6 Supernatural Suspense Novels Not for the Faint of Heart

Join Simone St. James, author of The Sun Down Motel, for a list of some of the best supernatural suspense novels, by authors ranging from Shirley Jackson to Paul Tremblay.

BONUS: Comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James.

The supernatural thriller, to me, has always been a small sliver of a genre, one that takes a careful hand. Some books tip into straight horror, while others bury their scary happenings in innuendo and the feeling that something bad—really bad—is going to happen. Some read like mysteries, while others are psychological portraits of haunted characters. It isn’t a genre that cuts a wide swath, but those of us who love it like to sniff them out, and when we find a great one, we’re overjoyed.


The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

What if you didn’t move into a haunted house—what if you built one instead? The Invited is about a couple who decide to build their own house in the backwoods of Vermont, but the place they build has a history of its own. It’s the best kind of creepy slow burn, where the scares build slowly and you are buried under a blanket of constant dread. Even if you can bear to put it down, you’ll be thinking about it and worrying until you pick it up again. I loved it.


Ammie, Come Home by Barbara Michaels

This is a classic first published in 1968, and it still holds up as great fun today. The haunting is the result of a séance gone wrong (the first rule of being a character in a supernatural thriller: never, ever do a séance because they never end well). To find the source of the malevolent entity, the characters in the pre-internet age have to do a lot of leg work and reading of old newspapers. Barbara Michaels was one of the masters of the gothic genre—just one of the genres she was master of—and taking a trip into Ammie, Come Home is still a treat.


The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

“What just happened?” That’s the question this book leaves you with after sucking you in and vaguely terrifying you without mercy. What exactly is happening in Hundreds Hall in postwar England? What happened in the past? Are you sure you saw what you thought you saw? Aside from Sarah Waters’ incredible writing, what the ghost story aficionado in me loves about this book is its deeply weird, yet deeply scary feel. It takes a true master to pull off a ghost story that doesn’t get overexplained yet is still effective. I have my own idea of what exactly happened, but maybe it’s not the right one. I’ll never know.


I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Three people try to renovate a remote house in Iceland (lesson number two for supernatural thriller characters: Never renovate anything) and something unseen wants them to leave. Meanwhile, across the water, a disappearance, a chilling suicide, and an incident at a school are all connected in ways we don’t understand. When it comes together, the resolution will leave you unnerved and scared as heck. At least, that’s what it did to me. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Even though it only came out in 2015, a lot of readers see this as a modern classic. Once you’re inside the mystery of the Barrett family, and what happened with fourteen-year-old Marjorie—psychosis, or demonic possession?—you won’t be able to stop until you get to the end. The telling is a journey, with clever twists, a reality TV show, and a back-and-forth timeline. The whole book messes with your head in the best way, and the last few pages will leave you reeling.


The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

This one is a bit of a cheat. I have long been a fan of Shirley Jackson’s classic ghost story, which is terrifying and heavy with unnamable dread. But I’m also a fan of the recent Netflix series of the same name, which is nothing like the book but is both brilliant and deeply scary. Shirley Jackson’s novel, in my mind, is the closest thing to an actual nightmare that has ever been written—the hauntings are half-understood and seem dreamlike, as when you’re drifting out of sleep and think you hear or see something that isn’t quite there. The Netflix series took the best part of that nightmare feeling and put it into a modern story about family grief and the ghosts none of us can quite leave behind. I highly recommend both of them, though they’re very different experiences.

About The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James:

Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James!

To enter, make sure you’re a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

The Sun Down Motel Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/6-supernatural-suspense-novels-not-for-the-faint-of-heart/ beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) February 13, 2020. Sweepstakes ends at 11:59 a.m. ET February 27, 2020. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10010.

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  1. John Smith

    Oh, dear, I don’t think I’d visit that motel, but it sounds like a great read!

  2. Ashley

    I’ve been hearing nothing but great things about this book!!

  3. Linda Rucker

    This book looks exciting! I can’t wait.

  4. Kimberly

    Oh, my TBR list just got longer!

  5. Anne

    The Sun Down Motel sounds intriguing, captivating and fascinating. The author is very creative and extremely talented.


    Look forward to reading!

  7. Pearl

    I would enjoy The Sun Down Motel. I have read Simone St. Jame’s books which are unique and extremely well written and descriptive.

  8. ellie

    Mysterious with atmosphere and mood. What a fabulous novel to read on a winter night.

  9. keelz23

    I must read A Head Full of Ghosts immediately!

