Six Spine-tingling Titles

Why do we get such a thrill out of being frightened? And why would a generally considered 'pleasant' pastime like reading include so many genres dedicated to creeping us out? Crime, Horror, Thriller, Suspense — whatever your darker reading 'pleasure', there are stories to make your skin crawl, your spine tingle and your heart beat a little faster.

Rachel Feltman writes for the Washington Post: "When our bodies are primed for danger — which is the physical state in which fear puts us — we achieve a weird kind of high...A hormone called epinephrine (which you probably know as adrenaline) is released to trigger these superpowers, and it can wind your body up so tightly for action that it makes you shake in your boots." So for all the adrenaline junkies out there, who marvel at the macarbe and delight in the darkness, we've put together a list of six of our somewhat spookier titles to get your nerves jangling just in time for Halloween...

See What I Have DoneSee What I Have Done

Sarah Schmidt

Fiction, 2017

In a few words

"Lizzie Borden took an axe,
And gave her mother forty whacks,
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one."

We've all heard of the notorious Lizzie, but what really happened in the Borden household on 4 August 1892? There are plenty of others who were part of the story: Lizzie's sister Emma, Bridget the maid, Uncle John...and someone who knows more than they are letting on.

A vivid reimagining of the events around the famous unsolved Massachusetts crime, this book is gritty and compelling as it exposes this dysfunctional family to the light of day.

Now a motion picture, Lizzie, starring Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart. According to The Guardian, "the house where the killings took place is now a B&B-cum-museum, with the most requested room the one where Abby was murdered. Tours run every hour; free for children six and under."

Login to add this title to your book list and leave a review.

The Axeman's Jazzthe-axemans-jazz

Ray Celestin

Fiction, 2014

In a few words

In the sultry Big Easy, with the music soaring, and the body count rising, Detective Lieutenant Michael Talbot is struggling to identify a killer, the jazz-loving 'axeman'. But he is not alone in his pursuit of the suspect — disgraced former detective Luca d'Andrea and an ambitious secretary from the Pinkerton Detective Agency, Ida Davis, are also hot on the trail.

Based on true events from 1919, this is a riveting story of pre-prohibition New Orleans, complete with the mafia, a trumpet toting Louis Armstrong and more.

What our groups say

"A wonderfully rich, dense and intelligent story with colourful characters (including New Orleans, the city) and plenty of plot forks that kept our group busy discussing it for hours. One of our favourites, and converted a few people to crime fiction too!" (LOWER 006)

"Everyone liked this book but to varying degrees. Cleverly constructed and well-written, it was engaging and intriguing, if gruesome. We liked what we learned was the 'Rashomon effect' of investigation, and we felt all three detectives offered a credible line of thought and approach to solving the shocking murders. The characters were well-drawn, and we felt the author's linking of fact with fiction was very deft. One of the stars of the show was New Orleans itself, and another quirky plus was the inclusion of Louis Armstrong in the story." (TAUR 016)

Into the Darkest Cornerinto-the-darkest-corner

Elizabeth Haynes

Fiction, 2012

In a few words

When something seems too good to be true, then it usually is. In this case, the 'something' is Lee who, on first acquaintance, is a charismatic and appealing man. Catherine certainly thinks so, but finds out to her detriment the stark difference between his public and private faces.

A challenging thriller that considers the horrors of abusive relationships. This is compelling reading at its best, but does include violence and abusive sexual content.

What our groups say

"Words used to describe this book were: gripping, page-turner, compelling, couldn't put it down — even though the story is grim, brutal and stressful to read." (NELS 020)

"A bit scary for some — a book to be read in daylight! Fascinating portrayal of someone recovering from a traumatic episode in their life." (CHCH 229)

"A great read, gripping and interesting. Kept you guessing. A little full on at the very beginning which put some of us off, but with encouragement, those who read on enjoyed it." (MOTU 004)

I Am Pilgrimi-am-pilgrim

Terry Hayes

Fiction, 2013

In a few words

Faced with the possibility of a homeland terrorist threat, a US spy (codename: Pilgrim) is hauled back from retirement to track down the suspected terrorist and prevent full scale calamity. From a public beheading in Mecca to a trail of murder encompassing New York, the Hindu Kush and Turkey, this is a riveting story with exotic settings and populated with well-developed characters.

Referencing real world events and maintaining nail biting tension as the day of reckoning approaches, this is a complex and shockingly credible thriller.

What our groups say

"Members who read this book were totally engrossed by it. Some members could not accommodate the violence which was an essential aspect of this tale of international terrorism, and failed to persevere long enough to be caught up in it! This was a pity, as it is a finely crafted and compelling insight into the minds of terrorist activists and the beliefs and emotions that drive them. The ability of the author, in this first novel, to allow us as readers, to see two "heroes" and to be able to understand and even sympathise with them, is impressive. The writing is excellent."(WHITBY 005)

"A well-written thriller and an unexpected hit with the group, who usually have divided opinions. Also a surprisingly good book for discussion, particularly on the structure of thrillers and the techniques used to keep the reader hooked — which this book certainly did." (CHCH 299)

The Cleanerthe-cleaner

Paul Cleave

Fiction NZ, 2006

In a few words

Joe is in control of everything in his simple life, including both his day job at the police department and his 'night work'. He is not bothered by news reports of the Christchurch Carver, who, they say, has murdered seven women; for Joe knows the Carver only killed six. Joe knows that for a fact, and he is going to find the copy-cat killer. He is going to punish him for the one murder, then frame him for the other six.

What our groups say

"This story was enjoyed by all, especially those that like a good crime/thriller. It was a bonus that it was a New Zealand book, with references to Christchurch drawing discussion." (NELS 064)

"For most this book was a different experience. Very well written with great control of the material, and an interesting study of a serial killer's mind." (HAMIL 003)

"A genre new to some of us and we surprised ourselves how much we enjoyed it. More spooky for those familiar with Christchurch." (NELS 027)


Peter FitzSimons

Fiction, 2011

In a few words

On the 1629 maiden voyage by the Dutch East India Company's flagship Batavia, from Amsterdam to Jakarta (Batavia), disaster strikes. Not only is the ship wrecked on the Abrolhos Islands off the west coast of Australia, but worse is to follow: murder, mayhem and depravity.

A brutal but fascinating account, this story recreates this dramatic and horrific episode in Australia's past in a gripping blend of fact and fiction. Not for the faint hearted.

What our groups say

"Very much a 'Lord of the Flies' for older males! Some found the graphic descriptions of the violence too much. An amazing tale of survival but also disturbing in what it suggests about how people can behave when social controls are lacking." (WELL 178)

"People found it very interesting but a bit violent. Most were glad they had read it." (DUNED 033)

"An amazing story of savagery, heroism and bravery. Historically accurate account of how evil can flourish and how heroism and goodness wins the day. A challenging read." (DOUBT 002)

Back to All Posts
The Book Discussion 
Scheme is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations in Aotearoa New Zealand
BDS is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations