We asked some of the most bookish people we know to share what they’re enjoying these days, from the latest unputdownable novel to their current movie obsession. We’re excited to hear from Abby Endler, Senior Publicist for Knopf at Penguin Random House! Read on to hear in her own words what she’s reading and recommending right now.
I’ve been a crime fiction reader for as long as I can remember. From my days spent reading Nancy Drew books to “graduating” to the likes of Agatha Christie, Sue Grafton, and beyond, crime novels have been an essential part of my life ever since I was old enough to begin reading them. These days, I’m extremely fortunate to basically live and breathe crime fiction 24/7. By day, as a Senior Publicist for Knopf, I work with some of the genre’s most talented writers; by night, I run Crime by the Book, a crime fiction-focused Instagram account and blog. I consider it a huge privilege to get to work with and support authors writing in the genre that has meant so much to me ever since I was a young reader, both through my work here at Penguin Random House and through my passion project. There’s nothing I love more than getting swept up in a compelling mystery novel, and you just can’t beat the satisfaction that comes with solving that mystery alongside the book’s protagonist! I’m a firm believer that crime books can (and should!) be read year-round, but there’s something extra perfect about reading a great crime story, mystery, or suspense novel around Halloween — and to that end, I’m so excited to share with you a few recommendations for books that I think belong on your Halloween to-read list this year. This list has what I hope will be a little something for everyone, whether you’re looking for supernatural chills, psychological thrills, or something that falls somewhere in between. Happy reading!
Riley Sager puts a fresh, impossible-to-predict spin on a Rear Window-inspired psychological thriller in his newest release, The House Across the Lake. The setup for this book might sound familiar, but that’s intentional — and I promise, this book goes in some truly unexpected directions. The House Across the Lake follows an actress who, after a bad spate of publicity, hides out at her family’s remote lake house to recover. As she sits on her front porch drinking a bit too much and watching her neighbors across the lake a bit too closely, she witnesses something terrible. Think you’ve read this story before? Think again. Riley’s newest psychological thriller features what’s simply got to be one of 2022’s most inventive – and genuinely impossible to predict! – plot twists. Think: Rear Window set on a lake, with a dash of … a classic horror influence that I can’t name without spoiling anything! (Read the book and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.)
This dual-timeline mystery centers on a motel in upstate New York and the secrets it’s keeping within its walls. In the present day, The Sun Down Motel follows Carly, a young woman who has never been able to let go of the mysterious disappearance of her aunt Viv years prior. Determined to uncover the truth about Viv’s disappearance once and for all, Carly moves to the small town where Viv was last seen and takes a job working at the very same motel from which Viv disappeared. Interwoven chapters set in the ’80s follow the events surrounding Viv’s disappearance. The Sun Down Motel is a pitch-perfect blend of mystery and supernatural suspense; I loved the balance Simone St. James strikes between supernatural elements and an all-too-human mystery in this story.
Psychological thrills meet Gothic influences in Amanda Jayatissa’s stellar debut suspense novel My Sweet Girl. Protagonist Paloma returns home one day to discover her roommate brutally murdered in their apartment. Terrified, she flees – and by the time she returns with police, the body has vanished. My Sweet Girl moves between the present day as Paloma investigates her roommate’s disappearance, and a past timeline centered around Paloma’s childhood in a Sri Lankan orphanage. Paloma is convinced that someone from her childhood has followed her all the way to San Francisco to exact revenge for a past wrong. Now it’s just up to her to prove it. Paloma is one of my favorite protagonists I’ve read recently; her voice leaps off the page, and her dry wit and the rage simmering just below the surface of her carefully constructed facade bring her vividly to life. A chilling Sri Lankan ghost story element in the book’s past timeline adds an atmospheric component that makes this suspense novel particularly great to read at this time of year (though honestly, I’d recommend reading this one no matter the season!).
