The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A damn good gothic. Superb unsettling details (the smoking man, the flickering lights, the child running by the pool), a twisty plot, an actual good use of two time periods, and excellent characters that did things because of their personalities and motivations and not because the plot required them to. Made all the other gothics I read (or tried reading) throughout the spooky season pale by comparison.

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The Crossing Places (Ruth Galloway, #1) by Elly Griffiths

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Give me the liminal places, the fog and the ocean, the friendships gone sideways and the ex-lovers. Give me the sublime coastal causeways, eerie bird calls, ancient skeletons, and hauntingly-vanished children. Give me several possible villains against a sarcastic and self-possessed woman, and I won’t even care that I figured out the whodunnit of it all halfway through, because all of those possible villains were pushy and dangerous and didn’t want to take no for an answer, and the satisfaction wasn’t in the reveal, it was Ruth saying no and shutting them down one by one. Give me more Ruth.

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The Stranger Diaries (Harbinder Kaur #1) by Elly Griffiths

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a sucker for literary mysteries and modern gothic. Bonus points to this one because I’ve actually read M.R. James, the renowned Victorian ghost-story writer who inspired Griffith’s R.M. Holland, and all the point of view characters are women that are taken seriously and treated with respect by colleagues, friends, and family.

Multiple POVs in a mystery story can be a trap for too much retelling or too much hiding things from the audience because–gasp–one of the POV characters is actually the killer(!), but Griffiths avoids both of these potential pitfalls. I actually enjoyed the different characters’ perspectives on each other, and the re-treading of events was kept to a minimum, and only to provide me with additional information, not self-indulgent or unnecessary wandering.

Twisty, spooky, thrilling, and smart, this book is a thoroughly enjoyable, fast read that has me already reaching for more of Elly Griffiths’s work.

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