Horror in Audio | 9 Titles To Try

Horror listens; as all bumps in the night are even more terrifying when they are inside your head.


Barnes, S. A. Dead Silence. Macmillan Audio. Feb. 2022. 12:50 hrs. ISBN 9781250841346. $26.99. HORROR

In her horror debut, Barnes (who also writes as Stacey Kade) has a premise that is difficult to beat. Claire Kovalik’s small repair/salvage crew discovers the Aurora, a long-lost space cruise liner. There seem to be no survivors—though the socialites and celebrities onboard all died violently. Was it an invasion? An infection? Something more uncanny? The narrative shifts back and forth from exploring the derelict ship to Claire being interviewed about the events, adding an incredible amount of tense foreshadowing. The novel probably didn’t need any help gripping readers, but narrator Lauren Ezzo imbues Claire with such emotion that listeners can’t help but care even more about the characters and their fates. Listeners feel precisely what Claire does—anxiousness to balance duty with her needs, her crew’s needs, and her dislike of some of those in her charge. When Claire doubts her experiences on the Aurora because of her past traumas, listeners hear it in her tone. When she fumes at her interrogators or falls into despair, Ezzo portrays that perfectly as well. And when Ezzo reaches the shocking conclusion, listeners will be glad she was there with them. VERDICT Suggest widely to fans of haunted house stories and space horror.—Matthew Galloway

Fawcett, Jennifer. Beneath the Stairs. S. & S. Audio. Feb. 2022. 12:06 hrs. ISBN 9781797143415. $23.99. HORROR

Deep in the forest lies the Octagon House, a haunted house in sleepy Sumner’s Mills. A gruesome murder once happened there, and the house seems to be cursed. That doesn’t stop teenagers Abby and Clare from visiting the house, but a part of Abby never left. Years later, when an adult Abby seems to attempt suicide in its basement, Clare, with her own adult life falling apart, returns to the small town in order to solve the mystery of what lies within the house’s basement once and for all. The book moves between many different time lines, including the home’s origins, the murders that stained it, and the girls’ lives as teens and then adults. VERDICT Fawcett’s debut novel is a haunted house story that spans generations but is anchored by its main protagonist Clare, who is thoughtful, caring, and easily relatable. Perfectly portrayed by narrator Carolina Hoyos, she’s a truly empathetic protagonist who is trying to discover what went wrong in her life as well as Abby’s and who thinks the answers might lie within the Octagon House.—James Gardner

Heuvelt, Thomas Olde. Echo. Macmillan Audio. Feb. 2022. 18:52 hrs. ISBN 9781250824493. $32.99. HORROR

The novel’s prologue demonstrates Heuvelt’s (Hex) deftness in the genre and is sure to draw listeners in with perfectly eerie events that precede a maddening cliff-hanger. What follows blends a psychological exploration of a man coping with his boyfriend’s face being destroyed in a mountaineering incident and uncanny events centering on that boyfriend and his bandaged face. Throughout the novel, tensions continuously elevate and listeners will be sure that they’ve reached breaking point. But, much like the mountain peaks this novel centers upon, there’s another rise just out of sight. The skillful writing and narration ensure that each new spike of horror or line of creeping dread anchors the reader in the characters’ journeys. The three narrators, David Wayman, Greg Lockett, and Lauryn Allman, are excellent in their own right and would have been able to carry the story on their own, but together they provide distinct voices and styles that immediately orient listeners in what could have been a convoluted experience. VERDICT There is enough body horror to turn away the faint of heart, but it’s all worth the shocking yet touching ending.—Matthew Galloway

King, Stephen & Richard Chizmar. Gwendy’s Final Task. S. & S. Audio. (The Button Box, Bk. 3). Feb. 2022. 7:23 hrs. ISBN 9781797135014. $19.99. HORROR

Chizmar (Gwendy’s Magic Feather) and King reunite to close out the “Button Box” trilogy in epic fashion. Gwendy Peterson has been a bestselling novelist, a U.S. senator, and a keeper of the button box, an innocent-looking device with the power to grant wishes and destroy universes. As its most morally steadfast guardian, Gwendy is given the unenviable task to make sure the box can never fall into evil hands. She takes a manned space flight where she can permanently dispose of the box, but those who want to use its destructive power will not give up so easily. VERDICT The final part of this trilogy wraps up the intriguing character arc of Gwendy, a character brought to life by Chizmar’s and King’s words, as well as the voice talents of Marin Ireland. Fans of King’s “Dark Tower” series will recognize the occasional nods to the mythos, but readers who have never read the books will still be drawn into this story, where the tension comes from Gwendy trying to stay ahead of those after the box and her own deteriorating condition.—James Gardner

Lyons, Matthew. A Black and Endless Sky. Dreamscape Audio. Mar. 2022. 11:04 hrs. ISBN 9781666534344. $24.99. HORROR

