Books that made our skin crawl in 2018

Our staff share the books that made their skin crawl this year.

‘Melissa Albert’s debut novel, The Hazel Wood, really got under my skin. It weaves together a contemporary set-up – two street-smart New York teens Alice and Ellery go on a road trip, searching for Alice’s missing mother Ella – with encroaching elements of dark fairytale. The fictional cult book written by Alice’s grandmother, Tales of the Hinterland (think Angela Carter vibes) provides fodder for many of the unsettling events and imagery that creep into the story, like Twice-Killed Katherine who wanders around carrying a birdcage. The further Alice and Ellery drive into the woods, the more reality and fantasy twine together, and the result is deliciously spooky.’

Leanne Hall

‘This year I read two fantastic true crime books by talented female authors. The first is Trace by Rachel Brown, which is the book follow-up to the popular podcast of the same name. Brown tells the story of why and how she decided to re-examine the murder case of Maria James, who was stabbed to death in her Thornbury bookshop over 30 years ago. This book doesn’t make a spectacle of Maria’s death, and the horrifying clues towards who committed the murder are spine-chilling.

I also read I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, which is all about a suspected serial rapist and murderer who was terrorising multiple communities in California back in the 1970s. McNamara dubbed this man the ‘Golden State Killer, and recounts the stories of his many, many crimes in almost obsessive detail.

Sadly McNamara passed away before she could finish the book, and it was published posthumously with notes from experts filling in the gaps. The amazing part of this story is that one of the suggestions McNamara made for catching the killer actually turned out to be the way police caught the killer – two months after this book was published, and nearly 40 years after he began committing these crimes.’

Ellen Cregan

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is one of those books that everyone says you must read. A slim, atmospheric novella about two sisters who live in a decaying old house on the outskirts of a town filled with hostile neighbours, this story boasts one of the best first paragraphs I’ve read. It’s is a gorgeously written – but deeply unsettling – story full of slow-moving tension.’

Lian Hingee

'Because I am a big baby I didn’t even need to read Michelle McNamara’s much-talked about true crime book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, for it to get under my skin. A mere handful of shared anecdotes from the book described to me by a colleague was enough to give me a nightmare.

True crime aside, I did read a couple of fiction books that really got under my skin this year. One was Nick Drnaso’s widely acclaimed graphic novel, Sabrina, which gave me a deadening sense of dream, and the other was Lili Wilkinson’s young adult novel, After the Lights Go Out. This is a tense thriller which poses a scarily plausible near-future while exploring a frightening power dynamic within a family.’

Bronte Coates

‘Chloe Hooper’s The Arsonist made me cry, and it also kept me riveted. The agonising, raw details of how some of the victims in the fire lived their last moments was truly devastating, along with reading about the arsonist themselves. This is a powerful, riveting book.’

Fiona Hardy

Shiver. Author Junji Ito is a master of horror manga and his books are genuinely terrifying. This collection of nine stories is no exception. It will give anyone nightmares, and probably trypophobia too.’

Kim Gruschow

‘I had to put down Tara Westover’s extraordinary memoir Educated many times, because I was in such a state of stress while reading about the plight of her and her siblings. There are graphic depictions of violence and terrible farm accidents detailed in this book that made my skin crawl and set my teeth on edge.

Try not to let that put you off, because it’s also one of my favourite books of the year, and it has much to say about poverty, class, domestic violence and the bonds of family.’

Nina Kenwood

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

Michelle McNamara

$29.99Buy now

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