Recommend some ghostly mystery books, please!
July 2, 2008 1:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for supernatural mysteries!

I've seen a lot of Asian movies with an excellent, tried and true plot: a person finds out that they, or their home, is being haunted. They set out to investigate why, and the mystery gradually unfolds until it all comes to make sense at the end.

They tend to be billed as horrors, but they aren't scary (or trying to be), just mysterious. Perhaps creepy, but the point of the story is the mystery, not the scare.

I love these kinds of movies, and I remember there were loads of books like this when I was a pre-teen, in the "young adult" section. Unfortunately, I haven't really found any for adult readers.

When I do find them, it turns out that it was just a hoax by some bad guy and there was no supernatural influence at all. That makes me want to throw the book at the bastard author.

Can anyone recommend some books that have such a plot?
posted by giggleknickers to Society & Culture (24 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.
posted by gyusan at 2:11 PM on July 2, 2008

Hmmm, well Beloved probably qualifies, as would Richard Adams' The Girl in a Swing.
posted by elendil71 at 2:13 PM on July 2, 2008

Best answer: Floating Dragon by Peter Straub is about a haunted town. It has the great line "I believe in old houses, and I believe in the values they represent." Other good ghost stories by Straub include Julia, Ghost Story, The Throat, Mr. X, and Lost Boy Lost Girl. Straub is a master of the modern gothic, and I highly recommend all his novels from Julia on.

In the same vein (heh heh), Stephen King's Salem's Lot and The Shining are about haunted people tied to their surroundings. Most of his later work becomes explicit horror instead of ghost stories, but those two are up there with the best of them.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:14 PM on July 2, 2008

Best answer: Older books by Barbara Michaels might fit.
posted by dilettante at 2:19 PM on July 2, 2008

Response by poster: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was about a ghost? I have to confess, I was completely confused throughout that whole book, but I completely neglected to notice anything about a ghost.
posted by giggleknickers at 2:21 PM on July 2, 2008

Heh, well, you asked for "supernatural mysteries" ... it was the first thing that popped into my head.
posted by gyusan at 2:25 PM on July 2, 2008

Stephen King.

Avoid Scooby-Doo.
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:36 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Lunar Park by Brett Easton Ellis was awesome! It may help to already have read and enjoyed American Psycho however. . . (which was not-supernatural, yet completely great as well).

Lunar Park isn't really like American Psycho either. . . if the gore turned you off.
posted by my homunculus is drowning at 2:39 PM on July 2, 2008

There are various George C. Chesbro novels that fit this bill, in particular the "Mongo the Magnificient" series. The influence might be supernatural, psychic, science fiction, or pure mundane existence - you never know ahead of time.

Charles Grant is doing a few of these, but I am rather hit-or-miss with these.

Early Anita Blake novels by Laurell K. Hamilton. Maybe the first three or four. After that, it's not so much about mystery as, well ... soft, supernatural, glowing porn.
posted by adipocere at 2:42 PM on July 2, 2008

More that I recall.... The Others is (loosely) based on Henry James' novel The Turn of the Screw. Never read it but it might also fit.

And of course there is also Hawthorne's "The House of Seven Gables".
posted by elendil71 at 2:43 PM on July 2, 2008

Best answer: I found a group called the Muse Four, who specialize in horror, suspense, and thriller type stuff, and have a few books that might be interesting to you, like A House Divided by Deborah LeBlanc, The Taken by Sarah Pinborough, and The Price by Alexandra Sokoloff. Off the beaten path, but worth a look.
posted by blue andrea at 2:53 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Showing my age, but the books of Anya Seton often have a supernatural aspect and are well-written and engaging. "Green Darkness" concerns reincarnation and moves back and forth between centuries. She also wrote many historical novels set in different eras, from Celtic Pagan Britain , the time of King Arthur, various medieval periods and some set in the USA in colonial and 19th century periods. I read her books as a teen in the 60s and have reread some as an adult, and they really do hold up. Atmospheric, well-researched and skillfully written, some of it quite beautiful.

