This year’s crop of excellent upcoming horror novels includes folk horror, wilderness thrillers, slashers in space, serial killers in the city, and a wide variety of supernatural entities. There’s plenty of queer romance and some well-earned queer vengeance. The gothic continues to reign supreme, but splattergore makes a respectably bloody showing. Amusingly, there are also two different novels on this list about Americans renting haunted Italian villas…I know, the list is going up in February, but I included January titles anyway.
Jenny Kiefer, This Wretched Valley
(Quirk, January 16)
A group of climbers heads to a remote valley to scale an impossible cliff in this tense wilderness horror. Of course, things do not turn out as planned, as Jenny Kiefer takes us through a litany of nature’s terrors and man’s folly, including some white knuckle scenes of rock climbing without ropes.
Christopher Golden, The House of Last Resort
(St Martin’s, January 30)
This is the first of two haunted house in Italy novels on this list! In the latest high-concept horror from the reliably terrifying Christopher Golden, a couple working remotely move to Italy and buy a cool house with a dark backstory. They probably deserve what’s coming to them in terms of expats and housing shortages, honestly…Although the town they move to is suffering severe population decline (attributed to the lure of the city, rather than the body count of the local ghosts).
Tracy Sierra, Nightwatching
(Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, February 6)
Tracy Sierra has done the impossible: changed my mind about the home invasion thriller. In Nightwatching, a young widow is shocked one night to find an intruder in her home, and spends several desperate hours using all her wit and wiles to protect her children and find a way to seek help. While much of the story is about the night itself, just as gripping is what happens afterwards.
Kirsten Bakis, King Nyx
(Liveright, February 27)
The first novel from Kirsten Bakis in 25 years! In King Nyx, set during the height of the Spanish Influenza, a sensible woman of a certain age and her flighty yet devoted husband head to a remote island. They’re looking forward to a stay at the manse of an eccentric robber baron; her husband is hoping to finish his magnum opus on meteorological anomalies (rains of fish, frogs, blood, etc), and Bakis’ narrator simply wishes to get some rest. Upon arrival, however, they find out that multiple girls have gone missing from the rehabilitation home/workhouse also located on the island, and they must isolate in quarantine for at least two weeks before they even meet with their mysterious benefactor. There are neighbors in quarantine as well, also on the island for an intellectual retreat, and Bakis’ narrator soon teams up with the kindred spirit next door to understand what’s going on. Bakis’ symbolism is particularly on point, with a creepy garden, a beautiful set of parakeets, and automata aplenty. Future students will highlight the crap out of this book.
Gwendolyn Kiste, The Haunting of Velkwood
(Saga, March 5)
Kiste wowed me with her psychedelic take on classic gothic heroines, Reluctant Immortals, and her new novel is just as eloquent in defending women’s right to determine their own fate (and follow their own hearts). In The Haunting of Velkwood, a neighborhood that appears to have vanished is the subject of a new documentary on unexplained phenomena. Only three of the original residents escaped the town, and now, the film crew wants them to go back in. But the documentarians don’t understand that what these three left behind is dangerous, dormant, and wants to see them pay for what they did before they left…Eerie and evocative!
Jennifer Thorne, Diavola
(Tor Nightfire, March 26)
I was a big fan of Jennifer Thorne’s folk horror Lute so I devoured her new book, and what a fabulous read it was. Diavola takes place mostly in a Tuscan villa where a family has gathered to dine, drink, and bicker; meanwhile, the villa’s ghosts grow hungry, and ready to punish those who disturb their rest. Diavola is an evocative gothic with a hilarious sense of petty family dynamics, and I enjoyed every word.
Stephen Graham Jones, Angel of Indian Lake
(Saga, March 26)
Finally, we get the conclusion to Stephen Graham Jones’ era-defining Indian Lake trilogy with The Angel of Indian Lake. I am in awe of how good these books are, and the third certainly lives up to the well-deserved hype. Stephen Graham Jones also has another novel coming later this year that I’m just as excited for: I Was a Teenage Slasher, to be published by Saga on July 16.
