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The scariest books of all time, chosen by Dead Good editors

Looking for a book that will give you the chills? There’s something oddly comforting about facing your worst fears in a book – and coming out unscathed. It’s why we love horror films. Here at Dead Good, we’ve been thinking about the stories that have kept us up at night, so below are our picks – and honest reviews – of the scariest books of all time.

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

I’ll admit it: when it comes to horror films, I scare easily. That’s why I avoided the movie adaptation of Shutter Island when it came out years ago – although I recently plucked up the courage to give the book a go instead.

Rest assured, I was still plenty scared. The book begins with two federal marshals being called to a psychiatric institution on a secluded island to investigate a disturbing locked-room mystery: dangerous murderer Rachel Solano has escaped from her cell, barefooted, without a trace. But while solving the disappearance, and getting to grips with the institution’s staff and patients, the officers have to face their own demons. And that’s before they find themselves trapped on the island…Terrified as I was, I couldn’t put this book down.

Rachel Deeley, Digital Editor

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

When reading The Haunting of Hill House, I’m always amazed at how much Shirley Jackson packs in to just 246 pages. The story follows a party of four paranormal enthusiasts who are excited to experience Hill House for the first time. The house has been unoccupied for years and has been largely shunned by the locals, for reasons unknown to our group of outsiders. But, as darkness descends and the house comes to life, we find out why.

Like all great horror novels, tension is at the heart of this punchy novel. What makes it all the more bone-chilling is Jackson’s depiction of the mental unravelling of our protagonist, Eleanor, as the house takes her over. The ending has stayed with me for a long time.

Izzie Thomas, Channel Lead, Dead Good

Pine by Francine Toon

Pine by Francine Toon

It’s Halloween and 10-year-old Lauren has been trick-or-treating in the rural Highlands village where she lives with her father Niall. As they travel home, Lauren catches a sight of a gaunt woman wearing a white dressing gown emerging from the forest. Could this be connected to the disappearance of her mother nearly a decade ago or is it something more sinister?

Infused with gothic tropes, I found this modern thriller the perfect read for spooky season.

Sarah McKenna, Digital Editor

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Turn of the Screw is one of those stories that stays with you. Even on my third re-read, I still can’t say if the main character was haunted by two ghosts, or if she was going mad. Either way, this creepy story is so vivid it feels like watching a horror film.

The novella follows a governess who oversees two young, sweet children. But when she sees apparitions of the old valet and governess – both of whom are dead – she becomes overly protective, and then suspicious, of the children. This is a short story, only 100 pages long, which makes it even more claustrophobic – right up until its crescendo of an ending.

Katie Russell, Content Lead, Dead Good

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

The scariest stories are the ones that linger with you long after you’ve finished reading or watching, that convince you that you might just have seen something out of the corner of your eye: think The Ring, a film that convinced viewers they might actually die after watching it.

This is the case with Susan Hill’s classic story about a lawyer who, on a trip north to settle an estate, sees ‘The Woman in Black’, a mysterious spectre whose arrival always foretells incredible tragedy. For weeks after reading, you’ll swear you just saw her – hey, what’s that behind you?

Stephen Carlick, Digital Editor

The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias

The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias

Mario is a hitman who kills people to pay for his daughters’ medical expenses. Then he is offered a job only a madman would take: steal $2 million dollars from a drug cartel. If he fails, he will end up dead, but if he succeeds it will lift him and his family out of poverty forever.

The quest that follows takes him on a journey full of corruption, evilness and unspeakable horrors that will shock and enthral any reader. Steve Cavanagh described it as ‘a neo-nightmare written with a poet’s heart’, which I thought was a wonderfully accurate description of this thriller.

Lucy Hall, Digital Editor

What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read? Let us know in the comments below…


    The Watchers by Neil Spring. Starts off as a UFO mystery and takes quite the unexpected turn. I found it really unsettling.

    Beneath by Kit Tinsley. Local author. Sink hole releasing an evil monastery, yes please!
    The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone. World overrun with human eating spiders.
    The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith. A world where antibiotics don’t work and the slightest cut could kill you. Read at the start of covid and it terrified me.

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