Quot libros, quam breve tempus
My TBR pile is still towering with books from 2022, and is apt to remain stacked in the coming year. Here’s a list (unless otherwise noted, the description comes from the book’s dedicated Amazon page) of twenty-three new releases on my reader-radar for 2023:
1. How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix (Berkeley, 1/17/23)
When Louise finds out her parents have died, she dreads going home. She doesn’t want to leave her daughter with her ex and fly to Charleston. She doesn’t want to deal with her family home, stuffed to the rafters with the remnants of her father’s academic career and her mother’s lifelong obsession with puppets and dolls. She doesn’t want to learn how to live without the two people who knew and loved her best in the world.
Most of all, she doesn’t want to deal with her brother, Mark, who never left their hometown, gets fired from one job after another, and resents her success. Unfortunately, she’ll need his help to get the house ready for sale because it’ll take more than some new paint on the walls and clearing out a lifetime of memories to get this place on the market.
But some houses don’t want to be sold, and their home has other plans for both of them…
2. The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis (Knopf, 1/17/23)
Bret Easton Ellis’s masterful new novel is a story about the end of innocence, and the perilous passage from adolescence into adulthood, set in a vibrantly fictionalized Los Angeles in 1981 as a serial killer begins targeting teenagers throughout the city.
Seventeen-year-old Bret is a senior at the exclusive Buckley prep school when a new student arrives with a mysterious past. Robert Mallory is bright, handsome, charismatic, and shielding a secret from Bret and his friends even as he becomes a part of their tightly knit circle. Bret’s obsession with Mallory is equaled only by his increasingly unsettling preoccupation with the Trawler, a serial killer on the loose who seems to be drawing ever closer to Bret and his friends, taunting them—and Bret in particular—with grotesque threats and horrific, sharply local acts of violence. The coincidences are uncanny, but they are also filtered through the imagination of a teenager whose gifts for constructing narrative from the filaments of his own life are about to make him one of the most explosive literary sensations of his generation. Can he trust his friends—or his own mind—to make sense of the danger they appear to be in? Thwarted by the world and by his own innate desires, buffeted by unhealthy fixations, he spirals into paranoia and isolation as the relationship between the Trawler and Robert Mallory hurtles inexorably toward a collision.
Set against the intensely vivid and nostalgic backdrop of pre-Less Than Zero L.A., The Shards is a mesmerizing fusing of fact and fiction, the real and the imagined, that brilliantly explores the emotional fabric of Bret’s life at seventeen—sex and jealousy, obsession and murderous rage. Gripping, sly, suspenseful, deeply haunting, and often darkly funny, The Shards is Ellis at his inimitable best.
3. All Hallows by Christopher Golden (St. Martin’s, 1/24/23)
It’s Halloween night, 1984, in Coventry, Massachusetts, and two families are unraveling. Up and down the street, secrets are being revealed, and all the while, mixed in with the trick-or-treaters of all ages, four children who do not belong are walking door to door, merging with the kids of Parmenter Road. Children in vintage costumes with faded, eerie makeup. They seem terrified, and beg the neighborhood kids to hide them away, to keep them safe from The Cunning Man.
There’s a small clearing in the woods now that was never there before, and a blackthorn tree that doesn’t belong at all. These odd children claim that The Cunning Man is coming for them…and they want the local kids to protect them. But with families falling apart and the neighborhood splintered by bitterness, who will save the children of Parmenter Road?
All Hallows. The one night when everything is a mask…
4. Gothic by Philip Fracassi (Cemetery Dance, 2/4/23)
On his 59th birthday, Tyson Parks—a famous, but struggling, horror writer—receives an antique desk from his partner, Sarah, in the hopes it will rekindle his creative juices. Perhaps inspire him to write another best-selling novel and prove his best years aren’t behind him.
A continent away, a mysterious woman makes inquiries with her sources around the world, seeking the whereabouts of a certain artifact her family has been hunting for centuries. With the help of a New York City private detective, she finally finds what she’s been looking for. It’s in the home of Tyson Parks.
Meanwhile, as Tyson begins to use his new desk, he begins acting… strange. Violent. His writing more disturbing than anything he’s done before. But publishers are paying top dollar, convinced his new work will be a hit, and Tyson will do whatever it takes to protect his newfound success. Even if it means the destruction of the ones he loves.