S.A. Barnes, Ghost Station
(Tor Nightfire, April 9)
S.A. Barnes is quickly gaining a reputation for her claustrophobic and oh-so-creepy space horror. I first came to her work through last year’s Dead Silence, which took a salvage crew to the haunted remains of a Titanic-inspired luxury space cruiser. Her new novel, Ghost Station, features a psychologist in a lonely outpost desperate to prevent an outbreak of a murderous and mysterious condition among the secretive crew. I’m waiting to read this one until the next time I’m on a plane—the recycled air and potential for terrifying disaster really adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the experience…
Liz Kerin, First Light
(Tor Nightfire, April 23)
In this sequel to Liz Kerin’s emotional vampire horror Night’s Edge, Kerin’s heroine is finally rid of her toxic, abusive mother, and ready to go after the monster who made her mother that way. Kerin is skillful at depicting monstrosity as a metaphor for addiction and domestic violence, and showing the contradictions between loving impulses and engrained bad behavior.
Johanna van Veen, My Darling Dreadful Thing
(Poisoned Pen Press, May 14)
Another gothic take on spiritualism, and a novel one! Johanna van Veen’s haunting debut follows a young woman and her hungry spirit companion as they leave behind a life of swindling seances for a new friendship (and budding romance) with an heiress in possession of her own otherworldly companion. What do these two women and their companions want? What will they do now that they have met each other? And what will those surrounding do in order to assuage their jealous suspicions?
E. K. Sathue, Youthjuice
(Hell’s Hundred, June 4)
In the first release from Hell’s Hundred, the new horror imprint from Soho Press, E. K. Sathue’s main character earns all the press release’s comparisons to Patrick Bateman. Just a run-of-the-mill sociopath at first, the narrator soon gets sucked into the murderous enterprise of a wellness company with an incredibly suspicious number of missing former interns and a CEO who appears to bathe in blood. This book makes me glad that I interned at an archive…Although I did go on a serum buying spree about half-way through reading it.
Gretchen Felker-Martin, Cuckoo
(Tor Nightfire, June 11)
Gretchen Felker-Martin forever won my heart with her splattterpunk horror novel Manhunt, and now she’s done it again with a queer conversion camp thriller that is truly terrifying to read. Felker-Martin writes with sensitivity and righteous fury about the many torments the teenage characters are forced to endure in the name of heteronormativity, and the stakes are ever higher as the kids begin to realize that even those who leave the camp are no longer themselves—and many will not leave at all. Felker-Martin excels at creeping out readers with her off-kilter descriptions and gory details, and I wouldn’t open this one up while eating. Also quick shoutout to one of the only authors out there with consistently sympathetic fat characters who also get to have sex. Thank you, Gretchen!
Paul Tremblay, Horror Movie
(William Morrow, June 11)
The “books about cursed productions” trend continues, as horror maestro Paul Tremblay takes us onto the set of the shot-for-remake of a legendary cult classic that never made it to the screen. Horror Movie is narrated by the actor who played the monstrous object of derision known as “The Thin Kid” in the first production, and has agreed to reprise the role in the remake. We’re not sure if we can trust his recollections, but his disturbing account provides plenty of fodder to condemn both the original film and the remake.
Monika Kim, The Eyes are the Best Part
(Erewhon Books, June 25)
In this darkly funny psychological horror, a college student must protect her mother and her sister from her mother’s creepy new boyfriend. Like all the other men in their lives, he’s trying to reduce their humanness into stereotypes about doll-like, submissive Asian women, and Kim’s protagonist is certainly not going to let him get away with it. She’s also spending a lot of time having intense dreams about eating bright blue eyes, standing over her sleeping enemies and fantasizing their demise, and generally losing touch with reality in a way that pays plenty of dividends by the novel’s end.
John Fram, No Road Home
(Atria, July 23)
A wealthy preacher’s compound is the setting for this gothic parable from the author of The Bright Lands. The narrator of No Road Home, newly wedded to the beautiful scion of a megachurch pastor, is visiting his wife’s family for the first time when a storm closes them off from the rest of the world just as their patriarch is found dead. Even before the disturbing demise, Fram’s hero is already having second thoughts about the marriage: her relatives keep making snide remarks about his gender nonconforming son, it turns out his wife only married him to unlock her own inheritance, every family member appears to be keeping secrets, and someone’s been painting threatening messages warning of vengeance to come. Oh, and there’s also a ghost and some very disturbing paintings…