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Project Fear: Spooky and Scary Spine-tinglers for Halloween

Posted on 15th October 2019 by Mark Skinner

Get that pumpkin carving knife out of the drawer and dust off the Scream mask and fabric cobwebs; Halloween, that festival of the eerie and uncanny is almost upon us. As the windows rattle and the chill wind howls around your homestead, what better to do than curl up in an armchair with a scary story or two? If you have already burned through Stoker, Jackson and M.R. James, fear not! - well, not for that reason anyway - because there is a veritable zombie army of great contemporary horror fiction out there just waiting to be ruthlessly devoured. So, with a thoroughly evil cackle and the obligatory crack of thunder, let us begin our devilish journey through the monstrous and malevolent.   

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The master craftsman spins an eerie tale of state sponsored research units and kids with supernatural abilities. Themes of revenge and betrayed childhood innocence hover ominously over a complex narrative about incarcerated youths with uncanny powers, as King proves his awesome storytelling mettle once again.
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The brooding, pervasive aura of the Suffolk fens permeates every nook and cranny of Michelle Paver’s grippingly gothic historic tale of madness, witchcraft and family enmity. Paver proves herself adept in drawing out both the enthralling beauty and the dangerous potential of an uncanny landscape, using it to tease out the fear and malevolence in the lives of those it touches.
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A brittle, bracing sliver of purest folk horror, steeped in the traditions of the best nature writing, Starve Acre is a gothic study of grief and haunting guilt from the acclaimed author of The Loney. In the aftermath of their child’s death, a couple search for answers but as they dig into the past – their own and that of their community - a blighted plot of local land births a living nightmare.
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Winter solstice brings mist and madness to a close-knit community in this crepuscular tale of the uncanny. As murky and darkly beguiling as the shrouds of fog it describes, Soon is a stunningly realised chiller that bears comparison with the genre’s established greats.
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A haunting take on the coming of age tale, Hardy’s sinuous narrative channels the finest traditions of British folk horror to cast the Welsh landscape in an uncanny pagan light. Charting the burgeoning relationship between two damaged young souls, Water Shall Refuse Them oozes an ineffably eerie atmosphere and chill sense of impending dread.
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Featuring two previously unpublished stories, and a bevy of shocking chillers, Full Throttle is a darkly imagined odyssey through the complexities of the human psyche. Hypnotic and disquieting, it mines our tormented secrets, hidden vulnerabilities, and basest fears.
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Channelling the malevolent spirit of And Then There Were None, Ryan’s spine-tingling spooky whodunit sees a spiritualist meeting on a remote island descend into murder and madness. Finely tuned into the gothic sensibility, House of Ghosts is a twisty chiller that will get under your skin and into your head.
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Wanderers takes the reader on a journey through a crippled America, where an army of sleepwalkers may hold the key to a mysterious epidemic that is claiming the lives of millions. Wendig’s writing is astonishingly consistent throughout the novel’s 800 pages, with the humanity he brings to his huge cast complementing the disturbing twists and turns of the narrative in the most rewarding fashion.
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A far cry from his jaunty travel writing and wistful memoir, Help the Witch sees Tom Cox hewing to the darker end of traditional folk tale and creating something uniquely disquieting. These ten stories abound in the sinister mysteries of the natural world, taking creatures and relics from the collective imagination and reshaping them into a singular, ominous vision.
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Exploiting the forbidding landscape of coastal Ireland to its post-apocalyptic fullest, Last Ones Left Alive details a desperate flight from a ravenous monster and the constant threat of hideous transformation. Boasting strong female protagonists and an intoxicatingly bleak atmosphere, Davis-Goff’s wire-taut chiller is one of the scariest reads of the year.
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