Stumbling through life, one day at a time

Dark Books To Get You Through The Winter

A Reader Lives A Thousand Lives…The Man Who Never Reads Lives Only One- George R.R. Martin


I used to love reading. Devouring a book in a day or two was one of my favourite things to do. Then life happened and I kind of just stopped reading so often. Don’t get me wrong, I still read from time to time but I no longer found enjoyment in the things I used to love.

Recently, however, I’ve fallen back in love with reading and I’ve just created a Goodreads account (let’s be friends) because I’m OBSESSED with finding the next book for me.

I’m into mystery/thriller books at the moment- I’m not sure what that says about me but I’m just going to put it down to the weather being perfect for dark books at the moment…

dark books to get through winter

If you want something dark(ish) and want to settle down to a good mystery this Winter, then these are the books I think you should read:

Sixteen years ago a serial killer broke the peace of the rural, Amish town of Painters Mill, Ohio with a series of brutal, unsolved murders. The killings shattered the community and left behind a sense of fragility. When they stopped, a young Amish girl called Kate Burkholder- who knows why the murders stopped-, realised that she didn’t belong anymore. Now, that girl is chief of police and, when a girl is found murdered in a snowy field with roman numerals carved into her stomach, she realises that the MO matches that of the unsolved murders from her childhood.

As Kate investigates she realises that the past has come back to haunt her and, unless she catches the killer she could become the next victim…

This is the first in a series of books about gruesome murders taking place at a sleepy Amish village. To be honest I would have read this book ages ago if my grandma hadn’t described it as ‘a nice book about an Amish village’ and one that she enjoyed because she ‘got to learn lots about the Amish community’. That’s it. That was her description. If she had happened to have mentioned the serial killer and brutal murder aspect then I might have read them at the time…

I’ve not finished this book but so far I’m really enjoying it. It opens with the description of the horrible way the girl is murdered (and I have a feeling that this won’t be the last gory description), so if you’re not a fan of graphic novels you should probably stay away from this one! I’ve also got a feeling, from the bits I’ve read and its reviews, that it’s going to keep me in suspense.

As for the Amish aspect, it’s cleverly woven into the story without it being overwhelming- you learn more about the community but it’s not a major feature of the plot despite the murders and the lead police officer having such a big connection to it.

Every day Rachel takes a commuter train into London. Every day it stops at the same red light allowing her to see into the garden of one of the cosy suburban homes which backs onto the railway tracks. She watches the couple who occupy it eat their breakfast on the terrace every morning, and makes up a story of their lives. She even starts to feel like she knows them. Until one day, she sees something shocking and ends up entangled in their lives in a way that she never imagined.

Yes I know, I know, this is on every book list written just lately, but do you know why that is? It’s a bloody good book, that’s why! Very rarely have I picked up a book and wanted to just devour it straight away- I read this one in two days!

Some people have said that they can’t get into the book as it’s too slow at first but I disagree; it’s cleverly done so that, yes it seems like nothing is really happening except for Rachel travelling on the train every day, but actually we learn more about her on pretty much every page. It’s also not a predictable book. Towards the end I was convinced that I knew what was really going on but when I found out what actually happened I realised I’d been completely wrong and I was shocked by the outcome.

I definitely say give this book a chance as it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

The first book in the series is Above Suspicion- Anna Travis, following in the footsteps of Jane Tennison (played by Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect), is a rookie detective about to embark on her first murder case. The case is the gruesome killings of prostitutes- the body count is at six when the book begins. When the seventh body is found the MO is the same, but the victim is a sweet student not a prostitute. Anna finds evidence that points to the murderer being a well-known actor, but his protests of innocence are convincing. Deep down Anna is sure it’s him but what if he’s arrested, and the media explodes, but he really is innocent?

The rest of the series follows Anna, and her colleagues, as she learns about being a detective and juggles her messy home-life whilst trying to solve some of London’s grizzliest cases.

I started reading this in the middle of the series (which I don’t recommend because there’s a hell of a lot of spoilers for earlier books!). It’s not the grittiest, or even the best, crime/thriller series; it’s predictable and follows the usual clichés of the female detective with a troubled home life getting drawn to the killers, and many of the serial killers choose prostitutes as their victims. That being said, they are good books and Lynda La Plante is a good writer.

The books gripped me and I think they’re a good way to ease yourself into crime novels if you don’t usually read that kind of thing.

The book begins as Karen, and her daughter, Alice, are picking up Karen’s partner, Rex from prison. He has just served ten years for the murder of two people. Flash back to London in the summer sometime during the 1990s and Karen, a straight-A student who is just finishing up her degree, meets Biba Capel, an aspiring actress with a flamboyant personality. She falls in love with Biba’s hedonistic, care-free life living with her brother, Rex, and a series of free-spirited lodgers in their crumbling mansion. Eventually she moves in with them and entangles herself in their lives.

Naively, Karen thinks her new found happiness will last forever- until the Capels’ complicated family history of suicide and abandonment starts to reveal itself and comes back to haunt them all. Unbeknownst to her, Karen’s drug fuelled, care-free summer is about to end in blood.

Back in the present day the secrets of that summer threaten to come back and take everything that Karen loves, and has worked hard to protect, away from her. What will she do in order to keep her family safe?

I’ve just finished reading this one and although it’s probably not going to be one I remember in a few years’ time, it was definitely a page turner that kept me hooked. It’s a slow build as it takes you through the whole summer before you get to the murders, but the fact that it keeps coming back to the present day, and the fact that you know that two people die and Rex goes to prison for it from the offset, keeps you wanting to read on.

In places it did seem like it was trying too hard to create mystery and suspense, using lines like “I’ll see everyone else again then” she said. But She didn’t. But it kept me hooked, mainly because I really enjoyed reading about the summer they all spent together.

Not a very creepy thriller but definitely dark.

First in the series is A Game Of Thrones- {Goodreads description} Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.
The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. 

The following books follow the waring families’ fight for the iron throne- and they will stop at nothing to get what they want in this world. Murder, incest, rape, child cruelty- this dark series has it all.

This was never not going to be on here was it? Regular readers will know that I’m a pretty huge ASOIAF/ Game Of Thrones fan-I mention it in my loves on my about page and I’ve written tips for a geeky trip to King’s Landing aka Dubrovnik (and eagle-eyed readers may have noticed the House Lannister mug in the photo of The Girl On The Train above). Not what you’d usually find on a dark book list, granted, but with its notoriety for having the most character deaths of pretty much any series ever written I think it’s pretty dark don’t you?

If you’ve managed to avoid any discussion of these books, or the show, then 1) well done you, you actually deserve a medal, and 2) brace yourselves- deaths and twists come when you’re least expecting them to. The books contain brutal fights, gruesome descriptions and, if you get attached to any character then, I’m sorry, but you’re going to get your heart-broken in one way or another!

Don’t be put off by the fantasy aspect either. Yes they have dragons, an evil queen and magic, but you sort of forget that as the books are more focused on blurring the lines between good and evil, and following the complicated lives of very mixed up people. The fantasy setting is just a back drop.

Has anyone read any of the books/series on this list? What did you think? Do you have any more suggestions for dark books to read? Let me know in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Dark Books To Get You Through The Winter”

  • I also read The Girl On The Train in two days – I just couldn’t put it down! And I agree with you that the slow start isn’t actually
    slow at all, you learn a lot. For once in my life I managed to guess who the villain was, although some of the twists still took me
    by surprise. Such a good book! xx

    • Ahh I’m usually good at guessing who the villain is but I didn’t expect it to be who it was in this one! Haha

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