Honestly, any of author Rachel Harrison’s books would make for ideal Halloween reading, but I have a personal soft spot for her debut, The Return. This razor-sharp suspense novel delves into the complexities of female friendship while also delivering a wildly entertaining horror-thriller about one woman’s disappearance and the inexplicable series of events that follow her return. Two years to the day after Julie disappeared without a trace, she reappears just as abruptly – with no memory of where she’s been for the two years prior. Julie’s friends, overjoyed to have her back, arrange for a girls’ trip to celebrate. The four women head off to a remote inn for a little getaway. But as their trip progresses, it becomes impossible to ignore the ways in which Julie is … different. Who – or what – has their friend become? The Return is wickedly entertaining and seriously fun to read, and it all builds to a cinematic finale that’s worthy of the big screen.
Looking for a story without supernatural components that’s still sinister enough to keep you on edge? Consider one of my personal favorite psychological thrillers: The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong. This twisted novel takes readers inside the mind of a young man who might just be a cold-blooded killer. Yu-jin wakes up one morning drenched in blood, his mother brutally murdered in their home. That’s problem number one. Problem number two? Yu-jin has only a hazy memory of the night before. All signs point to Yu-jin having killed his own mother – could this young man be capable of such a horrific act? The Good Son follows Yu-jin as he attempts to piece together the events of the night before. In spare, arresting prose, author You-Jeong Jeong takes readers inside Yu-jin’s desperate search for the truth. This book is pretty bloody, but it’s the psychological component of this story that really got under my skin. The author’s skilled and intimate portrayal of Yu-jin’s investigation into his own murderous capabilities has stayed with me in the many years it’s been since I read this dark and twisted thriller.
If ever there were a perfect time of year to read Kiersten White’s newest novel, Halloween is absolutely it. Hide is one of my favorite 2022 books, and it’s the perfect addition to your spooky season to-read list! In Hide, a group of strangers finds themselves presented with the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to participate in the trial run of a new reality TV show, and, in turn, the chance to win a huge cash prize. The show? A massive game of hide and seek at an abandoned amusement park. What could go wrong, right? As the group settles in for the week-long competition, it quickly becomes clear that not all is as it seems – and the real challenge here might not be to win the game, but to survive it at all. This is one of my favorite reading experiences I’ve had so far this year; the tension author Kiersten White brings to life in this story genuinely had me holding my breath, and the endearing cast of characters White develops over the course of the novel made me all the more invested in their fates.
If you crossed The Wicker Man with Midnight Mass, the result would be C.J. Tudor’s deliciously spooky and atmospheric novel The Burning Girls. In this spine-tingling tale, readers follow a vicar who accepts a new job at a parish that has recently suffered a terrible loss. As Reverend Jack Brooks and daughter Flo settle into their new home in the remote village of Chapel Croft, they begin to uncover the dark secrets and even darker history of this community. Folk horror meets small-town intrigue in The Burning Girls, and I loved my time spent exploring the past history and present secrets of Chapel Croft alongside Jack and Flo. Bonus points for the characters of Jack and Flo themselves, each of whom brings their own unique personalities, quirks, and unexpected character traits to this gripping story.
For the readers among us who prefer noir novels over supernatural suspense, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s immersive, stylish Velvet Was the Night might just be your perfect fall read. Set in Mexico City in the 1970s, Velvet Was the Night follows Maite, a secretary who spends her days working at a law office, and her evenings escaping into romance novels. When Maite’s neighbor Leonora goes missing, Maite’s world is turned upside down. Leonora was involved with a group of student activists, and she had in her possession rolls of film from a recent rally that turned deadly when government-funded goons came through and attacked the student demonstrators. With the help of one of Leonora’s ex-boyfriends, Maite sets out to find Leonora and to make sure that her photos don’t fall into the hands of those who wish to destroy them. Velvet Was the Night is a smart, stylish, immersive work of historical noir. It brings the reader up close and personal with the most intimate thoughts and inner dramas of its characters, and with the turmoil and drama of Mexico City itself.