For those of us who love horror, mystery, and suspense, we have to make some tough decisions about what to read in the month of October. Because of Halloween, October seems to be the sacred month when the People In Charge release all of the things I love the most into the wild Like Pulitzer Prize winner Cormac McCarthy once told me (just kidding, the recluse said it in one of his few interviews), “If it doesn’t concern life and death, it’s not interesting,” so, like I said, I have to make some tough cuts in October. Sure, I can catch up on all the new releases later, but there’s a certain amount of urgency when it comes to suspense books: I need to know the details 1, to avoid them at all costs in life, and 2, because if it’s good, someone’s sure to tweet about it and spoil it for me.
I’ve said it before about television, and I’ll say it again about books: y’all can’t drop all the suspense content at the same time the veil drops! It’s just not fair to make me choose among all the things I love. No matter how many times I shout this reality into the void, here we find ourselves, ramping up to an October chock-full of mystery books, having to make some real decisions.
With no further ado, in order of release date, here are the mystery suspense books coming this October that have really caught my attention.
Technically, Ghost Eaters was released September 30th, but it’s such a spooky ride that I couldn’t not include it—especially because it helps with the scheduling of early October, you know?
In this novel, the term “Ghost” refers to a street drug that—rather than give the user hallucinations—allows the user to see the spirits of the dead who long to haunt a dwelling, or a person. Chapman fuses the travesties of historical Richmond with the realities of substance abuse and grief coping skills for a hell of a plotline. It’s not to be missed.
Fun story: I was in the process of recommending this book to an acquaintance at a wedding (“I think you’d like this book I’m reading. There’s a mushroom that lets you see dead people. Do you want to hear about it?”), and he said, “Noooo, I’m tripping on mushrooms right now. I can’t hear about that.” See? A case study in terror.
If you like your mystery novels in installments, the Scarpetta Novels might be right up your alley, too. Livid, the twenty-sixth, follows Kay Scarpetta, medical examiner, as she testifies in a sensational, televised murder trial… only to hear that there has been another murder, and this time, it’s the judge’s sister.
Starting off October strong is Larkin’s novel, It Rides a Pale Horse. When hometown hero and visual artist Peter Larkin sells a piece in a seemingly normal transaction, a security guard shows him a video of his wife being abducted in real time. To free her, he has to follow the instructions of a book, which is even more sinister than it sounds, since it’s not just a power-tripping one-percenter flexing on an artist as usual, but likely demonic in origin as well. I heard you add that to your cart.
I’m a big fan of Kate Winkler Dawson not only because her research is exhaustive and impressive, but because she weaves all of the information into fascinating narratives. Which is not easy.
I’m very excited for her newest book, All That Is Wicked. This book tells of Edward Rulloff, a serial killer whose intelligence got him out of being punished for patricide. For a while. When “mindhunters” started studying him, though, things started to change.
If you want to settle in for a cozy mystery novel while you wait for the trick-or-treaters, this one’s for you. It’s Christmastime in the Macapagals’ small hometown when a prodigal cousin buys a winery and then gets accused of murder. Follow Lila on her search for the truth about cousin Ronnie’s murder accusation.
Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite writers (as you might have deduced from my obsession in the opening paragraph), so I was thrilled to hear that he’s written new two-part book. This time, his focus centers on a salvage diver in the 1980s south. Bobby Western finds a sunken jet with seatbelts fastened around the waists of nine people. What the plane is missing is even scarier, though: its black box and its tenth passenger are nowhere in sight. With a style as gritty as McCarthy’s, there’s no way this book won’t be horrifying.
What to Read Next
Mary Kay McBrayer is the author of America’s First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster. You can find her short works at Oxford American, Narratively, Mental Floss, and FANGORIA, among other publications. She co-hosts Everything Trying to Kill You, the comedy podcast that analyzes your favorite horror movies from the perspectives of women of color. Follow Mary Kay McBrayer on Instagram and Twitter, or check out her author site here.