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The Fright Stuff

Small-Town Horror Books Full of the Best Small-Town Scares

Addison Rizer

Contributor

Addison Rizer is a writer and reader of anything that can be described as weird, sad, or scary. She has an MA in Professional Writing and a BA in English. She writes for Book Riot and Publishers Weekly and is always looking for more ways to gush about the books she loves. Find her published work or contact her on her website or at addisonrizer at gmaildotcom.

James Patterson and J.D. Barker's CONFESSIONS OF THE DEAD

Hollows Bend, New Hampshire, is picture-perfect. The crime rate — which is zero —is a point of pride for Sheriff Ellie Pritchett. The day the stranger shows up is when the trouble starts. She's a mysterious teenage girl, who can’t — or won’t — answer any questions. She won’t even tell Sheriff Pritchett her name. While the girl is in protective custody, officers are called to multiple crime scenes leading them closer and closer to a lake outside of town that doesn’t appear on any map…

Small towns can be havens for some people. The close-knit community, the quiet nights, and the lack of rush-hour traffic can be things some people dream about their whole lives. They long for the slower pace of life and search for a peaceful place to call home outside the glaring lights of the big city where the stars are more visible at night.

For others, small towns can be boring. Too quiet, too small, too limiting in what they allow them to do. They, instead, long for larger cities with bustling nightlife and new people you can meet every day. For places with more options to explore, more employment opportunities, just more.

Others, though, find them terrifying. The claustrophobia of knowing everyone is all up in your business. The fear when a crime is committed and you know it’s someone you live next to or work beside every day. The way the collective can turn against one person for a sometimes unfounded rumor of a mistake. The isolation, too, can go from peaceful to paralyzing when it means no one can help you once things go south.

If you’re one of the latter, look no further! Here are nine of the best small-town horror books!

cover of The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor

The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor

When Jack Brooks moves to Chapel Croft with her teenage daughter, Flo, to be the town’s new reverend, she’s looking forward to a new environment after a tragedy struck her previous church. But the town has a seemingly haunted history full of disappearances and burnings, not to mention the last vicar died by suicide. As visions of ghosts start to appear before their eyes and the pair acclimate to their new town, it’s clear there’s something more sinister here than they originally thought.

My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones book cover

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

Jade Daniels is a teenage girl obsessed with the slasher genre. She’s consumed them all. Working as a janitor to make ends meet in her small town, she soon starts seeing clues that a real-life slasher is happening in her very own town. She becomes determined to use her knowledge of the genre to keep her best friend and herself safe and sound.

Book cover of When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen

When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen

A decade after she left her small North Carolina town, Mira receives a wedding invitation from an old friend whom she fell out of contact with. Curious at the chance to see her childhood friend again, Mira accepts despite her hesitation with the fact the venue is a renovated plantation. Flashbacks to a traumatic night in her childhood and the history of the house collide, making her wish she had listened to her gut in the first place.

White Smoke by Tiffany D Jackson book cover

White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson

Needing a fresh start, Marigold’s mother takes an artist residence in an old house in a small Midwest town. Their family’s transition from California, though, isn’t exactly smooth. The house reeks of an odd odor, and the neighborhood around them is eerily quiet. Then Marigol’s stepsister starts seeing what she assumes to be an imaginary friend until she sees shadows herself, and she’s not so sure the move was the right choice after all.

cover of Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

After the loss of her mother, Quinn and her father relocate to Kettle Springs, a small town where they hope for a quiet life to grieve. Quinn quickly makes friends and things are looking up. The only odd thing is the town’s obsession with their mascot, Frendo, a clown character she doesn’t understand but sees everywhere. The class divide in town comes to a horrifying head at a party Quinn attends one night and where Frendo turns sinister. Now Quinn, with the help of her new friends, must do what she can to make it out alive.

she is a haunting book cover

She is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran

In order to get the money she needs to attend college, Jade agrees to live with her estranged father for a summer with her little sister, Lily, in tow. Her dad plans to put her to work as he works on renovating the old colonial house to be a bed and breakfast and asks Jade to create a website for the place. As odd happenings convince her the place is haunted, Jade wonders if the money for college is worth it.

Lakewood by Megan Giddings book cover

Lakewood by Megan Giddings

After the passing of her grandmother, Lena is in desperate need of money to care of her sick mother and combat their debt. Oddly enough, she receives an invitation to join a medical study called the Lakewood Project. Despite the limited information, she jumps at the chance to help her loved ones and reports to Lakewood, Michigan. Soon, though, she finds the medical developments the project aims for is at the cost of people of color.

Jackal by Erin E. Adams book cover

Jackal by Erin E. Adams

Liz returns home for one thing only: her best friend’s wedding. At the wedding, though, her best friend’s child goes missing in the very same woods where Liz experienced a tragic incident years before. In fact, those woods have a history of Black girls disappearing that’s decades long. Liz and the rest of the wedding party must find out what’s lurking in the woods before it’s too late.

Book cover of Grey Dog by Elliot Gish

Grey Dog by Elliott Gish

After a scandal sends her running from her last town, Ada Byrd takes a teaching job in Lowry Bridge. As she acclimates to the community around her, she soon makes friends with the pastor’s wife and singles out students in need of a bit more of her help. The town soon turns against her teaching style, though, and she learns she’s not the first in the role to have experienced the same treatment. Told through diary entries by Ada herself, the slow, creeping horror of a small town pushes her to extremes.


Looking for more setting-based horror books? Check out these horror and mystery novels set in the woods and these best haunted house stories!