Lyons (The Night Will Find Us) serves up a slice of bleak cosmic horror drenched in noir. What began as a road trip across the desert for estranged siblings Jonah and Nell Talbot becomes a bloodstained nightmare as they are not only pursued by a ruthless biker gang, but Nell’s body is possessed by something inhuman that could destroy the world. While Nell and Jonah try to stay one step ahead of their human pursuers, they must also try to contain the monster within Nell before it consumes her. There is plenty of horror in this piece, especially as readers see the terrible visions shown to Nell, but the thrumming engine of this book is straight-up noir. All of these characters, voiced by multiple narrators, sling words sharper than any knife or talon, and much of the novel’s violence comes from human hands. VERDICT This has some truly disturbing elements of possession and cosmic horror, but the real darkness here has more terrestrial origins.—James Gardner

McMahon, Jennifer. The Children on the Hill. S. & S. Audio. Apr. 2022. 10:44 hrs. ISBN 9781797136141. $23.99. HORROR

Lizzy Shelley literally wrote the book on monster hunting, but her professional success has never brought personal solace. After uncovering a pattern in the disappearances of troubled young women, she may have finally found the monster she’s spent a lifetime hunting: her sister. Their story began 40 years prior, on the grounds of a prestigious psychiatric facility in Vermont. Their Gran, the Inn’s director, is considered by many to be a miracle worker, when in truth she is a modern Dr. Frankenstein. McMahon’s (The Winter People) chilling tale explores who is more monstrous, the creatures or their creator? Just as the Inn’s basement door hides the horrors within, narrator Moon’s even tone and sedate pace belie McMahon’s sinister story line. Moon artfully gives each character a unique voice. Parallel narratives, interspersed with book excerpts both by and about Lizzy’s family, create a compelling roller coaster that listeners will be unable to disembark from until hearing the final disturbing details. VERDICT Will appeal to listeners seeking a spine-tingling blend of psychological suspense and horror; recommended for fans of Jennifer Fawcett, Catriona Ward, and Josh Malerman.—Lauren Hackert

Sten, Camilla. The Resting Place. Macmillan Audio. Mar. 2022. tr. from Swedish by Alexandra Fleming. 8:51 hrs. ISBN 9781250839671. $19.99. HORROR

When Eleanor’s grandmother, Vivianne, was murdered, Eleanor saw the killer. Unfortunately, because of her prosopagnosia—a cognitive disorder of face perception—Eleanor is unable to identify the person and she becomes anxious and paranoid. When she learns that Vivianne left her a country estate, Eleanor heads out there with her boyfriend, Sebastian; her aunt Veronika; and the lawyer handling the estate. The trip seems doomed from the beginning. The groundskeeper is nowhere to be found and a blizzard, which the remote mansion’s rickety electrical system is unable to withstand, is rapidly approaching. When Eleanor finds a diary written by a maid who worked in the house when Vivianne was first married, she learns the dark family secrets her grandmother kept for a lifetime. And when more bodies turn up, Eleanor realizes that someone is willing to kill to keep Vivianne’s secrets hidden. Sten’s (The Lost Village) latest is fast-paced and suspenseful, enhanced by Angela Dawe’s skillful narration. VERDICT For fans of the author and Scandinavian thrillers.—Stephanie Klose

Ward, Catriona. Sundial. Macmillan Audio. Mar. 2022. 12:59 hrs. ISBN 9781250841193. $26.99. HORROR

The newest from Ward (The Last House on Needless Street) explores familial bonds, lingering traumas, and violent legacies. Rob tries to be a good wife and mother to her daughters, despite her abusive, philandering husband and his constant power games, but Rob notices daughter Callie’s peculiar behaviors and is horrified by what she’s done to her younger sister Annie. To help Callie and save Annie, Rob takes Callie to the desert, to Sundial, her now-abandoned childhood home. While Rob remembers what events at Sundial led her to what she must do now, young Callie worries that this will be her last trip. The story, with its many twists and turns, alternates between Callie and Rob and jumps between past and present. Readers will never be entirely sure what is going on until the end but will nevertheless be drawn into this book’s inescapable narrative web. Narrator Katherine Fenton imbues each syllable with tension and unease. VERDICT A masterful example of suspense; audiences will love their trip to Sundial, even as the sands shift constantly beneath their feet.—James Gardner

Wilkes, Ally. All the White Spaces. S. & S. Audio. Mar. 2022. 14:13 hrs. ISBN 9781797138053. $23.99. HORROR

Jonathan Morgan is a trans man who dreams of taking part in the 1920 Antarctic expedition led by his hero, James Australis Randall. Jonathan is grieving the loss of both of his older brothers in the war, and has traveled with their friend Harry, who has a position taking care of the dogs on the ship and helps Jonathan stow away. After he is discovered, Jonathan works hard to prove himself and finds life at sea difficult but rewarding. Unfortunately, the ship catches fire in the middle of the frozen sea and the crew must try to survive with the limited supplies they managed to save. They take shelter in some huts left by a previous expedition, but there’s a malevolent presence stalking them in the darkness. VERDICT Scott Turner Schofield’s narration is very well done, and Wilkes (Where Things Fall from the Dark) thoughtfully examines grief, PTSD, and isolation, but the novel’s slow pace, large number of characters, and detailed information about the ship and the journey make this a better choice for listeners who enjoy historical novels with supernatural elements than for horror fans.—Stephanie Klose

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