The Lure of the Locked Room – Maggie’s Picks for the best Halloween Reads!

To me, nothing is scarier than reality, especially 2020 reality. While I can blissfully disdain most tales of ghosts, ghouls and other things that go bump in the night, I find it much harder to be blasé about the terrifying things people do to each other. Which is why my perfect scary read is a good thriller, and the last few years have delivered a lot of those. And since we are all by virtue of the unique circumstance of a global pandemic, locked in our own homes, I thought the ideal Halloween read just might be a locked room mystery. Here are some recent releases I’ve loved:


One by One by Ruth Ware

A luxury ski resort in the French Alps is the setting for this NY Times bestseller about getting snowed in with murderous co-workers. Snoop, a company with a successful music app, has its top executives on a corporate retreat when an avalanche strikes, isolating them. The power goes out, the phones don’t work – and then people start dying.

Too often in a locked room thriller an author tries to create a 1950s style environment  where our modern technology doesn’t work and people find themselves in a man versus the elements scenario. I understand the lure of this plot device – especially in novels where it would make criminal activity easier to enact and get away with – but what I truly appreciated about this story is that it highlights how much that technology is part of our lives, whether we want it to be or not. Sympathetic characters, an intriguing plot and the author’s smooth, polished writing style made this one of my favorite suspense stories of 2020.

Buy it at: AmazonAudible, or your local independent bookstore

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

This NY Times bestseller is one of the hottest books of the year and a personal favorite. As everyone knows, weddings can be horrifically stressful, frustrating events, and that is certainly true of the nuptials of Jules Keegan and Will Slater. They’ve decided to have the luxurious celebration at a Folly on a small island off the coast of Ireland, with the breathtaking vistas meant to serve as a backdrop to their gorgeous, meticulously planned event. This is an important publicity moment for them. He’s an up-and-coming actor, she’s an internet sensation. Their union is newsworthy, their epic, exclusive wedding will be as well. But they have never had comfortable relationships with those nearest and dearest to them and the trauma of putting all those hostile personalities together means that at some point, bodies are going to start dropping.

The characters here are intriguing, their secrets fascinating, the plot riveting and the venue perfect. If you like your thrillers smart and engaging, give this one a try.

Word of warning: Like a real wedding, this book involves a lot of players. There are ushers, a best man, a maid of honor, the wedding MC, the wedding planner, parents, siblings, cousins, college friends – this is a big event and the list goes on and on. The story is told by multiple people who all have history with each other and we do an occasional deep dive into that history. It takes place over the course of two days, another factor that can cause some confusion. I definitely recommend reading over listening on this one, as the latter will most likely be very frustrating unless you concentrate completely upon what you are hearing – and take notes!

Buy it at: AmazonAudible, or your local independent bookstore

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Noemí Taboada is sent to High Place, a distant house high in the hills in the Mexican countryside, on a rescue mission. Her cousin had married a handsome Englishman in extreme haste and it sounds as though she is being made to regret that decision. Once Naomi arrives she realizes that the family is unlikely to let either woman go without a fight.

This atmospheric, chilling thriller will have you reading late into the night. It is not to be missed.

Buy it at: AmazonAudible, or your local independent bookstore

The Safe Place by Anna Downes

Emily is a screw-up,  perpetually losing jobs, alienating the allies she needs, and making a muck up of her life. When her latest firing leaves her with no way to pay the rent, she jumps at the chance to be a nanny/housekeeper at a remote luxury villa in France. In keeping with her luck, things just get worse from there.

This story is familiar in all the best ways and surprising at all the right moments. Definitely a good reminder that no amount of luxury can make a place safe when it’s full of dangerous people.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent bookstore

Older Reads:

An Unwanted Guest  by Shari LaPena

In the winter wonderland of the Catskills sits Mitchell’s Inn, a luxurious lodge with spacious rooms boasting huge woodburning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, a bar made entirely from ice and snow  and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a good murder mystery.

When the weather takes a turn for the worse and they are cut off from contact with the outside world, the guests try to make the best of it and enjoy their opulent shelter. But death stalks the hallways of this posh establishment and soon there is nothing they can do but hope they can survive the storm.

An amazing, riveting mystery with a surprise twist at the end.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent bookstore

In the Dark by Loreth Anne White

It’s a trap! The promise of a luxury vacation at a secluded wilderness spa has brought together eight lucky guests. But the spa turns out to be nothing like what they expected, they are trapped by the remote location and dangerous weather and worst of all, it quickly becomes apparent they were brought to this location to die.

White does a fantastic job of pitting man against the elements and each other, and creates a dark, mesmerizing mystery.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent bookstore

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

An ad for an au pair has Rowan Caine moving to Heatherbrae House a  luxurious “smart” home in a remote but beautiful location in the Scottish Highlands. What she doesn’t know is that the parents will strand her there, with children she doesn’t know and a malevolent presence determined to destroy her.

Spooky, chilling, and riveting this is Ware at the top of her game and is a not to be missed gothic thriller.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent bookstore

These are some of my favorite mysteries about folks locked into a dark,and dangerous situation. What are yours?

~ Maggie Boyd

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