  10. Kathleen McCarthy
  11. Jennifer Ingman

    I love thrillers of all kinds. Especially if I can’t guess the ending!

  12. Sheila Siarkiewicz

    My TBR list just got longer! I have heard great things about The Sun Down Motel and would love a chance to read and review it.

  13. Kathleen McCarthy

    Can’t wait to read this-

  14. CarolT

    I loved Ammie, Come Home.

  15. Lori P

    Creepy and compelling!

  16. Ruth Bousquet

    I’m already scared, hope the feeling never ends…lol

  17. Lauren L.

    I’m so excited for this book. I have loved all the rest of Simone St. James’ novels.

  18. Shannon

    Sounds great!

  19. Michelle Morgan

    Loved Head Full of Ghosts!!! Can’t wait to read The Sun Down Hotel.

  20. Shel

    I just added the book to my request list from the library.

    • Shel

      PS – My favorite Barbara Michaels book is Sons of the Wolf which may not be as spooky/ghostly as some of her others (like Walker in Shadows) but it just touched the right nerve in me for a suspenseful gothic romance.

  21. Alice Glover

    I would love to read The Sun Down Motel.

  22. kevin leahy

    Have read all of the authors other books, I’m sure The Sun Down Motel will be just as good.

  23. Colleen V

    I’ve read most of these and by far, I remember you is one of the creepiest books I have ever read. I love everything Simone St. James writes, she knows how to set a great gothic scene. Really looking forward to her latest!

  24. Kevin F Wilson

    This sounds fantastic, and if I don’t win, I’m buying it.

  25. Jane Schwarz

    All the book recommendations sound great, just the right amount of spooky, as is The Sun Down Motel. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy.

  26. C

    I’ve been wanting to read this. It looks like something I would definitely enjoy!

  27. Mary Kearney

    I have been wanting to read this, have been waiting for it to show up in the library. I read the Invited, it was good.

  28. Carolyn

    What a great list of books! I’ve read two of the books on the list and will definitely read the others – including The Sun Down Motel!!

  29. Teresa

    If it’s anything like The Broken Girls, then it should be a great read!

  30. Karen Mikusak

    Sounds great! Would love to win.

  31. Jennifer Graham

    My curious

  32. Jana

    This is a great list.

  33. Betty

    Wow..just added so many to read! Loved Ammie ! 💕📚🤞🏻🕵🏻👀

  34. Stephanie L Nelson

    I have been eyeing this one! Sounds great!

  35. Michele

    Sounds like a good read!

  36. Tiffany

    Looks really good!

  37. Deb Philippon

    I discovered Shirley Jackson in my teens, and she gave me a love of the genre. Wish me luck!

  38. Padmini Rao

    Would love to win a copy

  39. Jenny Collins Belk

    I’ve heard good things about this one. Would love the chance to read it. Thanks for the giveaway. I love a good thriller.

  40. Debi K

    The cover of this book looks like a 1960’s era motel. That in itself is scary enough.

  41. Riann Fletcher

    That book sounds wonderful!

    • Burma Turner

      I love scary books!

  42. Judith Kirchner

    I’ve read all of those except I Remember You. Thank you for giving me something new to find. I keep recommending A Head Full of Ghosts to people for the disturbing ending alone. I love Barbara Michaels, and my sister and I listen to her books on trips. Another favorite audiobook is The Haunting of Maddy Clare. I’m really looking forward to your new book!

  43. Jamie Rasmussen

    I really want to read The Sundown Motel.

  44. Reggie

    Thanks for the intro to Barbara Michaels, I love her Elizabeth Peters books and had no idea she ventured into supernatural thrillers. The Little Stranger is one of my favorite reads of all time. Small wonder I’ve loved everything Simone St James has written so far, we have the same reading list!

  45. Michael Carter

    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks —

  46. Misty Williams

    Thank you for the chance to win this creepy book!

  47. Joanne Mielczarski

    I enjoyed your last book and hope to win this one. I have read many great reviews about it. Congratulations on the release.

  48. Ronald L Weston

    This sounds like one fine read.

  49. Charmayne Beranek

    Sounds interesting, I don’t think I have read anything by this author yet. 🙂

  50. martin bodnar

    Thanks for the chance to win . . . …

  51. Rebecca Dowling

    I’m glad to see both the Haunting of Hill House and Ammie, Come home on your list. They have been revisited favorites of mine since I first read them as a pre-teen. I also enoyed both the old B&W movie of the Haunting and Netflix’s revision of Shirley Jackson’s tale. Now I have few more to add to my reading list this year. Thank you for that!