In a whole other vein, for supernatural but silly and sometimes vulgar, but very funny, the writings of Christopher Moore are fun. Vampires, monsters, improbable plots well done and amusing.

Happy reading!

Hexatron's Wife
posted by hexatron at 3:46 PM on July 2, 2008

House of Leaves is also exceedingly fun, and doesn't require any previous reading.
posted by my homunculus is drowning at 4:11 PM on July 2, 2008

What kind of mother would The Exorcist's Regan have become?

Justin Evans' brilliant new A Good and Happy Child is terrifying not so much in its imagery or its prose (which are elegant, creepy, and effective), but because we know its narrator - a new father irrationally afraid of handling his infant son - will not be understood or believed as he remembers and writes out for us (and his therapist) the events of his own childhood.

I don't want to say more about it, but it's exactly what you're looking for - and just out in paperback!
posted by nicwolff at 4:42 PM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Try reading some Phil Rickman: his Merrily Watkins series has a female priest training as an exorcist and the books are all murder/supernatural thrillers. There's some mother/daughter angst and a little bit of romance but other than that, it's all about hauntings of people and places, and all the little things that go bump in the night. Light stuff but well written.
posted by ninazer0 at 5:14 PM on July 2, 2008

Response by poster: There were ghosts in House of Leaves, too? Am I missing all the ghosts in the books I read or something?
posted by giggleknickers at 5:29 PM on July 2, 2008

Response by poster: Also, House of Leaves made sense in the end? Am I just a dummy for not getting it?
posted by giggleknickers at 5:30 PM on July 2, 2008

Sorry, thought you were speaking in general terms of genre. . . not relating a reading wish based on a ghost fetish. My mistake.

And to the second question. . . I certainly didn't find House of Leaves to be terribly difficult.

If you didn't like it, well, to each their own. But others certainly did.
posted by my homunculus is drowning at 7:39 PM on July 2, 2008

Sounds like you want Scooby Doo for adults or something.. I'm not quite catching it. Maybe list a few of the "asian" movies you're speaking of?

A pretty solid ghost story for adults was Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest. There really were ghosts though.
posted by huxley at 8:24 PM on July 2, 2008

Response by poster: No worries, I appreciate all the recommendations. I loved House of Leaves, but I didn't think it had an explanation in the end. I had thought that was the point. Would you mind explaining it to me, because I didn't get it?
posted by giggleknickers at 5:17 AM on July 3, 2008

Stephen King relatively recently published a relevant Bachman book, Blaze. Actually Duma Key would fit in here, too. Both of them, though published recently, are above the crap-level he had been publishing over the last years (I say this as a long-time reader).

And no, House of Leaves didn't really make all that much sense. Honestly, I enjoyed The Whalestoe Letters a lot more. Though written as a companion, they're spooky enough in their own stand-alone way once you have the background of HoL.
posted by whatzit at 5:19 AM on July 3, 2008

Response by poster: Scooby Doo is bad, bad, bad! It always turns out to be somebody faking a haunting. People who write stories with that kind of ending don't deserve to be allowed to write stories. :P

Asian movies I'm speaking of:
Tale of Two Sisters
The Wishing Stairs
Dead Friend
The Ring (which was actually scary, but watching the mystery unfold was the fun part for me)

Seems that the thread is dead already, though. I hope I get even more recommendations, since I'm an avid reader and some of those books don't look quite my style. Thanks for everything that was recommended, everybody!
posted by giggleknickers at 7:58 AM on July 3, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, and Dead Friend. I liked that one.
posted by giggleknickers at 8:01 AM on July 3, 2008

Also, House of Leaves made sense in the end? Am I just a dummy for not getting it?

Pretty much a shaggy dog story, I'm afraid.
posted by Artw at 3:47 PM on July 8, 2008

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