If you’re here, it’s a given that you’re a fan of mysteries. You love following along with a detective—professional or amateur—and sorting through the clues along with them. Trying to piece them together and solve the mystery alongside the protagonist—that’s all part of the fun of a good mystery.
But now there’s a chill in the air, and Jack O’Lanterns are smiling eerily from your neighbor's porches. Ghosts, ghouls, and goblins swing from the trees in people’s yards, turning regular neighborhoods into haunted landscapes. It’s no mystery—Spooky Season is well underway. And the creepy vibe of the season is contagious.
This time of year, you might find yourself craving books of darker fare. Sure, you still want to find out “whodunit”—but it’s a time of year when you might be interested in reading something that will also send a chill down your spine.
If this is you, we’ve got just the thing to satisfy your cravings. Horror mystery books seamlessly fuse the conventions of a classic mystery with the spine-tingling elements of the horror genre. These chilling narratives are artfully constructed to keep you sifting through clues—while also looking over your shoulder.
What sets a horror mystery apart from other books is its skillful blending of two distinct worlds: the methodical, puzzle-solving nature of the mystery genre and the palpable dread of horror. Imagine intricate puzzles, skillfully planted clues, and an ever-present sense of impending doom that casts an eerie shadow over the investigation.
The allure of a horror mystery lies in its ability to challenge your intellect, stimulate your imagination, and keep you eagerly turning pages to uncover the truth. These books are a captivating blend of heart-pounding suspense and relentless curiosity, promising a reading experience that is as intellectually engaging as it is emotionally thrilling.
Here are some of the best horror mystery books to get you started on your spooky journey.
Murder at Black Oaks
There’s just something about setting a good horror mystery in a specific setting. Give the reader a suspicious group of tenants in an apartment building, or an eerie idyllic getaway whose walls seem to harbor endless amounts of secrets and you got yourself a recipe for a memorable thrill. Philip Margolin’s Murder at Black Oaks antes up on this, providing a location that is as much a character as those that end up at the center of the intrigue. Welcome to the Black Oaks, an isolated manor up in the beautiful Oregon mountains. Robin Lockwood is an attorney called up to the manor by DA Francis Hardy, who also happens to own the place. It turns out that Hardy needs legal help on a wrongful conviction he made back before he retired. Lockwood is good at her job and is able to right the wrong, but when she is called back to the Black Oaks to celebrate, it seems the manor isn’t ready for the story to end, and Murder at Black Oaks thwarts reader expectations to keep them sweating through every new reveal.
Now You See Me
When it comes to serial killers, there’s a short list of killers that remain forever imprinted in the minds of the many. Manson, Bundy, Dahmer, Nightstalker, and who could ever forget the unresolved, ghastly murders at the hand of Jack the Ripper. Sharon Bolton’s first novel in the Lacey Flint series taps into that fear, that unknowable mystery, in Now You See Me. Lacey Flint is a young detective in the right (or wrong?) place when a woman is found brutally stabbed in a possible recreation of Jack the Ripper’s first victim. Add to the fact that Lacey is called by name in a letter from the supposed killer, coupled with the ticking clock of history itself, revealing the pattern of the next timely kill, and you have one of those horror mystery novels that you’ll need to devour in one night. No sleep until you see this through.
Lock Every Door
With books like Survive the Night, Final Girls, and The Only One Left, author Riley Sager has carved out his own spot at the intersection of horror and mystery. In the novel Lock Every Door, Sager seemingly channels a bit of Ira Levine (particularly his novel, Sliver) as he introduces readers to the Bartholomew, one of seemingly countless upper class Manhattan abodes. Though it may appear idyllic, the building itself is full of mystery and intrigue, paranoia and terror. Protagonist Jules has had her share of bad luck yet when she ends up at the Bartholomew it could be that things are turning around. That is, until she meets Ingrid, a neighbor that could be the doppelganger of her long lost sister, and everything she trusted starts taking a dark turn.
When I first heard of Kiersten White’s Mister Magic, it had me picturing Freddie Krueger as a talk show host, feasting on the laughter and tenderness of friendship. In Mister Magic, White tackles the unreliability of memory in the form of a cast of child actors, all of them part of a long-running show called Mister Magic before the show suddenly ended, reuniting to reminisce about their time working on the show for a nostalgia podcast. When one actor realizes she has no memory of her time on the show, and when it appears that all mentions and content about the show no longer exist, Kiersten White sets readers up for a supernatural puzzle, one that can only end in tragedy.
Road of Bones
Christopher Golden’s Road of Bones takes place in the wintry majesty of Siberia, particularly a patch of highway called the Kolyma Highway with a complex past. Tieg and Prentiss are part of a film crew working on a documentary about the highway called “Life and Death on the Road of Bones.” It’s said that the highway was built over the bones of thousands of dead Gulag prisoners. Naturally, something like that will draw interest from filmmakers and the like seeking a big break. After the film crew endures a series of events that appear, one after the other, to be more than happenstance, Tieg and Prentiss end up fighting for their survival against terrors that include a pack of wolves hellbent on tracking them down. Road of Bones is one of those novels that will have you aching to find out what happens next.
The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires
You just got to love how Grady Hendrix can take horror, mystery, and suspense and meld it together with humor so that even when he takes readers into dark places (and in this one he certainly does), there’s some levity, a way about being able to wade through the worst of it without being dragged under. In The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, we see that trademark balance at work in a story that Hendrix himself described as Dracula pitted against moms. Protagonist Patricia Campbell is a former nurse turned mother neck deep in the role, complete with the exhausting and mundane responsibilities of household, childcare, et. Al. So it makes sense that she desperately looks forward to her book club meetings, where she bonds with the other moms as they talk true crime and the dark side of humanity. However, things change when a new artistic neighbor moves in and children go missing. Suddenly the veil between her life and the speculation normally saved for the book club is torn and like any great horror mystery, all questions lead to more intrigue.
The Paris Apartment
Dubbed a “locked room mystery,” Lucy Foley’s The Paris Apartment captures the desperation of being down-and-out while also managing to capture the paranoia that surrounds an unresolved crime. Readers are introduced to Jess, who flees to Paris in hopes of getting a life reset. She takes up the offer from her brother Ben to crash at his place yet when she arrives he is missing. He doesn’t return, and the more she investigates, she gets no clearer picture of what might have happened to him. The other residents in the building become suspect, especially with their odd behavior. Jess left one nightmare only to step into another in medias res.