Butler students recommend seven thriller, mystery and horror books to read this Halloween season. Photo by Elle Rotter.
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“Dawg-Eared” is a book review column that covers books that Bulldogs have requested including popular series, books that have been adapted for the screen and niche books that keep Dawgs turning the pages.
Those who do not get excited about Halloween can still get excited about one thing: spooky reads. With Oct. 31 just a few weeks away, readers begin to think about what books to read — or reread — this season. Here is a list of seven thrillers, mysteries and horror books recommended by Butler students to read before Halloween is over.
Award-winning author Rebecca Makkai released this riveting investigation in February 2023. Bodie Kane is a popular podcaster who feels compelled to solve the murder of her former roommate, Thalia Keith. Although Omar Evans, the schools athletic trainer, has already been arrested for her murder, Bodie is convinced that his conviction will not hold in court. With obvious holes in the case, Bodie starts to see that their speedy conviction of Omar led to the police overlooking lots of evidence and other suspects.
One unique aspect of this book that Matt Heitkamp, a junior choral music education major, admires is the format in which Makkai writes. As the suspects in this book get disproved as the murderer, Makkai writes a chapter from that character’s perspective as if they were the killer.
“This book rocked my world,” Heitkamp said. “It is more than just a good story, it’s a really good read with a crazy ending, but she is a literary author [and she] talks a lot about men in power, the culture of murder and the culture of podcasts.”
Six friends take a spring break trip; only five survive. On their way to a peaceful beach vacation their RV breaks down. With no cell service and no GPS, the group realizes they are in trouble when the sun goes down and no one has found them in their secluded location. However, slowly the group comes to realize the flat tires on the RV weren’t made by mistake, but in fact, someone is targeting them. With eight hours until daylight, buried secrets are forced to light under strange circumstances.
After reading “A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder” series by Holly Jackson, Anna Grace Muckerheide, a first-year youth and community development major, ventured to find more books by Holly Jackson which led her to “Five Survive”.
“I thought the setting was going to be boring since it’s only in one place, but it’s very interesting,” Muckerheide said. “And a little hint of YA romance is always fun. It is one of those books that when people [ask me for] a good thriller I think of “Five Survive” because I remember it so vividly. I started and finished it in the same sitting. I just sat on my Kindle and went through it.”
Colleen Hoover’s “Verity” is shockingly different from the romance novels she typically writes. The psychological thriller is about an author, an accident and a manuscript. After the popular author Verity Crawford is paralyzed in an accident, her husband hires aspiring author Lowen Ashleigh to finish the book that Verity had started. Once Lowen has access to all of Verity’s work and notes, she discovers a manuscript for Verity’s autobiography. While Lowen battles over whether or not to read this manuscript, weird things start to happen in the house that Lowen now shares with Verity.
Muckerheide complimented the pacing of the book and said she couldn’t put it down. She decided to pick up the book after reading other books by Colleen Hoover, but did not receive the loving romance she expected. Instead, she was thrown through a heart-racing thriller that is realistic enough to keep her up at night.
“It was really trippy, and it messed with my mind,” Muckerheide said. “It was one of those books where you put it down and you can’t start another book for a couple of days. [It made me feel] warped and broken, and I love that in a book. I also liked this book so much that reading any other book after is painful because no thriller grabs you as much as this does. I feel like everyone is [asking] ‘What’s another book like ‘Verity’’, but there is no other book like ‘Verity’. There is nothing else.”
This twist on a classic slasher story follows high school protagonist Jade who is a huge slasher fan. Author Stephen Graham Jones is a Blackfeet Native American author who makes an effort to bring minority groups, like Native American characters, into his books.
Ollie Sikes, a junior English and theatre double major, mentioned how Jade’s perspective as a Native American character adds a new perspective to the concept of the most basic slasher novel.
“Final girls are supposed to be super well-liked and popular, and Jade is supposed to embody the exact opposite of that,” Sikes said. “[Jade] has this revelation that circles back to her trauma. It is really ultimately about Jade and her inner healing … Her character is just fantastic. Overall she is meant to be an outcast, and she has an attitude but we end up liking her anyway.”
This psychological horror is written as a work of epistolary metafiction that focuses on the “Navidson Record”, a fictional documentary. With a lot of twists and turns, and the help of an unreliable narrator, readers will be kept guessing until the final pages. At some points, readers have to flip the book upside down or in a circle in order to read it.
Senior English major Ashleigh Michaels said that the typography keeps the reader’s attention and interest in the book but also makes it harder to follow.
“I have never met a horror fan that did not love this book,” Michaels said. “It’s very trippy. You never quite know what’s going on. You think you do but then maybe you don’t.”
Ten strangers find themselves stranded on Soldier Island with their host nowhere to be found. When one of the guests is found dead, the remaining guests realize that there is a murderer amongst them. As the night goes on, more and more of the guests end up dead as the surviving members of the trip struggle to solve the mystery.
Heitkamp said that this classic mystery novel is one of his all-time favorite books.
“‘And Then There Were None’ by Agatha Christie [is in my top four] because people keep dying, and it is so good and so suspenseful,” Heitkamp said. “What I really loved about it was that it kept you guessing. It was a pure mystery novel, people kept getting killed left and right. She is just playing with you, and it is so fun.”
New York Times writer Laura Miller claims that this may be Stephen King’s scariest novel. Children from across the world are being abducted because they all have one thing in common — special powers. Luke Ellis, like the other kids who have been kidnapped and taken to The Institute, will be put through supernatural tests. Institute director Mrs. Sigsby then tries to extract their supernatural powers.
When talking about Stephen King’s books, Heitkamp often recommends “The Institute” because not as many people have read it but it is one of his favorite horror/thriller novels.
“That book is not for the faint of heart,” Heitkamp said. “But it is so good, and I just felt enthralled by the characters.”
All in all, this is just a very small list of the mystery, thriller and horror books that are waiting patiently to be read.