Hidden gems: 6 underrated horror novels that terrify & thrill

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Underrated horror novels: Fresh treats for your bookshelf

There’s a wealth of stories out there. We’re turning the spotlight on some of these hidden gems — the underrated horror novels of the past decade.

In recent years, there’s been a noticeable uptick in interest for horror stories that push the envelope, mixing traditional elements with new perspectives.

While not always making it to the bestseller lists, these books offer an innovative take on horror. They stand out for their storytelling, compelling characters, and ability to leave a lasting impression on readers.

1. Shadows in Summerland by Adrian Van Young

Get it on Amazon: Shadows in Summerland

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Shadows in Summerland transports us to 1859 Boston, unfurling a gothic tale in the curious domain of spirit photography.

The story centers on William Mumler, an actual historical figure who gained notoriety for his photographs that allegedly captured the spirits of the deceased. Mumler’s work draws in an eclectic crowd in Boston, including individuals with shadowy intentions.

This novel intertwines the historical with the fictional. It presents a world where the lines between reality and the supernatural blur.

The plot thickens as we learn more about Mumler’s life, discovering that there’s more to his photographs than meets the eye.

The themes of greed, obsession, and murder appear throughout the narrative. Van Young skillfully uses the backdrop of spirit photography to explore these darker aspects of human nature.

The characters’ fixation on communicating with the afterlife leads them down a path where morality becomes questionable, and the consequences are as haunting as the spirits in Mumler’s photographs.

Shadows in Summerland is a window into a time when the fascination with the paranormal was at its peak — and how this fascination could lead to a dangerous obsession.

For horror and historical fiction fans, this book is a gripping journey into the heart of 19th-century spiritualism and its dark undercurrents.

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2. Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI: The Official Novelization by Jonathan Raab

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Get it on Amazon: Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI: The Official Novelization

Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI: The Official Novelization by Jonathan Raab is an unusual entry in the horror genre.

This novel takes a metafictional approach, focusing on the author’s experience writing the official novelization of a horror movie’s sixth installment.

It’s not a straightforward novelization. It explores a variety of conspiracy theories and cults — even hinting at extraterrestrial elements.

As Raab works on the novel, he finds himself entangled in a web of strange events that mirror the horror story he’s adapting. The book cleverly alternates between the fictional world of the movie and the real-world oddities the writer faces.

The bizarre conspiracy theories and sinister cult activities in Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI, combined with the process of writing a horror novel, create a disorienting yet fascinating experience for readers.

The footnotes and first-person accounts within the text add to its authenticity, making readers question what’s real and what’s part of the fictional world.

For fans of horror looking for something out of the ordinary, this book is a must-read. It offers a fresh perspective on horror storytelling and demonstrates how the genre can play with form and content to create something special.

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3. The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones

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Listen on Audible: The Last Final Girl

The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones is an innovative twist on the horror genre, particularly on the modern B-movie horror scene.

The story centers on a killer wearing a Michael Jackson mask, creating an unnerving juxtaposition of familiar pop culture and horror. This masked figure’s rampage forms the backbone of a narrative familiar to horror fans that is fresh in its execution.

What sets this novel apart is its unique storytelling style. Jones writes it as if it were a film treatment, complete with shooting instructions, adding an extra realism layer to the story.

This approach immerses the reader in the action and cleverly deconstructs the typical horror narrative structure. With it, Jones invites us to look at the horror genre from a new angle.

For readers who appreciate horror that plays with format and challenges genre conventions, The Last Final Girl is a must-read. It offers a memorable experience that’s as much an exploration of horror storytelling as a thrilling horror story.

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4. The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

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Listen on Audible: The Twisted Ones

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher follows the story of Mouse, a woman tasked with clearing out her late grandmother’s house.

Things take a strange turn when she finds her step-grandfather’s journal, which reveals unnerving details about mysterious beings lurking in the nearby woods.

This novel stands out for its ability to balance classic horror elements with Kingfisher’s signature humor. As Mouse reads the journal, mysterious secrets of her grandmother’s house begin to unfold.

Kingfisher skillfully frames a narrative that is both terrifying and amusing. The horror elements are well-executed, with descriptions that are vivid enough to keep readers on edge.

Simultaneously, the humor provides a counterbalance, ensuring the story remains entertaining without becoming overwhelmingly dark.

The Twisted Ones is a great read for those who enjoy horror with a twist of humor. It offers a unique experience where fear and laughter coexist, making it a standout novel.

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5. Beneath by Kristi DeMeester

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Get it on Amazon: Beneath

Beneath by Kristi DeMeester is set in the deep reaches of rural Georgia. The story revolves around a determined reporter named Cora, who is sent to cover a dark and disturbing story about a cult of snake handlers.

This isn’t your typical assignment, and Cora quickly realizes that the seemingly quaint town is hiding sinister secrets beneath its surface.

The narrative style of Beneath is known for its unpredictability and the mind-bending twists DeMeester deftly incorporates into the plot.

As Cora learns more about the town’s rituals and the enigmatic figure of Father Michael, the story takes unexpected turns that keep readers on the edge of their seats.

DeMeester’s writing shines in its ability to create a tense and oppressive atmosphere that lingers over every page.

The story goes beyond simple horror, exploring themes of faith, control, and the darkness that can reside in small communities.

For readers looking for a horror novel that offers more than scares, Beneath is a perfect choice. Its mixture of psychological tension, rich storytelling, and unexpected developments make it a standout.

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6. The Institute by Stephen King

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Listen on Audible: The Institute

The Institute by Stephen King is a modern horror novel that deserves more recognition for its gripping narrative and King’s masterful storytelling.

The story revolves around Luke Ellis, a boy with special abilities trapped in a sinister institute. In this secretive facility, Children with unique talents are subjected to disturbing experiments.

The novel expertly threads a tale of suspense and fear as Luke and his newfound friends in the institute plot a daring escape — all while unraveling the dark purposes behind their captivity.

While less well-known than some of Stephen King’s other novels, this book is a hidden gem in his repertoire. King’s ability to create a chilling atmosphere and a compelling plot makes The Institute a must-read for fans of horror and suspense.

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Underrated horror books: What’s your favorite?

Do you have a favorite underrated horror novel that you think should be included? Let us know in the comments below! 👻

DON’T MISS: Frightful delights: 7 Best horror graphic novels for your bookshelf

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