Spooky Sounds | Horror Audiobooks

Sink into these four starred horror novels and invite nightmares into your ears.

Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones. S. & S. Audio. (The Indian Lake Trilogy, Bk. 2). Feb. 2023. 15:04 hrs. ISBN 9781797141299. $29.99. 

This sequel to Jones’s My Heart is a Chainsaw is a textbook example of a sequel exceeding expectations. Four years after the Independence Day Massacre, Jennifer “Jade” Daniels returns home. She wants a fresh start, but there is still unfinished business in Proofrock, Idaho. When a snowstorm paralyzes the town and releases a serial killer with a passion for slashing, Jade must once again be the final person to save the day. Or, perhaps, is there someone else ready to take up the machete? If Chainsaw was Jones’s love letter to slashers, this story reaffirms that love with deep levels of callbacks and brutal kills. However, the story’s real draws are Jones’s dazzling prose and his compelling characters given life (and a series of unique perspectives) by a massive cast of voice actors, including Isabella Star LaBlanc and Jane Levy. VERDICT This story, full of heart and hemorrhages, emphatically proves that literary beauty and gory kills aren’t mutually exclusive. Jade Daniels could be the horror heroine who will have both Freddy and Jason checking under their own beds.—James Gardner 

A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher. Macmillan Audio. Mar. 2023. 6:53 hrs. ISBN 9781250886361. $19.99.

Sam Montgomery is an archaeoentomologist—she studies insects on archaeological digs—but her latest project is on hold indefinitely after human remains are found. Needing a place to stay in the interim, she returns home to North Carolina to stay with her mother, who is living in her childhood home. Sam is surprised by the drastic change in her mother’s behavior, along with the house’s strange new decor. As literal vultures stand sentry over the house, Sam tries to rationalize the lack of insects in the garden and the bizarre events happening at the house, while worrying that her mother is suffering from dementia. Digging into their family history to find some answers, Sam uncovers secrets far more surprising and horrific than she could have imagined, and that past will not stay buried. Narrator Mary Robinette Kowal wonderfully conveys the wryly funny prose and the creeping horror of the story. Giving each character a distinct voice, Kowal deftly and consistently moves between them and superbly renders Sam’s voice. VERDICT Both fantastic storytellers, Kowal (The Spare Man) and Kingfisher (What Moves the Dead) are a perfect pairing for this excellent Southern gothic, an essential purchase.—Melissa DeWild

Lone Women by Victor LaValle. Books on Tape. Mar. 2023. 9:12 hrs. ISBN 9780593611067. $76.

LaValle (The Changeling) offers a magical take on the classic Western. The Montana plains are vast—rife with opportunities for people to make their fortune or disappear entirely. Adelaide Henry has come from California to do both, but her quest is complicated by her always-locked steamer trunk, which tends to make people disappear when it’s opened. LaValle includes all the trappings of the Western genre—guns, nooses, and savage acts of cruelty—but he also paints from a palette of stunningly descriptive words. Far from being one-dimensional archetypes, LaValle’s richly drawn characters have their own backstories, motivations, and, most important, locked-up skeletons. Joniece Abbott-Pratt’s voicework gives life to all these diverse characters and their emotions, from a young boy’s vengeance-driven anger to a matriarch’s civilly delivered contempt. The story’s fantastical elements highlight the strangeness of the landscape and the physical and emotional toll exacted by long-held secrets. VERDICT LaValle’s gorgeous prose and dynamic characters, combined with the horrific supernatural, make for a compelling listen. Share with fans of Alma Katsu, Erin E. Adams, and Isabel Cañas.—James Gardner 

Mothered by Zoje Stage. Brilliance Audio. Mar. 2023. 10:55 hrs. ISBN 9781799789888. $42.99. 

“I had to do it. She was contagious.” Narrator David de Vries sets an ominous scene as psychoanalyst Silas describes the case file for a brutal murder. Leaving both killer and corpse unidentified, narrator Sophie Amoss takes the reins for the bulk of the narrative as listeners are transported to the early days of a pandemic when Grace’s mother, Jackie, requests to shelter in place with her. Though Jackie has a history of treating Grace in disturbing, even abusive ways, Grace is struggling to make ends meet and desperate enough to give in. Jackie’s presence, however, brings back troubling memories that morph into unsettling dreams. As her grip on reality becomes tenuous, Grace wonders if her mother’s gaslighting is taking a sinister turn. Stage (Baby Teeth) crafts an intricate blend of psychological suspense and horror. Amoss gives an emotive and engaging performance, expertly portraying Grace’s tension and terror. Though de Vries features only in the prologue and epilogue, his placid, professional voice is an unnerving juxtaposition to Amoss’s anxiety. VERDICT This audio will appeal to listeners seeking a dark, dizzying domestic thriller steeped in menace and mistrust. Recommended for fans of Gillian Flynn, Ashley Audrain, and Riley Sager.—Lauren Hackert 

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