Even if it means his own sanity. [book description on Cemetery Dance page]
5. Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones (Saga Press, 2/7/23)
Four years after her tumultuous senior year, Jade Daniels is released from prison right before Christmas when her conviction is overturned. But life beyond bars takes a dangerous turn as soon as she returns to Proofrock. Convicted Serial Killer, Dark Mill South, seeking revenge for thirty-eight Dakota men hanged in 1862, escapes from his prison transfer due to a blizzard, just outside of Proofrock, Idaho.
Dark Mill South’s Reunion Tour began on December 12th, 2019, a Thursday.
Thirty-six hours and twenty bodies later, on Friday the 13th, it would be over.
6. Ancient Images by Ramsey Campbell (Flame Tree Press, 2/21/23)
Tower of Fear is a lost horror film starring Karloff and Lugosi. A film historian who locates a copy dies while fleeing something that terrified him. His friend Sandy Allan vows to prove he found the film. She learns how haunted the production was and the survivors of it still are. It contains a secret about Redfield, a titled family that owns a favourite British food, Staff o’ Life. The Redfield land has uncanny guardians, and one follows Sandy home. To maintain its fertility Redfield demands a sacrifice, and a band of new age travellers is about to set up camp there…
7. The Destroyer of Worlds: A Return to Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff (Harper, 2/21/23)
Atticus Turner and his father, Montrose, travel to North Carolina, where they plan to mark the centennial of their ancestor’s escape from slavery by retracing the route he took into the Great Dismal Swamp. But an encounter with an old nemesis turns their historical reenactment into a real life-and-death pursuit.
Back in Chicago, George Berry fights for his own life. Diagnosed with cancer, he strikes a devil’s bargain with the ghost of Hiram Winthrop, who promises a miracle cure—but to receive it, George will first have to bring Winthrop back from the dead.
Meanwhile, fifteen-year-old Horace Berry, reeling from the killing of a close friend, joins his mother, Hippolyta, and her friend Letitia Dandridge on a research trip to Nevada for The Safe Negro Travel Guide. But Hippolyta has a secret—and far more dangerous—agenda that will take her and Horace to the far end of the universe and bring a new threat home to Letitia’s doorstep.
Hippolyta isn’t the only one keeping secrets. Letitia’s sister, Ruby, has been leading a double life as her white alter ego, Hillary Hyde. Now, the supply of magic potion she needs to transform herself is nearly gone, and a surprise visitor throws her already tenuous situation into complete chaos.
Yet these troubles are soon eclipsed by the return of Caleb Braithwhite. Stripped of his magic and banished from Chicago at the end of Lovecraft Country, he’s found a way back into power and is ready to pick up where he left off. But first he has a score to settle. . . .
8. The Curator by Owen King (Scribner, 3/7/23)
It begins in an unnamed city nicknamed “the Fairest”, it is distinguished by many things from the river fair to the mountains that split the municipality in half; its theaters and many museums; the Morgue Ship; and, like all cities, but maybe especially so, by its essential unmappability.
Dora, a former domestic servant at the university has a secret desire—to find where her brother went after he died, believing that the answer lies within The Museum of Psykical Research, where he worked when Dora was a child. With the city amidst a revolutionary upheaval, where citizens like Robert Barnes, her lover and a student radical, are now in positions of authority, Dora contrives to gain the curatorship of the half-forgotten museum only to find it all but burnt to the ground, with the neighboring museums oddly untouched. Robert offers her one of these, The National Museum of the Worker. However, neither this museum, nor the street it is hidden away on, nor Dora herself, are what they at first appear to be. Set against the backdrop of a nation on the verge of collapse, Dora’s search for the truth behind the mystery she’s long concealed will unravel a monstrous conspiracy and bring her to the edge of worlds.
9. The Strange by Nathan Balingrud (Saga Press, 3/21/23)
1931, New Galveston, Mars: Fourteen-year-old Anabelle Crisp sets off through the wastelands of the Strange to find Silas Mundt’s gang who have stolen her mother’s voice, destroyed her father, and left her solely with a need for vengeance.
Since Anabelle’s mother left for Earth to care for her own ailing mother, her days in New Galveston have been spent at school and her nights at her laconic father’s diner with Watson, the family Kitchen Engine and dishwasher as her only companion. When the Silence came, and communication and shipments from Earth to its colonies on Mars stopped, life seemed stuck in foreboding stasis until the night Silas Mundt and his gang attacked.
