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Tony’s Top Ten Novels of 2022

Written by Tony Jones

2022 has been another fine year for horror fiction, so selecting ten favourites is not an easy task. However, I think those chosen are worthy of any list. Make sure you also check out my second Horror DNA best of 2022, which puts the spotlight on novellas, an anthology and a collection. Ronald Malfi and Philip Fracassi are the only two authors to have previously graced my older ‘best of’ selections, so it is great to shine a light on so many new names, two of which are debutants.

I have introduced them in alphabetical order, as it is a pointless exercise to rank such high-quality and wide-ranging fiction. I highly recommend all ten books, even if they are not to all tastes, as they touched me for all sorts of varied reasons and remained in my thoughts long after completion. I hope you have time to check a few of them out and have the opportunity of uncovering a new favourite author or back catalogue to explore.

small-coverBuy from Amazon The Butcher by Laura Kat Young

When it comes to debuts, there are few as striking and ultimately as moving as Laura Kat Young’s The Butcher. Dystopian horror novels are plentiful, and even though you will recognise many ideas from elsewhere in this tale, the portrayal of punishment via amputation is irresistibly presented. When Lady Mae turns eighteen, she inherits her mother's job as the ‘Butcher’ of the community: dismembering Settlement Five’s guilty residents as payment for their petty crimes. An index finger might be taken for spreading salacious gossip, or a foot for blasphemy, no one is exempt from punishment in a novel which will have you wincing at the severity of the punishments which are brilliantly kept off the page in the first half of the tale. Even though it is brutal, The Butcher features great compassion and Lady Mae brings colour to a drab world where pain and suspicion trump everything else. Unmissable stuff.

small-coverBuy from Amazon From Below by Darcy Coates

Considering how prolific Darby Coates is, I had never previously read her until I was totally sunk by From Below, an underwater yarn of a diving crew searching for the SS Arcadia for a TV documentary, which mysteriously disappeared sixty years earlier. Upon discovery of the wreck, the team begins to experience weird sensations and paranoia that they are not alone, with unexplained accidents beginning to occur as they swim amongst the ancient corpses. Coates ratchets up the tension deliciously slowly, with convincing flashbacks to sixty years before, as something slowly begins to wake up within the ship. As the divers uncover a graveyard of bodies, they race against the clock to obtain the required hours of documentary film and things start to go horribly wrong. This book had me on the hook from start to finish and the diving scenes, technicalities and all, are incredibly convincing in what is obviously a meticulously well-researched novel. If you suffer from claustrophobia or if water makes you twitchy avoid this brilliant novel like the plague.

You can read my full review by clicking here

small-coverBuy from Amazon A Child Alone with Strangers by Philip Fracassi

Over the last few years, Philip Fracassi has become one of my ‘go-to’ authors and whether it is novels, novellas or short stories, he never disappoints. Fracassi follows the limited-edition Boys in the Valley with a 600-page throwback to the crazy monster horror novels of the eighties. When young Henry Thorne is kidnapped and held prisoner in a remote farmhouse surrounded by miles of forest, he finds himself connecting with a strange force living in the woods. On one level, A Child Alone with Strangers reads as a kidnapping novel with a colourful collection of bad guys; on the second, it’s a monster novel which turns up the throttle and grabs you by the throat until its truly pulsating big finish. On paper, this story sounds like it should not work or is plain dumb B-movie style fun, but in the hands of an author as skilled as Fracassi, the blend of genres and characters becomes captivating and you will hang on every single word of this beautifully written story.

You can read Chris' review by clicking here.

Buy from Amazon Black Mamba by William Friend

William Friend’s debut psychological horror novel Black Mamba picked up zero attention in the horror community, but I found it to be a riveting and total twister of a read. Alfie is trying to recover from the death of his wife nine months earlier when his twin daughters tell him in the middle of the night there is a man in their room, who they call Black Mamba. This kicks off an outstanding ‘invisible friend’ style novel as Black Mamba begins to coil tightly around the girls and events get darker and darker, with the father struggling with his own internal pain and anxieties. For most of the story, the reader is unsure whether the entity is real or a psychological manifestation and things get more complex when Alfie turns to his wife’s sister (her twin) for help, who is also a psychologist. Hold onto your hearts for a dark tale of tragedy, hauntings, sexual desire and a struggling father trying to cope with grief.

