THE BEST BOOKS I’VE EVER READ
In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
One weekend can change your life forever.
Our protagonist in this story is Nora, a writer living in London. She’s been invited to a remote cottage in the woods for her childhood friend Clare’s hen party weekend, which is a bit strange considering Clare and Nora haven’t seen or spoken to each other in a decade — not since Nora left school at sixteen after her relationship with her boyfriend ended suddenly.
Nora decides to accept the invitation to the hens weekend, hoping it will allow them both to reconnect and move on from the past. But once she arrives at the cottage, Nora learns that Clare’s proffered olive branch isn’t quite as transparent as it seems, and it’s not the first surprising discovery she will make throughout the weekend.
Then something happens: something really bad, something awful. Nora’s past is about to catch up with her, and it’s way darker than she could have ever imagined.
The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse
Sanatorium. Snowstorm. Swiss Alps.
Detective Elin Warner has been invited to Le Sommet — an abandoned sanatorium turned luxury minimalist hotel perched atop one of the remotest peaks of the Swiss Alps — to celebrate her estranged brother Isaac’s engagement. She never really expected to actually go to Le Sommet, but with no reasonable excuse not to, Elin makes the trip with her boyfriend Will. Elin couldn’t have anticipated that the sheer remoteness of the hotel could have such a negative effect on her, but within hours of arriving, Elin is plagued by intense anxiety and the uneasy feeling of being watched.
It doesn’t help that her relationship with Isaac is strained because of memories that keep resurfacing around their childhood and their brother that died. Elin has so many questions for her brother Isaac, but before she can really address any of her concerns, it’s announced that a deadly snowstorm is heading their way and they must either decide to depart immediately, or stay and ride out the storm within the confines of the hotel.
It is then that they find out that Isaac’s fiancé has disappeared in the dead of the night. Elin and Will decide to stay until Lauré has been located, and she promises her brother that she will help find his fiancé — it is her expertise after all — but it’s not long after she makes this promise to Isaac that they learn another woman has gone missing from the hotel, and this is just the beginning…
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Things that go bump in the night.
In this story, our protagonist is Rowan Caine. She’s a London-based childcare worker that’s just been offered the live-in nanny job of a lifetime — working for a wealthy family at their home in the Scottish Highlands. The only issue is that this particular family has been through countless nannies over the years — to the point that the job and salary seem almost too good to be true. When Rowan meets with the matriarch of the family, she’s told that the other nannies believed Heatherbrae House to be haunted, and that’s why they fled. In fact, that’s why the most recent nanny only lasted a matter of hours before she ran away into the night.
Rowan doesn’t believe in ghosts, so is relatively unfazed upon hearing this. She just assumes the other nannies weren’t as up to the task as she is, and she shrugs it off. It’s only when she is left alone on her first night of the job with the three youngest children in the massive, eerie mansion that she begins to question whether taking this job was the best decision. Maybe it’s the remoteness of Heatherbrae House, the surveillance cameras in every room or the strange behaviour of the children — it’s only a matter of time until something awful happens…
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
The Haunting of Hill House vibes.
Maggie Holt’s father has just died. Through his final will and testament, Ewan Holt left the magnificent Baneberry Hall and its sprawling grounds to his daughter. The very same Baneberry Hall that Maggie and her parents fled from in the dead of night twenty-five years ago, never to return. The very same Baneberry Hall that inspired the infamous nonfiction novel, House of Horrors…
Maggie has no memory of the things her father claimed true in his best-selling book. In fact, she thinks of her father as a liar, and her mother his accomplice — the book did make them rich after all. But, after all these years, both of her parents have maintained that Maggie should never return to Baneberry Hall. It’s simply too dangerous for her.
Now an interior designer and decorator by trade, Maggie has given herself the task of cleaning out and restoring Baneberry Hall for sale. The money that could be made from selling such an estate is simply too good to pass up, and the things her father wrote about Baneberry Hall are a work of fiction, are they not?
But — things are still amiss in the great rooms of Baneberry Hall. In the first few days of her residency, strange things start to occur in the dead of night — things that are reminiscent of the very horrors her father wrote about all those years ago. You see, Baneberry Hall remembers. And it wants Maggie to remember, too.
The Night Shift by Alex Finlay
History repeating itself, in the worst way possible.
The story starts on New Years Eve of 1999, when a group of five teenagers are brutally attacked at the Blockbuster Video store in which they work, with only one surviving. Fifteen years later, in the exact same town, an almost-identical massacre occurs at the local ice cream parlour, again with only one of the victims making it out alive. Blockbuster final girl Ella realises that she is perhaps the only person that can help newer final girl Jesse navigate through this traumatic event, so she rushes to the aid of the teenage girl. However, Ella quickly realises that her and Jesse have more in common than their final girl status — the killer from each massacre whispered the same thing to each of them before he fled.