At once evoking the dreams of an America explored in Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and the harder realities of frontier life in Charles Portis True Grit, Ballingrud’s novel is haunting in its evocation of Anabelle’s quest for revenge amidst a spent and angry world accompanied by a domestic Engine, a drunken space pilot, and the toughest woman on Mars.
10. The Last Heir to Blackwood Library by Hester Fox (Graydon House, 4/4/23)
With the stroke of a pen, twenty-three-year-old Ivy Radcliffe becomes Lady Hayworth, owner of a sprawling estate on the Yorkshire moors. Ivy has never heard of Blackwood Abbey, or of the ancient bloodline from which she’s descended. With nothing to keep her in London since losing her brother in the Great War, she warily makes her way to her new home.
The abbey is foreboding, the servants reserved and suspicious. But there is a treasure waiting behind locked doors: a magnificent library. Despite cryptic warnings from the staff, Ivy feels irresistibly drawn to its dusty shelves, where familiar works mingle with strange, esoteric texts. And she senses something else in the library too, a presence that seems to have a will of its own.
Rumors swirl in the village about the abbey’s previous owners, about ghosts and curses, and an enigmatic manuscript at the center of it all. And as events grow more sinister, it will be up to Ivy to uncover the library’s mysteries in order to reclaim her own story—before it vanishes forever.
11. The Merry Dredgers by Jeremy Shipp (Meerkat Press, 4/25/23)
Seraphina Ramon will stop at nothing to find out the truth about why her sister Eff is in a coma after a very suspicious “accident.” Even if it means infiltrating the last place Seraphina knows Eff was alive: a once-abandoned amusement park now populated by a community of cultists.
Follow Seraphina through the mouth of the Goblin: To the left, a wolf-themed roller coaster rests on the blackened earth, curled up like a dead snake. To the right, an animatronic Humpty Dumpty falls off a concrete castle and shatters on the ground, only to reform itself moments later. Up ahead, cultists giggle as they meditate in a hall of mirrors. This is the last place in the world Seraphina wants to be, but the best way to investigate this bizarre cult, is to join them.
12. The Ferryman by Justin Cronin (Ballantine, 5/2/23)
Founded by the mysterious genius known as the Designer, the archipelago of Prospera lies hidden from the horrors of a deteriorating outside world. In this island paradise, Prospera’s lucky citizens enjoy long, fulfilling lives until the monitors embedded in their forearms, meant to measure their physical health and psychological well-being, fall below 10 percent. Then they retire themselves, embarking on a ferry ride to the island known as the Nursery, where their failing bodies are renewed, their memories are wiped clean, and they are readied to restart life afresh.
Proctor Bennett, of the Department of Social Contracts, has a satisfying career as a ferryman, gently shepherding people through the retirement process—and, when necessary, enforcing it. But all is not well with Proctor. For one thing, he’s been dreaming—which is supposed to be impossible in Prospera. For another, his monitor percentage has begun to drop alarmingly fast. And then comes the day he is summoned to retire his own father, who gives him a disturbing and cryptic message before being wrestled onto the ferry.
Meanwhile, something is stirring. The Support Staff, ordinary men and women who provide the labor to keep Prospera running, have begun to question their place in the social order. Unrest is building, and there are rumors spreading of a resistance group—known as “Arrivalists”—who may be fomenting revolution.
Soon Proctor finds himself questioning everything he once believed, entangled with a much bigger cause than he realized—and on a desperate mission to uncover the truth.
13. Beware the Woman by Megan Abbott (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 5/30/23)
Honey, I just want you to have everything you ever wanted. That’s what Jacy’s mom always told her.
And Jacy felt like she finally did. Newly married and with a baby on the way, Jacy and her new husband, Jed, embark on their first road trip together to visit his father, Dr. Ash, in Michigan’s far-flung Upper Peninsula. The moment they arrive in the cozy cottage in the lush woods, Jacy feels bathed in love by the warm and hospitable Dr. Ash, if less so by his house manager, the enigmatic Mrs. Brandt.
But their Edenic first days take a turn when Jacy has a health scare. Swiftly, vacation activities are scrapped, and all eyes are on Jacy’s condition. At the same time, whispers about Jed’s long-dead mother and complicated family history seem eerily to be impeding upon the present. As the days pass, Jacy begins to feel trapped in the cottage, her every move surveilled, her body under the looking glass. But are her fears founded or is it paranoia, or cabin fever, or—as is suggested to her—a stubborn refusal to take necessary precautions? The dense woods surrounding the cottage are full of dangers, but are the greater ones inside?