  52. rs2

    Yes, I’d like to read this.

  53. LeMinou

    Creepy? Chilling? Definitely my kind of book. Would love to win this! Thanks for the chance.

  54. lasvegasnv

    haven’t read these

  55. Lida Bushloper

    I don’t normally read supernatural fiction but these reviews have convinced me to try them. Lida

  56. Lynn Dansie

    Jennifer McMahon has long been one of my favorites! I don’t usually like supernatural storylines but she does so in a subtle convincing way! I’m intrigued by the others listed and enjoyed the TV special of Haunting of Hill House!!

  57. Karen Terry

    I love mystery and murder.

  58. Diana Hardt

    The book sounds really intriguing.

  59. Michele

    I loved The Broken Girls and this one sounds even better. I can’t wait to read it!

  60. Jenn Williams

    I could not read A Head Full of Ghosts at night..Tremblay had me in his clutches and I still think about the ending and life’s grim lessons.

  61. Penni Ellington

    Furiously scribbling down titles….

  62. Rhonda Stefani

    A few more to add to my list that I wasn’t aware of, I absolutely love supernatural thrillers! I actually got myself a copy of The Haunting of Hill House for Christmas to add to my library at home. Can’t wait to read The Sun Down Motel, I’ve been looking forward to it for awhile!

  63. Emily Catan

    The book sounds really intriguing! I am a big fan of horror thrillers, and have read Barbara Michaels’ thrillers. I am definitely going to check out Simone’s other horror novels!

  64. Phyllis McGuire

    The book sounds really interesting!

  65. amy mara

    sounds good

  66. Sherri

    I forgot about Barbara Michaels-thanks for this! Will look her up again…teen reading lol

  67. TCasteel

    I’ve always enjoyed novels with a supernatural twist.

  68. Rebecca Joy Mensinga

    This book sounds amazing! I love a good horror book!

  69. Sandie Herron

    I love a good suspense novel. Lots of intrigue and spooky goings on. Would love to read this book after reading so many good reviews.

  70. Saundra K. Warren

    When I was young I always had nightmares about staying in motels!

  71. vicki andrew

    reading the review made me want to listen to “Hotel California”


    The Haunting of Hill House is one of the greatest read for a dark and stormy night (sorry for the cliche). I first read it on such a night in an old creaky Victorian house in San Francisco. It’s been one of my “pick up when you need a major distraction” books ever since. I look forward to Ms St James’ new book to add to the scare canon.

  73. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  74. Susan Morris

    Ooooh!! This sounds like a really good, spooky read!

  75. Barbara Eveland

    I’m currently reading Broken Girls. Can’t wait for this one!

  76. Teresa Warner

    I’ve been hearing a lot about this one, sounds good!

  77. LuAnn Morgan

    I have been wanting to read some of these books. I read Haunting of Hill House years ago and it will always be one of my favorites.

  78. Nancy

    Sounds like a great book. I loved Ammie Come Home.

  79. Diane

    These books are right in my wheelhouse. 📚

  80. Janet Gould

    These are the best type of books of all.

  81. Helen Martin

    Sound like a great read!

  82. Charles Myers

    Sounds interesting. Love paranormal and horror and look forward to being able to read this book.

  83. Donamae

    Sounds spooky and great reading.

  84. Margaret

    Would love to read this…sounds like it’s right up my alley

  85. Janet L Johnson

    I enjoy the overview of books and the title Not for the Faint of Heart

  86. Theresa Snyder

    I am really looking forward to reading this book!!!! I love thrillers of all kinds!!!

  87. KathyNV

    Wow what a great list of supernatural books from postwar England, Iceland and Vermont to upstate New York…and the classic haunted houses to a haunted motel! Please count me in on your sweepstakes to win a copy of The Sun Down Motel! These are great winter reads for a snowy evening!

  88. Christal M

    Looks like a great read!

  89. Danielle

    Thrillers are my favorite!!!😳😍

  90. Sarah Smith

    My little sister really likes scary movies. I think she would like to read some scary books as well. Thank you for the list; I’ll use it when creating one of book suggestions for my sister.

  91. Monique Boyd

    Generally, I never remark on sites however your article is convincing to the point that I never stop myself to say something regarding it. Thanks for sharing.

  92. Readersmagnet

    Amazing collection of books, can’t wait to see more!

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