The books that have recently given us nightmares…

As we are leading up to Halloween I decided it was the prime opportunity to ask the Killer Reads team what books they have each recently read that gave them nightmares. Being a group that love thrillers, crime and anything that means you spend the next week leaving the lights on just so you can sleep, they all proceeded to pull at least one book out of their bag that had given them the heebie jeebies.

So we thought we would share them with you so that you, like us, can start preparing your scare-o-meters for the ever looming fright night…


Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

Chosen by Emad Akhtar


Blacklands is a story that unsettled me for a long time – it’s an unusually absorbing and affecting story. This is partly because Blacklands, as Belinda Bauer says in her afterword, ‘was never intended to be a crime novel’. It began as a way of exploring ‘the impact of crimes such as Avery’s, how they affect people for years, lifetimes – maybe even generations’.

I for one am glad she took this approach to building the story. The domestic and emotional fallout from the murder of Steven’s uncle Billy hangs over the novel like the thick mist on the moors. Every scene has a fragile quality to it which in itself keeps the reader on the edge of their seats.

Twelve-year-old Steven thinks digging up the vast moors, in rain or shine, to find his uncle’s buried remains will help his mother and grandma move on. What he embarks on leads to one of the most terrifying conclusions to any crime novel you’ll ever read.

It’s gripping, chilling, heart-wrenching – and will definitely give you nightmares.


Sorry by Zoran Drvenkar

Chosen by Kate Stephenson


In the opening pages, a woman is nailed to a wall. Her killer looks into her eyes and drives a sixteen inch nail through her forehead. If that isn’t enough to give you nightmares, you have a stronger constitution than I!


Blood Loss by Alex Barclay

Chosen by Sarah Hodgson


It’s every parent’s nightmare: you leave your child for a couple of hours in the care of a paid babysitter, and on your return both of them have vanished. And in Blood Loss, by Alex Barclay, the nightmare doesn’t end there. Special Agent Ren Bryce’s investigation into the disappearance of an 11-year-old girl and her teenage babysitter leads her into the murky world of the pharmaceuticals industry, where money is more important than protecting children’s health – or even their lives. Blood Loss is a thrilling and thought-provoking read that will send tingles down your spine for all sorts of reasons.


Before I Go to Sleepby S J Watson

Chosen by Helen Bolton

This is embarrassing to admit given that I’m on the Killer Reads team, but I’m actually something of a wimp. Yup, I can’t go near scary movies, let alone scary books, as they turn me into a quivering, gibbering wreck. So the book I’ve chosen, Before I Go to Sleep, falls more into the ‘suspenseful’ category which is about as scary as I can go.


I love the way that the plot slowly unwinds, and we’re in the same boat with the central character as she wakes up each morning, not being able to remember a thing about the life she’s supposed to have lead. This is a terrifying prospect for me – who do you trust? And how much of what people tell you is true? I’d run a mile at the thought of a life lead like this, and we soon learn that Christine has every right to be scared too…


Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

Chosen by Natasha Hughes


The books that have given me my most recent nightmares are the Skulduggery Pleasant series. Book 7, The Kingdom of the Wicked was published last month, and so once again I find myself utterly obsessed. I’m trying to read it slowly, and have two other books on the go so that I don’t devour it too soon – the year-long wait until the next instalment drives me crazy. My nightmare is that I fall gravely ill, and upon been rushed into hospital to have an operation, I am not given an anaesthetic. When the surgeon appears it’s the ‘creature’ Doctor Nye. For those who have read it I need say no more!


In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Chosen by Laura Deacon


The book that gives me perpetual nightmares is Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, partly for one of the most gruesome murder scenes I have ever read about and partly because by the end of the book, my sympathies actually lie with the criminals. What does that say about my psyche?! The other book giving me nightmares is sitting on the computer screen behind me. Lars Kepler’s The Fire Witness which is out June 2013. It is their most shocking book yet and left me gasping for breath with an amazing twist at the end of the book. Going through the first translation, I’m struggling to sleep soundly at night.


Cold Killing by Luke Delaney

(soon to be released)

Chosen by Katie Johnson


Cold Killing made me wake up in a sweat at least 3 times. The killer is one of the most terrifying that I have ever come across in a novel. The plot is totally brilliant and keeps you completely hooked and wanting to know what happens next, but the killer was so scary I had to put it down a couple of times and remind myself that he was not after me and that he was only a character in a book!



Other Articles

Book Trailer: City on Fire by Don Winslow

The new trailer for Don Winslow's CITY ON FIRE. Exploring classic themes of loyalty, betrayal, honour, and corruption on both sides of the law, City on Fire is a contemporary Iliad from Don Winslow. Read More


We want to hear from you! HarperFiction is proud to launch Killing It: The Killer Reads Competition for undiscovered writers. All you need is a good idea, a passion for the dark side and a dollop of determination! Launching at the start of 2021 on January  7th, this is… Read More

All the events from the crime authors you love

HarperCollins has launched BookGig, a publisher agnostic online events platform that aims to connect authors with new and existing readers following the growth in live author events. Want to meet your favourite author? Get a book signed? Hear them debate the merits of cosy crime versus serial killers? The… Read More