All Hallow's Reads

There's nothing more enjoyable then tucking in to a lovely gothic suspense story on a crisp fall day. Neil Gaiman, author of a long list of beloved books, including Anansi Boys, Coraline and Sandman, agrees. Recently, he suggested a new Hallowe'en tradition - rather than candy, give a scary read this year. The treat this season is that several authors have released creepy books that you'll be hard pressed to put down when the trick-or-treaters ring your bell.

Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman is a fine choice for those who like a good old-fashioned scare, along the lines of Peter Straub. Frank Nichols returns from World War I, somewhat the worse for wear, bearing both physical and psychological scars. But things look brighter when he falls hopelessly in love with Eudora, a beautiful and intelligent woman who is equally infatuated with Frank. Together they pack up and move to a small town in Georgia. Frank's recently deceased aunt has left her house to Frank, with the express wish that he sell it. But Frank is anxious to start on his book, a history of the life of his powerful and eccentric great grandfather, a local plantation owner reviled for his cruelty to his slaves. Frank and Dora are welcomed by the villagers, but become uneasy when they hear stories about a mysterious group of people living across the river. The advice to the couple? "Don't go there". You can guess whether Frank heeds it or not.

Charles Frazier's Nightwoods combines gothic elements and a growing sense of menace. The story is set in a small town populated by eccentric and sometimes disturbed characters. Luce is the daughter of a hard-hearted mother and a drug addicted father who is also the town's lawman. After she is raped, Luce gives up on socializing with the town's sorry mix of misfits and on humanity in general. She sets up a hermitage across the lake in an abandoned lodge. She is enjoying her own company just fine until a social worker from the state shows up with two feral children, her niece and nephew. Their mother has been murdered by their sociopathic father, Bud. Luce doesn't love the children, who seem damaged beyond repair, but she knows she has an obligation to her sister. She tries to create a sanctuary for the kids. Unfortunately, their father is not done with them, and the situation intensifies when Luce realizes that Bud has tracked the children to the lodge.

A few others: Colson Whitehead's Zone One, an exploration of existential crisis brought on by zombies, and the graphic novel version of the hit series, The Walking Dead. What's your favorite read for a Hallowe'een night? Leave your suggestions in the comments.