Tag Archives: Suspense

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager (Review by Varun F. ’24)

Lock Every DoorLock Every Door by Riley Sager
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager is a gothic thriller which follows Jules Larsen, who takes up a job apartment-sitting at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most mysterious buildings, after she has lost her job and boyfriend. Jules investigates the disappearance of fellow apartment sitter Ingrid and discovers the secrets of the Bartholomew.

While I normally don’t read many thrillers, this book kept me on the edge of my seat for the entirety of it with its suspenseful scenes and made me properly terrified of old buildings. The characters are likable (for the most part) and Jules is a well-developed protagonist, but the book utilizes many clichés, and I often find myself doubting the sanity of some of the characters due to their truly abysmal decisions.

Even with these flaws, I still enjoyed the majority of the plot, and Riley Sager’s writing was brilliant. The mysterious and eery tone of this book worked hand in hand with the well-thought-out plot. So, if you’re a thriller fan or just in need of a good read, I highly recommend this book for you! –Review by Varun F. ’24

For those who enjoyed this book, Varun has recommended Home Before Dark and Mexican Gothic for you to check out!

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The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher (Review by Hita T. ’23)

The Twisted OnesThe Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Melissa, known to close family and friends as Mouse, only had one job: clean her late grandmother’s house in North Carolina. Her grandmother was unfortunately a hoarder, but she could clean it up. No problem at all. However, in the process, she discovers her late step-father’s journal, which is filled with seemingly nonsensical rants. Mouse is quick to disregard the rambling, chalking it up to his deteriorating health, but when strange happenings start to occur, it becomes increasingly clear that perhaps his journal held more than just the ramblings of an old man. Driven to figure out what’s going on and spooked by an unplanned night stroll (courtesy of her dog Bongo), Mouse begins to uncover secrets in the woods, and the deeper she digs into it, the more terrifying it becomes…
Kingfisher does a brilliant job of spinning a modern take on the folklore of The White People, as it is horrifying yet entertaining at the same time. The narrative is filled with realistic humor and conversations and during the more action packed scenes, the reaction seems to be just right; there is no exaggeration of fear nor is there apathy towards the events. Even though I’m not the most avid horror reader, I absolutely loved this book and would definitely recommend it. —Review by Hita T. ’23

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Devolution by Max Brooks (review by Mrs. Vaughan)

Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch MassacreDevolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A small group of Seattleites populate a new community on the slopes of Mt. Rainier, enjoying both the beauty of their natural surroundings and excellent electronic connectivity. Necessities are delivered regularly by helicopter, which can also ferry them to first class medical attention if needed. Perfect, right? Not so much when Mt. Rainier erupts unleashing disaster and cutting off these pilgrims from their supply chain. Worse yet – the shrinking natural environment has precipitated a conflict between them, and folklore become real: a small but hungry band of Bigfoot.
Fans of Max Brooks’ World War Z may be a bit disappointed in his long-awaited effort – another fictionalized oral history of Armageddon, just a different setting. Still, this sophomore attempt is, like his first, cleverly written. Here the oral histories take backseat to the found journal of resident Kate Holland, creating a more consistent through line than Z. Brooks has done his legwork (again) and weaves in much historic, folkloric, and scientific research about the Yeti, the Sasquatch and less familiar versions of the oversized primate. Characterization is varied, dialogue rings true and the suspense is palpable. True, this is not World War Z, but Brooks’ fans and horror fans won’t want to miss it! — Mrs. Vaughan

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Shine by Lauren Myracle (review by Anya W. ’20)

ShineShine by Lauren Myracle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Victim:
Patrick — Cat’s ex-best friend, currently in a coma the hospital after being found beaten at the gas station where he works, the victim of a hate crime against gay people.

The Investigators:
The sheriff — says it’s probably some out of towners from a nearby college. Case closed.
Cat — has her own ideas about it. After all, the sheriff can’t exactly implicate the son of the man who funds his campaign in a hate crime.

The Suspects, according to Cat:
College Boy — out of towner college boy who mocked Patrick at the gas station before the incident.
Tommy — the richest kid in town. For all that they hung out, he never stopped bullying Patrick. He was present at the party where Patrick was last seen conscious. Also, as Cat can attest, he likes to molest 13 year old girls.

The Witnesses
Beef: Cat’s surrogate older brother, who drove everyone home and isn’t talking.
Bailee-Ann: Beef’s girlfriend.
Robert: Bailee-Ann’s 11 year old brother with fetal alcohol syndrome who was there to watch his sister come home.
Christian: Cat’s older brother. Even if he was willing to talk about what he knew, Cat knows better than to believe in him.