Buy from Amazon The Book of the Most Precious Substance by Sara Gran

I love books about books and although The Book of the Most Precious Substance is not a traditional horror novel and is better described as literary fiction, with erotic overtones and obsession oozing from its pages, it still brings a sense of unease and is as intense as the top chillers on the market. Rare book dealer Lily Albrecht has just been given a tipoff about ‘The Book of the Most Precious Substance,’ a 17th-century manual rumoured to be the most powerful occult book ever written, if it really exists at all. With some of the wealthiest people in the world willing to pay Lily a fortune to track it down, she embarks on a journey which takes her on an obsessive odyssey around the world, which includes some very dark places. The final product is an addictive erotic supernatural thriller about the lengths we will go to get the power we desire, even if it involves black magic, murder, sacrifice, kinky sex, or a debased combination of all four.

small-coverBuy from Amazon Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi

Ronald Malfi has been on an outstanding run of great horror novels, and Black Mouth continues this hot streak. A group of friends return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they first stumbled upon as teenagers in this captivating journey, which also convincingly flips back into their childhoods. Twenty years after abandoning his disabled brother Denis, alcoholic Jamie Warren hunts a man, who might be something other than human. Jamie is a great character but disabled, and slow Denis steals the show and is one of Malfi’s finest literary creations. He has a beautiful natural childish charm and an undiagnosed otherworldly manner which begins to pulse as events escalate. Showing no fear, Dennis may well have you both shouting from the rooftops and shedding a tear in some outstanding sequences toward the end. Malfi is so good he deserves a major breakout beyond the genre charts into the higher ends of the mainstream charts.

You can read Zach's review by clicking here.

small-coverBuy from Amazon The Girl in the Corn by Jason Offut

The Girl in the Corn is a captivating and bizarre blend of thriller, fantasy, fairytale, serial killer and horror. It defies categorization and considering where it begins, you would never in a million years imagine where it finishes. When Thomas Cavanaugh is small, he sees a fairy in his family’s cornfield, an encounter which impacts the rest of his life and the eventual future of the world. Years later, after a troubled childhood, psychiatric care and a series of dead-end jobs, he is still haunted by what he saw that night and a series of coincidences brings a key figure from his past back into his life. At first glance, you would be forgiven for thinking you have stumbled upon a twee fantasy story, as it does feature a fairy, but ditch that idea immediately, as this is both a bleak and incredibly dark horror novel. It has many strengths, including a plot which bobs and weaves in unexpected directions and a journey of smoke and mirrors across many years might lead to the end of the world in a pitch-perfect blend of horror, speculative fiction, and apocalyptic fantasy topped with madness.

You can read my full review by clicking here.

small-coverBuy from Amazon Alexander’s Song by Paul F. Olson

If I were forced into a corner to name my favourite book of 2022, it would be Paul Olson’s Alexander Song. Incredibly, this dense, layered and involving masterpiece was written over thirty years ago, but it only is getting a major release now, and my previous full review provides details of its fascinating history. Andy Gillespie is a schoolteacher obsessed with long-dead author Alexander Bassett and dreams of authoring a book about him. Whilst on a work sabbatical he visits the small town where Bassett grew up and slowly but surely his obsession begins to uncover some long-buried and sinister family secrets. Alexander’s Song is essential reading for those of you who enjoy meandering and obsessive journeys into long-forgotten and obscure mysteries. Even at a chunky 530+ pages, I was extremely disappointed to reach the end and there are not enough superlatives to do it justice; majestic, moving, engrossing, gripping, enlightening and even a little upsetting are only a select few. A stone-cold masterwork.

small-coverBuy from Amazon The Creeper by A.M. Shine

A.M. Shine tops his terrific debut novel The Watchers with The Creeper, an outstanding sophomoric effort which once again effectively plays around with Irish mythology and folklore. This book also contains the best single jump scare I have read in years (whatever you do, stay away from the window!) and if it were in a horror film would undoubtedly induce heart attacks. A reclusive academic sends two young researchers to investigate a remote village which is supposed to have been cut off from the rest of Ireland for 200+ years. But how? Once they arrive, there is no record of its history, its stories or anything else. There is no friendliness from the locals, only wary looks and whispers. The villagers lock down their homes at sundown and a nameless entity called ‘The Creeper’ supposedly stalks the streets. The clash between superstition and science is brilliantly explored in this intense horror novel which will have you looking over your shoulder and double checking all the windows are locked. And whatever you do, make sure the curtains are closed! Outstanding stuff which heralds the arrival of a major new talent in world horror.

You can read my full review by clicking here.

Buy from Amazon Do Not Weep For Me by Tony Tremblay

I was a huge fan of Tremblay’s The Moore House, and Do Not Weep for Me is just as good, if not better, than its predecessor, which is also a sequel of sorts. I would have thought it impossible, but this new book possibly tops The Moore House for violence, over-the-top action and crazy demon-inspired kill scenes, stunning decapitations, detached talking heads and enough gross bodily fluids to drown you. That previous sentence makes this story sound very trashy, but it is nothing of the sort and is a very clever and absolutely perfectly paced horror novel in which the unbelievably becomes normalised within the boundaries of the story. The exorcist Father MacLeod returns with the action once again taking place in Goffstown (New Hampshire) and more crucially, the owner of the Goffstown Pawnshop is also back and battling even more demons. Some of the scenes where the twitching and swaggering demons saunter into the fortified pawnshop and the extremely cool sidekick Rex are so entertaining, I was glued to the page. The level of brutality is also wildly over the top, with Tony Tremblay viciously and ruthlessly butchering a substantial number of his leading characters. If you are a fan of exorcist/demon-style fiction, Do Not Weep for Me is wild entertainment which will have you nailed to the page.

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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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