrive on the shores of the Polynesian paradise— a place of staggering beauty where magic and ancient myths still hold sway. But they soon devastate the island with disease, war, and death, planting deadly seeds that will be carried back to England forty years later.
London 1812. On a gray June morning, the Solander docks, her hold containing hundreds of exotic plants from Tahiti for the King’s Gardens at Kew. The apparently successful expedition soon takes a horrifying— and inexplicable—turn: The crew of the Solander starts dying one by one. Thames River Police Chief Charles Horton can find no signs of murder or suicide to explain the deaths, and the ship’s surviving crew seems intent on hampering his investigation. When one of the plants begins to show frightening changes, it is up to Charles Horton to determine how it might be stopped.
There’s nothing quite like belonging to a club when you’re a kid, getting to have secret meetings and share inside jokes. Sadly, Jake Baker’s Saturday Night Ghost Club only has him and, well, maybe his eccentric uncle Calvin as members. But when siblings move to his strange town of Niagara Falls, Jake finds two new friends to share all his weird and wonderful findings and stories. THE SATURDAY NIGHT GHOST CLUB is a bittersweet and heart-wrenching coming-of-age story.
While cleaning out a relative’s home after a recent passing can be sad, it can also provide a lot of nostalgia and warm memories of happier times. For Mouse, who has been tasked with cleaning up her grandmother’s old scenic cabin in the North Carolina woods, this should be a time of reflection. Instead, it turns into a nightmare when she finds a notebook detailing the dark and mysterious creatures out in the woods coming to get her. And then the noises start. A retelling of Arthur Machen’s classic horror story “The White People,” THE TWISTED ONES will make you think twice about renting that remote cabin . . . at least, without buying some supplies first. While it’s a dark story, the aesthetic cabin setting and the endearing cast of characters provide a cozy element that’s perfect for fall.
Winner of the RUSA Award for Best Horror
When a young woman clears out her deceased grandmother’s home in rural North Carolina, she finds long-hidden secrets about a strange colony of beings in the woods in this chilling novel that reads like The Blair Witch Project meets The Andy Griffith Show.
When Mouse’s dad asks her to clean out her dead grandmother's house, she says yes. After all, how bad could it be?
Answer: pretty bad. Grandma was a hoarder, and her house is stuffed with useless rubbish. That would be horrific enough, but there’s more—Mouse stumbles across her step-grandfather’s journal, which at first seems to be filled with nonsensical rants…until Mouse encounters some of the terrifying things he described for herself.
Alone in the woods with her dog, Mouse finds herself face to face with a series of impossible terrors—because sometimes the things that go bump in the night are real, and they’re looking for you. And if she doesn’t face them head on, she might not survive to tell the tale.
From Hugo Award–winning author Ursula Vernon, writing as T. Kingfisher, The Twisted Ones is a gripping, terrifying tale bound to keep you up all night—from both fear and anticipation of what happens next.
Whatever happens, no matter how bad things get, people are still people. For better or for worse. And when it comes to the end of the world, novels often explore those very real instincts, either to further survival or rebuild what was lost. SWAN SONG does just that, following Swan, a young woman with powers who helps a small group of survivors rebuild in the middle of nowhere so they can heal. But just because they’ve built a place of peace and harmony does not mean there aren’t still threats to what they’ve built. Sweet, sad, and downright scary at times, SWAN SONG will help you believe in the best of humanity, even when it’s at its worst.
Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.
New York Times bestselling author Robert McCammon’s prescient and astonishing vision of a post-apocalyptic United States comes to life in this classic epic of terror and renewal.
Facing down an unprecedented malevolent enemy, the US government responds with a nuclear attack. Soon, America as it was is gone forever, and now every citizen—from the president of the United States to the homeless on the streets of New York City—will fight to stay alive. In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, Earth’s last survivors are drawn into the final battle between good and evil, which will decide the fate of humanity: Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artifact in the destroyed Manhattan streets…Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station...and Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels alongside Josh to a Midwest town where healing and recovery can begin with her extraordinary gifts. But the ancient force behind the world’s devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits to build its relentless army, beginning with Swan herself…
If you are even a little bit familiar with Jason Pargin’s famous cosmic horror comedy series, you’ll understand why it’s here on the list. For those who haven’t visited the strange town of "Undisclosed" and its penchant for attracting odd and unexplainable things, then its appeal might be similarly mysterious. David and his best friend (and agent of chaos) John are paranormal investigators in their weird little town, and it’s not your typical paranormal fare either. Bugs that possess people, drugs that give people the ability to see things not of this Earth, shadow people, portals to Hell (possibly), and sinister Shadow Men. What makes the story enjoyable is the humor and chemistry between the two main characters, which turns a twisted and creepy ride into a fantastic and fun adventure.
STOP. You should not have touched this book with your bare hands. NO, don't put it down. It's too late. They're watching you. My name is David Wong. My best friend is John. Those names are fake. You might want to change yours. You may not want to know about the things you'll read on these pages, about the sauce, about Korrok, about the invasion, and the future. But it's too late. You touched the book. You're in the game. You're under the eye. The only defense is knowledge. You need to read John Dies at the End, to the end. Even the part with the bratwurst. Why? You just have to trust me.
What’s more terrifying than cosmic forces out to drive humans insane and destroy civilization as we know it? The inescapable nightmare of institutionalized racism. In particular, for Atticus Turner, a Black soldier returning home from the Korean War, it’s finding his father is missing and being held by a mysterious and racist organization. The terrors keep building from there as Atticus, his family, and his friends all come into contact with horrors both human and otherworldly. What makes LOVECRAFT COUNTRY so memorable to read is the main cast, all of whom bring humanity, humor, sorrow, and love to each tale—which only makes each terrifying encounter more harrowing.