October reading round-up: a suitably dark choice of books for the Halloween season

I didn’t set out to read such darkly disturbing books this month, but here we are at the end of October and looking back, these books are linked by threads of immorality, manipulation and murder.

I received this as a birthday gift, and after my recent failed attempts to finish two successive books, this is one that I actually read from cover to cover in just a couple of days.

Heatwave is by French author Victor Jestin (translated into English by Sam Taylor). Waterstones interviewed Jestin about Heatwave in a Q&A feature, which you can read here.

This short novel, set during a scorching summer at a campsite on the French coast, simply drips with teenage angst and raging hormones, which will make you glad that you don’t have to be that age ever again. Oh, and there’s a dark secret that casts a shadow over everything, despite the relentless sunshine.

Highly recommended.

Translated into English by Rosie Hedger, The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn is a suspenseful psychological thriller.

Told from the perspective of Allis Hagtorn, who starts work as a housekeeper and gardener for the mysterious Sigurd Bagge, in his remote house on an isolated fjord.

Allis and Sigurd gradually develop a chilling relationship, which will keep you on the edge of your seat.

This is deeply atmospheric, with the suspense slowly building until it reaches the dramatic climax.

In short, this Nordic Noir (or, if you prefer, Scandi thriller) is a quick read with tension that slowly gathers pace and will keep you hooked all the way through.

An Obedient Father by Akhil Sharma is one of the most uncomfortable books that I’ve ever read.

(Trigger warnings for: child abuse, rape, sexual abuse).

Set in India, during the time of the assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in 1991, the story centres around a corrupt civil servant, Ram Karam. Ram is a father and grandfather, as well as a grieving widower after the death of his wife.

He is a deeply unpleasant character; here is a man who cheated on his wife with prostitutes, overindulges in food and alcohol, and raped his own daughter when she was twelve years old (and only stopped doing that after his wife caught him in the act).

His daughter grew up, married, and has a daughter of her own. But now, she is forced to live with her father after the sudden death of her husband. Imagine having to not only live with your own father who had raped you, but also to bring your young daughter into that situation?

Ram Karam is corrupt, immoral and unlikeable on so many levels, yet Sharma just about manages to scrape together some (just a little) sympathy for the character, which is quite an achievement.

Having said that, parts of this story are very hard to stomach, and I very nearly gave up on it.

What have you read this month?

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