This is confusing, because for fifteen years it has been widely believed that Vince Whittaker — a schoolmate of the Blockbuster victims — had perpetrated the crime. Vince was arrested for the crime, but granted bail soon after on a technicality before fleeing town forever. Even his own brother has not seen him since. Does this mean Vince is back? What does this entail for Ella — who has secrets of her own from that night too?
One By One by Ruth Ware
There’s a killer out there.
Set in a luxurious, rustic chalet amidst the breathtaking French Alps, where a group of employees from the uber-trendy music app Snoop are spending a week on a work retreat. You’ve got nine Snoop team members that are all as interesting as they are different, and you’ve got the two employees of the ski chalet that have to cater to their guests every request — even when things go wrong. Which, of course, they absolutely do.
There’s an avalanche — one that almost swallows the chalet and its guests whole. But that’s not the only concern. A Snoop employee — one of the co-founders to be exact — goes missing while skiing down an off-piste slope just before the avalanche hits. It must have been a terrible accident, surely? A horrible case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? It couldn’t have anything to do with the generous buy-out offer she received and is the process of pursuing for Snoop — that her fellow co-founder is against, I might add — could it? This buy-out would be huge for Snoop, but it’s also a major point of contention between the shareholders of this multi-million dollar business.
And then, the second Snoop employee is found dead… Is somebody killing them off, one by one?
Final Girls by Riley Sager
A twist you won’t see coming.
We’re introduced to Quincy Carpenter. She lives in a beautiful apartment in New York City with her fiancé Jeff, has a successful baking blog and generally has her life together. She’s also the only survivor of the famous Pine Cottage massacre, and as such, depends heavily on her Xanax prescription to cope. What makes worse is that Quincy can’t really remember what happened that night. All she knows is she was found running through woods covered in blood to escape a man she only knows as Him.
Quincy is one of three women made famous by the media for being ‘Final Girls’ — a title given to lone female survivors of mass murders. Alongside Lisa and Sam, Quincy has spent years being hounded by the media for click-worthy stories. At this point in Quincy’s life, the media attention has died down, and she prefers it that way. Despite the best efforts of the news broadcasting companies — Lisa, Sam and Quincy have never met. That is, until Lisa is found dead in her bathtub with what appear to be self-inflicted injuries, and then Sam shows up on Quincy’s doorstep…
Unlike Quincy, Sam seems hell-bent to relive her trauma and encourages Quincy to do the same. Things start to unravel in Quincy’s life, especially when new details on Lisa’s death come to light, which make her question Sam’s intentions. Why resurface now, after Lisa has died? What does Sam really want from Quincy? And what really happened that night, all those years ago?
The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware
Cosy binge-read alert.
Hal Westaway is on the verge of losing everything. She’s beyond broke after her mother was tragically killed by a hit and run, and — in a time of vulnerability as a newly orphaned young adult — has utilised the services of a loan shark. Now, the loan shark wants his interest paid and he’s proven he doesn’t care how violent he has to be to get what he wants.
Hal earns a somewhat dishonest living through reading tarot cards from her mothers booth at the Brighton pier, and is dangerously out of options when a letter arrives at her flat informing her of a large inheritance that is due to be hers from a recently deceased woman named Mrs Westaway, who it is said in the letter is Hal’s maternal grandmother. Identical surname aside, Hal knows she doesn’t have any relation to the woman, but decides to utilise the opportunity and travel to the late Mrs Westaway’s funeral in Cornwall in the hopes that things might go her way. At this point, she truly has nothing to lose.
It’s when Hal arrives at the funeral that she starts to see there’s something wrong with this family. There are too many secrets and half-truths and pieces that just don’t add up. Will Hal make it out of there before they realise who she really is?
Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Three girls vanish while at summer camp.
When Emma was a teenager, she attended Camp Nightingale for the first time and during her stay there, her three cabin mates vanished without a trace.
Fifteen years later, Emma is an up and coming star within the New York art scene. Her paintings are layered and meaningful, but what most people don’t know is that she always paints the same thing: her three missing cabin mates — Allison, Natalie and Vivian. Emma is obsessed. When an opportunity arises to attend the newly relaunched Camp Nightingale as a counsellor, not a camper, Emma sees it as a way to find closure and move on from the trauma of the past.
Alas, it seems Camp Nightingale doesn’t want Emma to move on. She sees Vivian everywhere, and then she starts to find clues that Vivian seemingly left behind. Is Vivian haunting Emma? Will she help Emma find out what really happened that summer at Camp Nightingale?
Girls of Brackenhill by Kate Moretti
Reason #82368723 why you shouldn’t dig up the past.
