And another book selection request...
April 19, 2013 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Looking for gripping, scary page turners, fiction or non-fiction, that DO NOT contain a supernatural element.

Looking for gripping, scary page turners, fiction or non-fiction, that DO NOT contain a supernatural element such as this recent previous question. For example, I didn't like the plot element of an "unknown entity" in Tana French's In the Woods.

I've looked through several scary book requests here, but many seem to want the supernatural element. I like scary books that could seem more possible, believable.

Thanks for the suggestions!
posted by foxhat10 to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
The Hot Zone is the scariest book I ever read.
posted by Etrigan at 8:06 AM on April 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

John E. Douglas was one of the first guys in FBI to really profile serial killers and his books cover a lot of the crimes he investigated in gory/creepy detail. Some of the stuff in books like this have kept me awake on more than one occasion...
posted by lovableiago at 8:23 AM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Hot Zone is indeed very scary. I came in to suggest The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris. Better than the very good movie. Also, there's a true-crime book called Perfect Victim that I think is very scary because of the "true" part.
posted by scratch at 8:24 AM on April 19, 2013

The Day of the Jackal
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:26 AM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Demon in the Freezer
posted by jbickers at 8:34 AM on April 19, 2013

The Devil in the White City
posted by inturnaround at 8:34 AM on April 19, 2013

Killing Me Softly by Nicci French. In fact, all the Nicci French books (written by a husband & wife) are gripping and unputdownable.
posted by essexjan at 8:35 AM on April 19, 2013

All of the original four Bachman Books by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman). They're amazing, and no supernatural elements. At least two of them would never get published today.
posted by Jairus at 8:38 AM on April 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Donna Tartt's The Little Friend It's most commonly described as a Nancy Drew mystery for adults. I found it un put down able.
posted by The Whelk at 8:39 AM on April 19, 2013

Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti: Delightfully nihilistic existential horror.
posted by bouvin at 8:43 AM on April 19, 2013

Nine Minutes, Twenty Seconds: A True Story of Tragedy and Triumph by Gary Pomerantz. An exceptionally personal look at a commuter plane crash through the eyes of all of those on board. It is gripping, scary, and very emotional. The first time I read it, I lost most of a night's sleep because I couldn't stop reading, and once finished I couldn't stop thinking about what I had just read.
posted by 1367 at 8:48 AM on April 19, 2013

To add an additional item to the John Douglas suggestion:

The Cases That Haunt Us is a review of infamous unsolved murders (including Jack the Ripper, the Borden murders, the Lindberg kidnapping, Zodiac murders, and the JonBenet Ramsey murder). An evaluation of the evidence from the perspective of a profiler puts several of these cases in a different light from the public perception.
posted by 1367 at 8:56 AM on April 19, 2013

For novels that aren't explicitly horror but are pretty creepy/scary: The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. Most of Jim Thompson's novels, especially The Killer Inside Me and Pop. 1280.

Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door (fiction, but based on a true story) is one of the most compelling, but disturbing novels I've ever read.

I'm also partial to the Scottish author Carol Anne Davis, who has four novels -- Shrouded, Safe as Houses, Kiss It Away and Noise Abatement, that I'd call "middle-class noir" that edges into psychological horror.

A horror anthology series that mostly avoids supernatural elements and horror cliches is the Borderlands series edited by Thomas and Elizabeth Monteleone.

George Bataille's The Story of the Eye.

Oh, and Alan Moore's graphic novel From Hell, about Jack the Ripper.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:25 AM on April 19, 2013

Race Traitor by Elisa Hategan is about a Romanian American girl who gets recruited into a white supremacist group and then goes under cover for the state in order to get enough evidence to bring them down.
posted by spunweb at 10:11 AM on April 19, 2013

Birdman by Mo Hayder. First rate, but very dark.
posted by TheHollowSeasThatRoar at 10:18 AM on April 19, 2013

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. Personal account of the disaster on Everest.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:52 AM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Goth by Otsuichi is a little uneven in spots (the manga adaptation is smoother) but still a psychological horror novel I love. Two murder-obsessed teens investigate serial killings--as fans, not for justice--and between them power-play the roles of damsel/"final girl" & rescuer/murderer as folie à deux flirtation. No supernatural elements whatsoever.

Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand very successfully blurs the super/natural line by making "supernatural stuff going on" the less terrifying option than "nope, all very real, or you are hallucinating from drug paranoia, or both!" One of the scariest books I've read.

And I see from Hand's website that there's now a sequel out, which I am buying right fucking now.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:52 AM on April 19, 2013

None of Tana French's other books have that element. I love them all.
posted by librarina at 11:49 AM on April 19, 2013

While I recommend From Hell, it does have supernatural elements (granted they're all in one character's head but he believes them to be real.)
posted by The Whelk at 11:58 AM on April 19, 2013

I'm a big fand of Scott Sigler's Infected, Contagious, and Ancestor. They are science fiction\horror based though, so you may or may not count that as supernatural.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:44 PM on April 19, 2013

I should mention, that the science part of the science fiction is better than average.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:49 PM on April 19, 2013

Stephen King's Misery
posted by raccoon409 at 4:16 PM on April 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Val McDermid and Minette Walters tend to write very gripping thrillers. I find McDermid's a bit too gory now, but they aren't even remotely supernatural. Technically they are crime fiction but I find them pretty scary!
posted by Athanassiel at 9:05 PM on April 20, 2013

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