14. This World Belongs to Us: An Anthology of Horror Stories About Bugs Edited by Michael W. Phillips, Jr. (From Beyond Press, 5/2023)
A child pays for a thoughtless action for the rest of her life. A hunter tracks a horrifying monster to the edge of reality. Space larvae learn to be human. An influencer hawks this year’s most popular accessory. A prisoner in solitary makes a new friend. And more, and more. This collection will terrify you with twenty stories about the creepy-crawlies that outnumber us, outweigh us, and scare the bejesus out of us. [book description from From Beyond Press page]
15. All the Sinners Bleed by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron, 6/6/23)
After years of working as an FBI agent, Titus Crown returns home to Charon County, land of moonshine and cornbread, fist fights and honeysuckle. Seeing his hometown struggling with a bigoted police force inspires him to run for sheriff. He wins, and becomes the first Black sheriff in the history of the county.
Then a year to the day after his election, a young Black man is fatally shot by Titus’s deputies.
Titus pledges to follow the truth wherever it leads. But no one expected he would unearth a serial killer who has been hiding in plain sight, haunting the dirt lanes and woodland clearings of Charon.
Now, Titus must pull off the impossible: stay true to his instincts, prevent outright panic, and investigate a shocking crime in a small town where everyone knows everyone yet secrets flourish. All while also breaking up backroads bar fights and being forced to protect racist Confederate pride marchers.
For a Black man wearing a police uniform in the American South, that’s no easy feat. But Charon is Titus’s home and his heart, and he won’t let the darkness overtake it. Even as it threatens to consume him…
16. The Beast You Are: Stories by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow, 7/11/23)
Paul Tremblay has won widespread acclaim for illuminating the dark horrors of the mind in novels and stories that push the boundaries of storytelling itself. The fifteen pieces in this brilliant collection, The Beast You Are, are all monsters of a kind, ready to loudly (and lovingly) smash through your head and into your heart.
In “The Dead Thing,” a middle-schooler struggles to deal with the aftermath of her parents’ substance addictions and split. One day, her little brother claims he found a shoebox with “the dead thing” inside. He won’t show it to her and he won’t let the box out of his sight. In “The Last Conversation,” a person wakes in a sterile, white room and begins to receive instructions via intercom from a woman named Anne. When they are finally allowed to leave the room to complete a task, what they find is as shocking as it is heartbreaking.
The title novella, “The Beast You Are,” is a mini epic in which the destinies and secrets of a village, a dog, and a cat are intertwined with a giant monster that returns to wreak havoc every thirty years.
A masterpiece of literary horror and psychological suspense, The Beast You Are is a fearlessly imagined collection from one of the most electrifying and innovative writers working today.
17. 101 Horror Books to Read Before You’re Murdered by Sadie Hartmann (Page Street, 8/8/23)
For every reader who has excitedly wandered over to their local bookstore’s horror section only to find a few measly shelves with books you’ve already read by authors you’ve already heard of, this book is for you! Sadie Hartmann, better known as “Mother Horror” online, has put together the ultimate list of must-read novels, without a single repeat author, so you can confidently build up your TBR list.
With books that span the genre’s full spectrum, from paranormal hauntings to creepy death cults, and small-town terrors to apocalyptic disasters, Sadie demonstrates that horror is so much more than slasher stories full of blood and guts (though you’re sure to find those inside too). Each recommendation is complete with a brief story summary, critical insight, and a featured quote to lure you in. And once you’ve made it through the list, fear not! Sadie includes plenty of resources and tips to find even more horror, such as bookstores with great selections or publishers to watch.
18. Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward (Tor Nightfire, 8/8/23)
In a lonely cottage overlooking the windswept Maine coast, Wilder Harlow begins the last book he will ever write. It is the story of a sun-drenched summer of his youth, and of the killer that stalked the small New England town. And of the terrible tragedy that forever bonded him with his friends Nat and Harper in unknowable ways.
Decades later, Wilder returns to the town in an attempt to recount that summer’s events in his memoirs. But as he writes, Wilder begins to fear his grip on the truth is fading…and that the book may be writing itself.
Looking Glass Sound is a book about the stories that shape us, and how easily they can escape us, in the vein of Stephen King’s Stand By Me.
