There’s at least one work that involves a haunting that will appear elsewhere on the Advent Calendar (so just because you aren’t listed here doesn’t mean you won’t make our list!) but having a section for hauntings meant I could write about a trio of works I loved this year that deal with the subject in some capacity.
First up is Laurel Hightower’s sensational Whispers in the Dark. Rose, the protagonist, is a strong woman who works as a police sniper. She’s haunted by her past, her losses, her mistakes … and literal ghosts. This is such a powerful story about a woman who’s seeking the truth while trying to protect her children. Rose is a well-rounded female protagonist, which I greatly appreciated. Being vulnerable isn’t the same as being weak, and Rose is not content to let others take control of her life or solve her problems. Even when the truth hurts, she fights for it. I really felt Rose’s pain over her family and their rejection, and how that shaped some of her choices. I also felt like Rose genuinely came to terms with what had happened and was able to start the healing process.
This is a book that’s got a compelling plot, a captivating protagonist, and enough twists and revelations to keep it from being predictable. And if you’ve already read Whispers in the Dark, haunting and grief are at the core of Hightower’s latest, Crossroads.
The Possession of Natalie Glasgow has a wicked twist in it, and it can be a little tough to talk about if you want to avoid spoilers. Natalie is in a coma, but she rises from her bed at night and is anything but a normal 11-year-old girl when she does. Hailey Piper crafts an excellent twist on a possession story. Piper is a talented writer, and whether she’s writing a short story or a longer work, she has a way of drawing the reader in and using unconventional twists to add to the intrigue. Her work is anything but predictable, and no matter who she’s writing about, their emotions are believable and come through clearly. It’s easy to relate to the fear Natalie’s mother has during this story, and when she calls a supernatural expert for help, her fear and shock is all too real. Piper manages to tap into the emotions within the characters without slowing the story for a second.
You can also explore Piper’s skill in Benny Rose, The Cannibal King. That novella was released in early 2020, and features a teenage girl (Desiree) and her friends as they fight to survive when an urban legend – Benny Rose – turns out to be all-too real. Benny rises from the dead every Halloween and hunts for teenagers, and Desiree and her friends are in his prime hunting grounds. There’s plenty of action and betrayal, and it’s well worth the price of admission.
I loved The Haunting of Hill House, so when I learned the creators would have a new series out this year, I was excited. I can imagine some people went looking for a repeat of all the things that made Hill House so special, but The Haunting of Bly Manor is a very different story and doesn’t strive to simply recycle what worked with Hill House. Now, that may have deterred some viewers, but I was spellbound. I was intrigued by the stories of all of the characters, and they all have their own backstories that brought them together. The way the stories weave together to shape current events is stunning.
At the core of Bly Manor there are love stories that form the heart of the series. And if you’re invested in the characters, this is the kind of series that will, at times, make you weep tears of sorrow and tears of joy. While ghosts and hauntings are certainly an important, recurring part of the narrative, this is a series that haunts viewers long after the final credits roll.