Our protagonist is Hannah, who is returning to the family estate — which is a decaying castle, nonetheless — after the unexpected death of her Aunt Fae. Hannah hasn’t been back within the walls of Brackenhill Castle for seventeen years, since her older sister vanished into the darkness one night and never returned. While at Brackenhill organising her late aunt’s estate, a human bone is found within the grounds which compels Hannah to search for resolve in her sisters case.
It is only during this search that Hannah discovers her memories of her stay at Brackenhill around the time of her sister’s disappearance are full of holes. What really happened all those years ago? Can Hannah even trust her own recollection of her past?
Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
New York is in her gothic era.
Jules is nearing broke after being laid off, and she’s recently single after discovering her boyfriend in a compromising position with one of his classmates. She needs something that will get her out of the awful situation she’s in, and finding an apartment sitting opportunity in the classifieds has done just that.
Here’s the deal: Jules will get paid twelve thousand dollars for a three month apartment sitting stint at The Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most recognisable apartment buildings. One of the rules of owning an apartment in The Bartholomew is that your space cannot be vacant for more than a month at a time — it’s a bad look for such a prestigious building in the middle of New York — so the wealthy owners utilise apartment sitters to make the place look occupied. The twelve thousand dollars is more than enough to get Jules back on her feet, and all she has to do is live in a stunning twelfth floor apartment overlooking Central Park. No smoking, no parties and no partners… easy enough. She even meets another apartment sitter not long after moving in whose financial struggles seem almost identical to her own, and they quickly become friends.
But things, of course, are not always as they seem. There are whispers of girls going missing while apartment sitting in The Bartholomew, and before long, Jules’ new friend has disappeared — quite literally without a trace. The quietly wealthy residents of The Bartholomew dismiss her concerns, and the employees of the building act as though there was never a second apartment sitter to begin with… Will Jules find out the secrets of The Bartholomew before it swallows her whole, too?
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
The kind of secret worth killing for.
We’re introduced to a group of characters who were close friends at Oxford University a decade ago and have since all-but fallen out. Their annual New Years get-together seems to be the only thing keeping them in touch, and the building resentment from years of forced connection shows. None of them really like each other, and as a reader, you can understand why. Each of these characters is flawed, deceptive and horrible in their own way, so when you learn that one of them has been killed you don’t feel all that sad about it.
But the mystery — yes, this is a thrilling mystery — is which one, and why. The secrets these people hold over one another are almost as unforgiving as the desolate landscape in which they are now stuck, due to an unrelenting snow storm that rewrites history forever.
Stalker by Lars Kepler
A serial killer thriller.
The Swedish National Crime Unit receives a video showing a woman being filmed in her home. She’s doing all of the usual things adults do during evenings while at home alone, except she’s doing it with an audience she knows nothing about.
Not long after the authorities receive the tape, they are called to a crime scene where that very woman from the tape has been murdered — brutally.
And then the next tape arrives…
Verity by Colleen Hoover
What the fuck, Colleen.
Our protagonist is Lowen. She’s a struggling writer on the verge of bankruptcy, spiralling in the aftermath of losing her mother to prolonged illness. She gets the offer of a lifetime — ghostwrite the remaining books in a popular series the original author is unable to finish due to a paralysing injury. She’s able to write the books under a pseudonym so as to not effect her future as a writer, and the cheques are enough to set her up comfortably for a few years until she gets back on her feet.
Is this all too good to be true? You’ll have to read it to find out. Trust me when I say that this book is mind bending at the best of times and perspective shattering at the worst. You will not be able to put this down until you’ve finished it, and even then — it will never ever leave your mind.
The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard
It’s giving Golden State Killer.
Supermarket security guard Jim Doyle is enthralled by a newly published non-fiction book that appears on the shelves at his workplace. So enthralled, in fact, that he simply cannot put it down — to the point that his life starts falling apart because of it.
Why? Because it’s about him, of course.
Jim Doyle is The Nothing Man, a once-prolific serial killer that stalked and murdered his victims brutally in their own homes. And he’s just discovered that his only surviving victim is hunting him down, one page at a time.
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
The past always comes back to haunt you.
A woman walking her dog in the early hours of the morning stumbles across a weathered human bone in the salty waters of the reach, alongside the old Tide Mill in Salten.
Shortly after and miles away, three women living completely separate lives each receive the same text. “I need you”, it says. The sender? Kate Atagon, daughter of missing-presumed-dead Ambrose Atagon, whose disappearance almost two decades ago has led to rumour and speculation within the small coastal town. What happened to the much-adored art teacher of Salten House — the same school in which all four girls were expelled from without warning in the middle of the academic year?
All three women, now in their thirties, drop everything and immediately head to Salten, and to Kate, to deal with the ramifications of their long-before told lie — the consequences of which they thought they’d never have to deal with.