Myracle writes a gritty portrait of small town life. Even her side characters are multifaceted and capable of growth. Shine is well paced and satisfying, with the right number of twists and an ending that is not too neat. Definitely a lovely reason to read away a day. – Anya W. ’20

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We Have Always Lived Here by Shirley Jackson (review by Andrew R. ’17)

We Have Always Lived in the CastleWe Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s a malicious presence in the Blackwood estate, the imposing structure on the outskirts of town inhabited by the only surviving members of a reclusive aristocratic family. It might be wheelchair-bound Uncle Julian, who constantly relives the day most of his family dropped dead of arsenic poisoning. It might be Constance, who hasn’t left the estate in six years and is fanatically devoted to the rules of etiquette. It might even be Merricat, the younger sister, who surrounds the estate with wards and totems to keep the rest of the world at bay. Jackson is best-known today for “The Lottery,” her horrifying story of small-town insularity gone wrong, but of all her notoriously creepy works this one deserves the most attention. Its suspense works in two directions: the reader discovers unsettling details about the past even as the narrative creeps toward a chilling climax, leaving the present moment doubly uncertain and doubly tense. The question of who sprinkled arsenic in the sugar bowl is pretty easily answered, but don’t be fooled—that apparent mystery is just a diversionary tactic to let more frightening revelations approach unnoticed. Even if horror isn’t your genre of choice, as Halloween approaches, Shirley Jackson’s novels are worth a try. – Andrew R. ’17

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (review by Anika B. ’18)

We Were LiarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars follows a member of the distinguished Sinclair family, Cadence Sinclair Eastman, who is recovering from a brain injury she received in an accident that she cannot remember. As she recalls more about the accident, she begins to question her family’s ideals and develops her own identity. For me, the strongest element of this novel was the addition of various stories about a king and his three daughters being told in parallel to the main plotline. These short stories created an interesting structure and served as perfect transitions between sections. However, besides the protagonist, most characters were very black-and-white, and lacked the dynamic personalities needed for an effective story. Cadence remembers the majority of the details involving her accident quite suddenly towards the end of the book. Spreading out the realizations and starting them earlier in the book might have resulted in a stronger, more engaging novel. Most fans of this book believe the ending to be stunning, but I found it incredibly disappointing, as it seemed to contradict much of what had occurred earlier. Overall, the book had an impressive structure, but the one-dimensional characters and ending diminished its overall efficacy.

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Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (review by Tiffany Z. ’17)

Pale FirePale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Russian-American writer Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, Pale Fire, consists of an eponymous poem written by a fictional American poet, John Shade, and the annotations to that poem, written by the enigmatic Zemblan professor, Charles Kinbote. Fear not, however, that this work will be didactic or esoteric: Kinbote takes advantage of the commentary section in which he is supposed to elucidate aspects of Shade’s poem (a quiet introspection on the poet’s life) to tell his own adventure story of an assassin’s tenacious pursuit of an overthrown king. His thrilling tale, placed in the middle of a placid text, jars at first. But as Kinbote’s story picks up pace–in stark contrast to the mellow, unhurried rhymes of Shade’s poem–little details in both narratives begin to click together, and in the book’s last pages the two narratives coalesce in a bizarrely thrilling rush. I heartily commend Nabokov not just for the technical feat of composing a 999-line poem and “discarded” drafts in a fictional writing style, but also for whisking us on a maddening journey that, hours later, made me think. I only suggest that readers have a dictionary open while reading this.

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Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta (review by Catherine H. ’17)

Those Who Wish Me DeadThose Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jace Wilson is fourteen when he sees two professional killers murder a man in front of his eyes. He is then put into a wilderness survival program for teenagers deep in the mountains of Montana in an effort to lose the trail of the killers. There, he must try to live as Connor Reynolds while the police try to track down the killers. When he realizes that the killers have come to him, he must try to escape without letting anyone else get hurt trying to protect him. Each character in this book has such a unique and well-written personality and story that I couldn’t help but like every single one of them, even the two murderers. Michael Koryta successfully unravels this story, allowing the reader to slowly become aware of important facts as the story progresses, and even in the end there are more exciting surprises. I thought this was a thrilling book and I highly recommend it for anyone to read.

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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (review by Andrew R. ’17)

The Haunting of Hill House The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No one who’s read Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” is likely to forget it anytime soon: even sixty-five years after its explosive debut, the narrative of sinister small-town ritualism retains an impressive staying power that makes it as jarring to modern readers as it was to its original audiences. Shirley Jackson draws on the same arsenal of subtly suspenseful plot devices in her 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House, in which the scarred and unstable Eleanor Vance joins a research party to live in a crumbling Victorian mansion for the summer. Part Edgar Allen Poe and part Henry James, this psychological ghost story isn’t quite a horror novel, at least not in the Stephen King sense; its terror, as in “The Lottery,” is so understated that the full force of the book’s scariest scenes isn’t likely to manifest itself until days after you’ve read them. (From what I’ve heard, Jackson’s last novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, ramps up this creepiness to an even more intense and chilling pitch.) For a haunted-house story, this novel is very strong, and rates only one notch below “The Lottery” in its quality and spine-tingling effect.

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2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke (review by Connie M. ’17)

2001: A Space Odyssey (Space Odyssey, #1)2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

2001: A Space Odyssey depicts the first encounters of humankind with alien intelligence. This story has become one of the most well known sci-fi tales and is written by one of the greats. The story begins as a series of seemingly unconnected accounts, but gathers speed by the time we reach the halfway point. The second half of the novel blazes by in a suspense-filled whirlwind. The last 30 pages of the book holds perhaps as much action as the rest of the book put together, culminating in a thought-provoking and poetic ending. Clarke writes without extravagant vocabulary yet manages to vividly depict the beauty of space. While 2001 has little humor and no romance and thus may not appeal to everyone, it is a must read for any true science fiction lover and contains much food for thought for any reader. – Connie M. ’17

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