The Best Mysteries in Spooky Castles
By Tamara BerryOctober 25, 2018
Tamara Berry, author of Seances are for Suckers gets in the Halloween spirit with her five favorite literary spooky castles!
When it comes to a good mystery, the setting is everything. True, people can be murdered anywhere and, yes, most crimes probably get solved in the forensics lab, but that’s not the stuff that makes the spine tingle and the flesh creep. When I’m settling down for a truly terrorizing tale of intrigue, I tend to veer toward stories that make the setting a character of its own.
And if that character is a castle? Oh, yeah. I’m in.
There’s something about a spooky castle that adds an extra element to any mystery. It’s not just the size and construction of them, which make just about anything possible when it comes to architectural design. It’s not the dim lighting or poor heating, either, although those certainly help set the mood. What really makes a castle stand out is how much history has taken place inside its walls. Like a heroine with a long, tortured past or a hero overcoming great obstacles, a castle has its own story to tell. In the right book, that story is as mysterious and twisted as anything the human characters have to offer.
The time of year is perfect to settle down in front of the fire with a cup of something warm and a book that will keep you up all night…and make you grateful for the comforts and ambiance of modern construction.
Mysteries of Udolpho —Ann Radcliffe
No trip through literary history is complete without a stop at Ann Radcliffe’s quintessential Gothic mystery—and not just because this book’s castle gets a titular role. Combining suspense, mystery, horror, and romance, this book takes the idea of a haunted castle and turns it up to the next level.
Nine Coaches Waiting — Mary Stewart
Mary Stewart is a must-read for anyone who loves mystery, romance, and great characters. Although all of her books use setting in incredible ways, this one has the best castle. It’s remote. It’s French. It contains secrets. And most importantly—it’s ownership and all the wealth that comes with it is at risk.
Old Lover’s Ghost — Joan Smith
For a book about a mysterious castle that’s a little on the lighter side, Joan Smith’s Old Lover’s Ghost is a fast-paced and entertaining read. Set in Regency England, the heroine of this tale follows her father to haunted estates to lay ghosts to rest for the gentry. If you love the origins of spiritualism (not to mention the tricks that went into making it appear real), this is a great way to enjoy it.
Rebecca — Daphe du Maurier
Although Manderley (the estate that sets the scene for this Gothic mystery) isn’t a castle in the technical sense of the word, it’s impossible to make a list of mysteries that use a house as a character without including this one. Like most of the other castles on this list, Daphne du Maurier’s Manderley is remote and full of secrets—the two perfect qualities for any mysterious setting.
The Haunting of Hill House — Shirley Jackson
More horror than mystery, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House accomplishes the impossible—making a castle not just a character, but the villain of the story. I recommend you read this one with the lights on and in a house that’s never given you a reason to fear it.
One of the things that all of the books on this list have in common is that the mysteries of the castles and mansions that appear in them are never fully explained. As a reader, you’re left wondering exactly what kind of power each of the castles holds. Are they haunted? Are they a portal to another world? Or are they just suffering from the deeds and actions of the humans who inhabit them?
Some mysteries, I guess, are never meant to be solved.