Best Horror of 2022

Full of frights both real and supernatural, the best horror novels of 2022 are a terrifying joy to read.

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Cañas, Isabel. The Hacienda. Berkley. ISBN 9780593436691.

During the tumultuous years surrounding the Mexican War of Independence, Beatriz makes a fresh start when her new husband, widower Don Solórzano, moves her to his rural estate. When a malevolent spirit begins to attack her, she seeks out Andrés, a priest with ties to the hacienda. Claustrophobic and terror-filled, with an absorbing sense of place, this debut is both an original ghost story and a thoughtful contemplation of racism and classism.

Felker-Martin, Gretchen. Manhunt. Tor Nightfire. ISBN 9781250794642.

A virus that turns anyone with high enough testosterone levels into zombielike monsters transforms the U.S. into an apocalyptic nightmare. Another threat looms—anti-trans feminists plotting the mass murder of the surviving trans population. In this harrowing, action-packed story, two trans women, Beth and Fran, survive by hunting the feral creatures that were once men and harvesting their estrogen-rich testicles. Felker-Martin evolves the popular zombie trope in a book that centers the experiences of trans people.

Harrison, Rachel. Such Sharp Teeth. Berkley. ISBN 9780593545829.

Rory reluctantly returns home to help her pregnant twin sister. After a night at the bar, she hits an animal on the drive home, and it attacks her. She survives, but not unscathed. Then, when the moon is at its fullest, she begins to change physically. Blending dark humor, an intriguing werewolf frame, body horror, and serious contemplations of trauma, anger, and the vulnerability of love, Harrison pens another winning, thought-provoking must-read.

Iglesias, Gabino. The Devil Takes You Home. Mulholland. ISBN 9780316426916.

Iglesias writes a breathtaking horror-thriller hybrid. Mario loses everything: his daughter to cancer, his wife to her grief, and his money to the healthcare system. Desperate, he takes a job that sends him on a road trip to steal from Mexican drug lords. Told with a strong narrative voice, brutal violence balanced by lyrical language, and terrors both real and supernatural, this is a master class in discomfort and the embodiment of a new genre—barrio noir.

Katsu, Alma. The Fervor. Putnam. ISBN 9780593328330.

Told through multiple story lines and set mostly in a U.S. concentration camp imprisoning Japanese Americans, this novel follows Meiko, her daughter Aiko, a pastor, and a freelance reporter as they face multiple horrors: fire balloons, World War II, a deadly virus, sexism, racism, and ancient demons. The character-driven, thriller-esque tale holds readers’ attention, but the constant feelings of unease and terror that seep into the present are where this novel leaves its mark.

Khaw, Cassandra. Breakable Things. Undertow. ISBN 9781988964379.

This debut story collection spans the breadth of the dark speculative-fiction landscape. Mixing beautiful language with intensely unsettling situations, Khaw’s stories invoke themes of water or fairy tales and mythologies from all over the world and are punctuated by perfect endings that allow fear and unease to linger long after the page has been turned and the next story has begun. This volume is quite simply a terrifying joy to read.

Kingfisher, T. What Moves the Dead. Tor Nightfire. ISBN 9781250830753.

In this delightfully creepy and often wry retelling of Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher,” Alex Easton rushes to the estate of their dear friends, one of whom is severely ill. The once stately home is in disrepair, and the grounds are populated by strangely behaving hares and terrible-smelling mushrooms. Odd and disquieting situations lead to more questions, and lives depend on the protagonist’s ability to find answers to what moves the dead.

Kraus, Daniel. The Ghost That Ate Us. Raw Dog Screaming. ISBN 9781947879553.

On June 1, 2017, six people were killed at Burger City #8 at Exit 269 off of I-80 in Iowa. In 2020, a fictionalized version of Kraus wants to know what really happened. Containing detailed reporting, interviews with survivors, and hints of an evil force, this is a stellar example of the true-crime genre—except that none of the book’s events really happened. This disorienting setup brilliantly challenges everything fans expect from horror and true crime, while injecting fun into the reading experience.

Tremblay, Paul. The Pallbearers Club. Morrow. ISBN 9780063069916.

Framed as a found memoir (or is it a novel?) by Art Barbara, this story is told with running commentary by the story’s other protagonist, Mercy, Art’s best friend (or nemesis?) who might be a vampire. The intimate and playful nature of their conversation draws readers in immediately, but everyone’s reliability is questioned as the stakes get higher, until this brilliant psychological horror story reaches its disquieting conclusion.

Wurth, Erika T. White Horse. Flatiron. ISBN 9781250847652.

Part mystery and part thriller, but all horror, this chilling debut introduces an insightful voice to the genre and features Kari, an Apache and Chickasaw woman whose life in Denver revolves around her love of Megadeth, The Shining, and nights spent at the White Horse bar. When her cousin Debbie finds an old family bracelet, it brings Kari into contact with an evil spirit and with the ghost of her mother, gone since Kari was a baby, forcing her to confront her past and move forward.

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