19. Spin a Black Yarn: Novellas by Josh Malerman (Del Rey, 8/15/23)
Josh Malerman is a master weaver of stories—and in this spine-chilling collection he spins five twisted tales from the shadows of the human soul:
A sister tells her little brother that “Half the House Is Haunted” with a presence that only she can see, but is it her own mind that is haunted?
In “Argyle,” a dying man confesses to homicides he never committed, and reveals long-kept secrets far more sinister than murder.
A tourist takes the ultimate trip to outer space in “Jupiter Drop,” but the real journey is into his own dark past.
In “Doug and Judy Buy the Washer,” a trendy married couple buys the latest home gadget only to find themselves trapped by the out-of-control machine… and each other.
And in “Egorov,” a set of Russian triplets is devastated when one of the brothers is murdered; but will vengeance heal their pain?
20. What Kind of Mother by Clay McLeod Chapman (Quirk, 9/12/23)
A modern Southern Gothic horror about a palm reader who becomes involved in a mind-bending missing-child case with a shocking twist you won’t see coming.
After striking out on her own as a teen mom, Madi Price is forced to return to her hometown of Brandywine, Virginia, with her seventeen-year-old daughter. With nothing to her name, she scrapes together a living as a palm reader at the local farmer’s market.
It’s at the market that she reconnects with her high school boyfriend Henry McCabe, now a reclusive local fisherman whose infant son, Skyler, went missing five years ago. Everyone in town is sure Skyler is dead but when Madi reads Henry’s palm, she’s haunted by strange and disturbing visions that suggest otherwise. As she follows the thread of these visions, Madi discovers a terrifying monster waiting at the center of the labyrinth–and it’s coming for everyone she holds dear.
21. Black River Orchard by Chuck Wendig (Del Rey, 9/26/23)
It’s autumn in the town of Harrow, but something else is changing in the town besides the season.
Because in that town there is an orchard, and in that orchard, seven most unusual trees. And from those trees grows a new sort of apple: Strange, beautiful, with skin so red it’s nearly black.
Take a bite of one of these apples and you will desire only to devour another. And another. You will become stronger. More vital. More yourself, you will believe. But then your appetite for the apples and their peculiar gifts will keep growing—and become darker.
This is what happens when the townsfolk discover the secret of the orchard. Soon it seems that everyone is consumed by an obsession with the magic of the apples… and what’s the harm, if it is making them all happier, more confident, more powerful?
And even if buried in the orchard is something else besides the seeds of this extraordinary tree: a bloody history whose roots reach back the very origins of the town.
But now the leaves are falling. The days grow darker. And a stranger has come to town, a stranger who knows Harrow’s secrets. Because it’s harvest time, and the town will soon reap what it has sown.
22. Nestlings by Nat Cassidy (Tor Nightfire, 10/31/23)
Ana and Reid needed a lucky break.
The horrifically complicated birth of their first child has left Ana paralyzed, bitter, and struggling: with mobility, with her relationship with Reid, with resentment for her baby. That’s about to change with the words any New Yorker would love to hear—affordable housing lottery.
They’ve won an apartment in the Deptford, one of Manhattan’s most revered buildings with beautiful vistas of Central Park and stunning architecture and disturbing gargoyles.
Reid dismisses disturbing events and Ana’s deep unease and paranoia as the price of living in New York—people are odd—but he can’t explain the needle-like bite marks on the baby.
23. Joe R. Lansdale’s The Drive-In: Multiplex Edited by Christopher Golden and Brian Keene (Thunderstorm Books, TBA)
A tribute to Joe R. Lansdale’s The Drive-In trilogy, with blood and popcorn. Featuring all-new stories and novellas by: Joe R. Lansdale, Keith Lansdale, Josh Malerman, David J. Schow, Aaron Dries, Elizabeth Massie, Gary A Braunbeck, James A. moore, Nancy A. Collins, Mary Sangiovanni, Laird Barron, Jonathan Janz, Linda D. Addison, Charles R. Rutledge, S.A. Cosby, Owen King, Stephen Graham Jones, Norman Partridge, Gabino Iglesias, Cynthia Pelayo, Chet Williamson, and Rachel Autumn Deering. [book description from briankeene.com]
Undoubtedly, there will be dozens more must-read new releases that have escaped my notice so far (a couple of good sites to keep track of forthcoming genre titles: Jump Scares–a successor to the Tor Nightfire annual listing–and Locus Online). So I better get ready, then, to hit the books…