Cozy Up With a Good Scare
This list of cozy horror reads was originally published in our horror newsletter, The Fright Stuff. Sign up for it here to get the latest and greatest from the world of horror!
If you’re reading this newsletter, I’ve just been buried alive under probably a veritable mountain of snow, and am probably somewhere between “dig, dig for your life” and a one-woman, three-act theatrical performance of Stephen King’s Misery. Ah, the New England life.
Actually, what I probably spent my Saturday storm day doing was reading. Big ol’ Nor’easters aren’t really good for much except laying low and staying out of the snow. The best thing to do when they start throwing out storm warnings is grab a warm blanket, a hot drink, and a good book. So whether you also got snowed in this weekend, or if you’re just in need of a bit of lazy day comfort, why not lean into the sprit with a bit of cozy horror!
The Whispering Dead by Darcy Coates
The Whispering Dead (first in the Gravekeeper series) is what you’d get if the quintessential cozy mystery had a baby with a ghost story. It comes complete with a slightly run down but adorable cottage; a suspiciously intelligent stray cat; and a memorable array of secondary small town characters. Though not the type of scary that will leave you shaking in your seat, The Whispering Dead still packs a creepy punch as Keira investigates the murder of a young woman and uncovers a dark secret at the heart of this sleepy, unassuming town.
Cackle by Rachel Harrison
Out just in time for Halloween this last year, Cackle is the perfect marriage of all that is cozy horror. When Annie’s entire life is upended by her now ex, she decides to take a teaching job in upstate New York, and ends up moving into the perfect apartment in a friendly, picturesque little village. Everything seems to be off to a great start, especially when she meets Sophie. Beautiful, charismatic Sophie, who lives in a massive old house in the woods and who no one in town seems to trust. From cutesy small town stores to forest walks and farmers markets, ghosts, witchcraft, murder, and a bit of mayhem, Cackle has it all. Also, Rachel Harrison actually made me find a pet spider adorable, and honestly I don’t know what subgenre other than cozy horror could pull that off.
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
Though more atmospheric than outright scary, Mooncakes is a the perfect read if you’re missing those autumnal Halloween feels. If you’re looking for dark fall nights, witchcraft, demons, werewolves, and queer love, you can’t go wrong with this gorgeous graphic novel. Nova Huang is a witch from a family of witches, and works at her grandmothers’ bookshop in a tiny town in New England. Tam Lang, Nova’s childhood crush, used to call the same town home, but she hasn’t been back in years. So Nova is surprised to find that rumours about a white wolf in the woods lead her to Tam, who is locked in battle with a demon. Dark magic and occult rituals serve as the backdrop for Nova and Tam’s budding romance as they work together to discover the source of the evil that threatens their town.
This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
Maybe it’s an excess of plants that my brain finds cozy? The whole idea of a big old dilapidated estate surrounded by its vast gardens just fills my brain with joy. Especially when one of the gardens is comprised of nothing but the world’s most deadly plants. Cozy murder. This is the very setting where Briseis finds herself spending the summer, at the estate of her dead aunt. There, Bri hopes that she will learn to control her extraordinary gift: the ability to grow plants from seed to full bloom with just a touch of her hand. As she falls into creating tinctures and elixirs for those who come to the house seeking help, Bri meets Marie, a young woman keeping dark secrets who knows more about the estate than she is letting on.
Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega
There’s just something inherently cozy about middle grade horror. Probably because it can be plenty creepy, even downright scary at times, but it doesn’t go as hard as some YA or adult horror and it tends to end on a high note while emphasizing themes of family and friendship. In Ghost Squad, Lucely Luna and her best friend Syd have to band together with Syd’s witch grandmother and her adorable cat to fight a host of malicious spirits that Lucely accidently unleashed on St. Augustine. This delightful middle grade horror is exactly what I’m talking about when I refer to an emphasis on family and friendship. Any chance that Lucely, Syd, Babette, and (the aptly named tabby cat) Chunk have to save their town relies entirely on the bonds between them. MG horror makes for perfect cozy horror reading because it can give you genuine stakes that you can invest in, but you have the reassurance that everything will be okay in the end.