Ron Charles in The Washington Post:
More than a month before Halloween, the most sophisticated horror stories are already crawling out of the ground. You think you're safe over there in the primly maintained Literary Fiction section of the cemetery, peering across the rusty gate at Stephen King's “Under the Dome” (Nov. 10), Anne Rice's “Angel Time” (Oct. 27) and even a sequel to “Dracula” written by — please, no! — Bram Stoker's great-grandnephew (Oct. 13). But meanwhile your genteel old friends have already been hideously transformed: Sarah Waters leads this bone-chilling pack with a Jamesean ghost story called “The Little Stranger,” which has a good shot at winning the Booker Prize next week. Dan Chaon's “Await Your Reply” pays homage to everybody from Peter Straub to H.P. Lovecraft, and Mary Shelly's “Frankenstein” has been re-stitched by such non-horror writers as Peter Ackroyd and Laurie Sheck. In short, there's nowhere to hide this year from frighteningly smart, scary novels.
The latest to join this infernal group comes from Audrey Niffenegger, author of the phenomenally popular “Time Traveler's Wife,” which means her new one has a good chance of haunting the bestseller list, too. As naturally as she used elements of science fiction in the past, she borrows the tropes of Victorian Gothic here for a story that seems, at first, more interested in whimsy than terror. “Her Fearful Symmetry” doesn't reveal its spectral elements for more than 60 pages, and when the first ghost does make an appearance, “gaining opacity gradually,” the scene is strangely poignant and witty, like a visitation from Noël Coward's “Blithe Spirit.” But Niffenegger manages to breathe life into these dead cliches, noting at one point that the soul leaves the body “slippery like an avocado stone popping out.”