Haunted houses are an absolute classic horror trope, and these books take that trope to the next level, making it personal as well as unsettling. Every family most likely has some secrets, some members the others in the family don’t like to mention, but the families in these books have secrets that go above and beyond little family pettiness. These secrets have teeth.
A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher
Sam Montgomery finds herself back in her childhood home when the archaeological dig she was meant to join is put on hold. The home belonged to her grandmother who they had to stay with for several years of her childhood while her mom worked two jobs to save enough money to get her and her two children out of her mother’s house. Because her mother was cruel and overbearing. And as Sam returns to the house and sees how much her mother has changed, how paranoid she seems, it comes to light that while her grandmother died years ago, she has not left the house. Is it just her stubborn nature that keeps her tied to the house, or does she have a much more nefarious reason for sticking around?
T. Kingfisher is one of my favorite horror/suspense writers. She knows how to create an unsettling atmosphere and sets the perfect pace to build suspense up to a fever-pitch. And her characters are always so relatable and narrate in such a way that you feel like they are speaking directly to you. This would be an excellent haunted house story on its own, but T. Kingfisher brings her own twist to the classic trope, staying true to her own style of horror storytelling. You won’t regret picking this one up!
How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
When Louise’s estranged brother calls with the news of her parents’ deaths, she dreads going home. On top of not wanting to accept the sudden deaths of her beloved parents who she was only just beginning to get closer to after the birth of her daughter, she doesn’t want to leave said daughter with her ex, especially after she took the news of her grandparents’ deaths so hard. But Louise doesn’t trust her brother to handle everything that needs to be done, so she returns home despite her aversion to her childhood home and the creepy dolls and puppets her mother spent her life making and performing with. As she tries to clear out the house and tolerate her brother’s frustrating presence, everything from the past that she and her family tried to ignore and pretend never happened comes back to life to torment her and make her question everything she has built for herself.
Grady Hendrix creates not only an incredibly creepy story of a haunting but also does an incredible job of putting together a dysfunctional family that, despite the otherworldly problems they face, come across so genuine and real that you could believe they actually exist out in the real world. And I loved that once they pushed past all the lies and deceptions, the hesitant love that emerged is just as genuine as the dysfunction was. This isn’t just a creepy story about a haunted house filled with haunted, murderous dolls. This is also an emotional and moving story about a family reconciling with the past and repairing itself to walk forward into whatever comes next together. But it is also incredibly creepy; Grady Hendrix is a master at that!