A flashier sort of supernatural novel, aimed at teenagers, is experiencing a startling revival; at the moment you can’t move for vampires and werewolves. Yet the corny “English country house with a spook” template is also being dusted off. It became respectable – and fit for the grown-ups – when Sarah Waters used a full-on array of supernatural effects in her last novel, The Little Stranger. If anything, she overdid it with her bumpings, visions, scratchings, unexplained fires and malign entities; but she also managed to pull off some splendid shocks, as well as cleverly investigating the many purposes a ghost can serve in a narrative. So what do the latest supernatural novels bring to the Hallowe’en party? In an age where viewers are inured to ever more graphic scenes of horror on film, how do you frighten with simple words on a page? I road-tested five recent examples to see if they could make me shudder: two classic English ghost stories and a sparky American take on the genre; an 18th-century chiller set in a spooky old Cambridge college; and a wainscot-free novel that colonises new territory for terror.
more from Suzi Feay at the FT here.