We love getting our fright on for Halloween here at BookTrib headquarters. It’s no exaggeration to say that hundreds of books cross our path each year, but when it comes to crime, mystery and horror we have our favorites. So grab a bowl of candy corn and pull up a chair. There’s nothing like sugar-fueled rush of literary adrenaline for Halloween.
I was so sad when Night Film by Marisha Pessl was over that I wanted to cry. It’s a literary thriller that truly, deeply satisfies that creep factor for me. I couldn’t put it down—like I would accidentally read it until 3 a.m. when I had to go to work in the morning. Night Film investigates this strange world that surrounds a reclusive movie director who reminds me of a mix between Dario Argento, David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock. I don’t know what else I can say other than that I absolutely love this book and forced it on everyone I know.
I’d have to say my favorite horror and crime-related reads are any Stephen King, especially The Shining, It, Four Past Midnight, The Stand, and Salem’s Lot; the novels of Doug Preston and Lincoln Child featuring their protagonist Aloysius Pendergast (he’s the best!); Anne Rice, especially The Vampire Chronicles, Queen of the Damned, The Witching Hour, and The Mummy: Rameses, the Damned.
My favorite true crime novel is Devil in the White City: Murder Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson. It’s the true story of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and it intertwines the story of the fair with a serial killer who took advantage of women visitors. The most terrifying part of this book is the fact that the killer was a well-known doctor who got away with his crimes for years—he even killed those who were close to him—and then disposed of the corpses by selling them to science.
I picked up Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen to take on vacation. Someone had recommended Hiaasen—I wish I remembered who so I could thank them. If Elmore Leonard and Dave Barry were siblings, Hiaasen would be the middle child. His sordid tales of Floridian mayhem are hilariously funny in the darkest possible way and at the same time he gives you flawed, believable heroes you can root for. Stormy Weather was my first Hiaasen and this tale of a honeymoon gone awry after a hurricane features mismatched newlyweds, a pair of witless con artists, a mob enforcer, a man-eating lion, a handsome zookeeper’s nephew, and a former governor of Florida who enjoys training poorly behaved tourists with a dog’s shock collar. I love all Hiaasen’s books but this one remains my favorite.
Pet Semetery by Stephen King was the first Stephen King book, or thriller in fact, I ever read. All my friends loved Stephen King and I had never had any interest in him. On this trip I spotted Pet Semetery in an airport store thinking, I’ll give him a try; I love animals, I’ll read this one. I took it with me to the beach and I can remember to this day how I was totally pulled into the story page by page not able to find a place to pause. I also remember how I could actually feel the night in the story, the cold dampness and sense the darkness even though I was in a very warm, sunny place. I blew through that book in one sitting never leaving my spot under a tree on the beach. The book stayed in my head for weeks giving me the creeps (I must confess I have a several pets buried in my backyard.).
I love reading anything James Patterson writes, which includes the Alex Cross series (read all of them!), the Michael Bennett series (read all of them!), and my favorite, The Women’s Murder Club series (read all of them!). Why is WMC my favorite? That’s simple. The females are intelligent, strong, funny, and most of all, people you can easily relate to. The story lines are strong with a mixture of suspense, sex and fun.
My favorite thriller is The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver. I love that the hero is a quadriplegic who solves the most complex crimes without ever leaving his room. Deaver creates great detectives who go head-to-head with the most terrifying criminal adversaries.
While I’m not into terrifying thrillers, there’s one mystery book series that I can’t get enough of. The Jaine Austen Mystery series by Laura Levine is for anyone who enjoys silly thrillers which follow a middle-aged, would-be sleuth in stretch pants around Los Angeles on her crime-solving escapades. The first book is This Pen for Hire. Jaine is a freelance writer whose bank account is usually overdrawn and will take on various writing jobs to scrape by. When geeky Howard Murdoch asks for her assistance in drafting a letter to the beautiful aerobics instructor Stacy Lawrence, whom he’d like to ask out on a date, Jaine happily accepts the assignment. When Howard shows up for their date, he find Stacy dead on the floor. Armed with only her Bloomsdale’s charge card and a bad attitude, Jaine vows to solve Stacy’s murder and find the real killer. This Pen for Hire is a fast, fun read for anyone who enjoys mysteries that are laugh-out-loud funny. Levine’s most recent novel is Death of a Neighborhood Witch, which is perfect for Halloween. I’ve read all the books and I invite anyone who enjoys a funny, but not too scary, romp to check these out.
As an adult, I find that I do not read many thrillers. My tastes seem to run toward fantasy and science fiction. However, that was not always the case. Once upon a time, when I was a young Bookish Diva, I often found myself strolling through Waldenbooks. (Yes I realize that I am dating myself.) Clenching the 10 American dollars that my mother gave me, I would find myself standing in front of the Fear Street display. R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series gripped me, but was never so terrifying that I would abandon the series. (This Bookish Diva has always been a bit of a scaredy-cat.) I would scan the shelves trying to find a book that I had not read, and that my equally bookish best friend had not spoiled. When I finally found an unread volume, I would happily part with my currency (a fact that I was able to share with R.L. Stine when I met him at ThrillerFest 2014). These days I have passed the R.L. Stine baton to Little Bookish Diva, who reads old Fear Street novels as she waits for the release of the Goosebumps movie.