When it comes to fiction, my favourite genre by far is one that would probably be best described as “modern gothic novels“… but which I think of simply as “books about mysterious old houses which conceal a dark secret“.

I´m not joking, by the way: I actually have a collection on my Kindle which has the title “Books About Mysterious Old Houses”, and it currently has over 20 titles in it, so… yeah, I enjoy a mysterious house story, for sure. Especially if it contains a dark secret, obviously. I suspect this is just the natural continuation of my childhood obsession with mystery and adventure stories: I´ve always loved a good mystery, and these modern gothic novels are essentially the grown-up version of the Famous Five (Side note: I REALLY wish someone would write a grown-up version of the Famous Five. I know there have been various spoof versions over the years, but I would totally read a real one, complete with smugglers, and monkeys, and lashings and lashings of ginger beer wine…).

Most of these modern gothic novels follow a similar kind of format. There´s normally a young woman, living in the 21st century, who, for various reasons, finds herself arriving at the gates of a mysterious old house, burried deep in the countryside. Maybe she´s discovered an old letter amongst a dead grandparent´s belongings, and it´s piqued her curiosity. Maybe she´s writing a book set in the past, and is doing some research. Maybe she´s a poor, struggling governess, who has nowhere else to go, and who is forced to throw herself on the mercy of her new employer – a haughty, and yet devastatingly attractive man, who our heroine is strangely drawn to, even although his aloof demeanour suggests that he, too, is hiding a dark secret. Maybe she even decides to marry this man, but then it turns out that he´s got his mad first wife hidden in the attic, and … wait: I´m just describing the plot of Jayne Eyre now, aren´t I?

I don´t think Jayne Eyre really counts as “modern” gothic, exactly, but then again, neither do all of the books in this list. I´ve played a little bit fast-and-loose with that description here, but all of the books in this list have one thing in common: they all feature a mysterious old house, with a devastating secret. Enjoy!

15 of the best modern gothic novelsThe House at Riverton by Kate Morton

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House by Stephanie Lam

The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan

The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Legacy by Katherine Webb

The Unseen by Katherine Webb

The Dream House by Rachel Hore

House of Echoes by Barbara Erskine

A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore

House of Silence by Linda Gillard

Secrets of the Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

Oh, and if you´re wondering why I mentioned having over 20 of these books in my Kindle collection, but have only listed 15 of them here, well, the rest are over in this post, which contains even more mysterious old houses, for those of you who share my love of them!

15 Comments
  1. Being a lover of classic Gothic novel (go, go, Team Jane Eyre!) you made me realize it is a bit shocking I haven´t tried “modern Gothic” yet, other than Rebecca (which is basically the reason I adore mistery since I was like… twelve years old? My mother alleges I was six when I first watched the movie, but in all honesty, I can´t for my life remember).
    So basically, thank you for this post and the list. I think I must add some of these to my Goodreads list.

  2. Actually I like the sound of those kind of books so I’ll try to check some of them out! I remember reading books like that as a teenager (some also involved time travel) but hadn’t come across so many good mystery types lately.

  3. I read Daphne Du Maurer’s “Rebecca” every October. My grandmother gave me an old cover worn off it paperback copy to read. I have revisited Manderley for a lot of years now & enjoy it just as much as I did as a teenager.

    I also love “Northhanger Abbey” by Jane Austen & “Dragonwyck” by Anna Seton.

    The closest I have come to a modern writer capturing that same feeling is Kate Morton’s “The Forgotten Garden” . I haven’t gotten a chance to read “The Lake house” yet, but it’s on my to read list.

    Loved the “Thriteenth Tale” was one I sold to a lot of teens that didn’t want books about vampires when I worked at a bookstore.

    I am curious about “Black Rabbit Hall”. I find that if a new book is being compared to “Rebecca” it’s a huge disappointment to me. I read “The Lantern” by Deborah Lawrenson and to this day can’t figure out how it compares to “Rebecca” other than there was a previous wife….

    One of my favorite books in my bookcase is this one “Literary Houses” by Roseland Ashe
    https://www.amazon.com/Literary-Houses-Ten-Famous-Fiction/dp/087196676X

    It’s a beautiful coffee table book for a book lover like me.

  4. I love this list! These sound right up my street, and somehow I’ve never read any of them! If you want an even more modern twist on a creepy house as the centre of a plot, The Girl Before by JP Delaney is set in a super modern home of the future where the previous tenant died a suspicious death. It’s not exactly gothic (or isn’t gothic at all…) but is along the same sort of lines (…ish).
    We read Rebecca in our book club and all loved that even though we have very different tastes in books.

  5. I need to add more to my list of your recommendations. I am currently reading a Christmas present, Falcones’ Cathedral of the Sea which is both wonderful and horrendous. It is a historical novel from 14th century Barcelona. The laws and how people are treated defies description, but what a narrative. What saddens me is that there are places in the world where slaves still exist and the rigid social stratification remains the same, with women being treated as chattels and are used for both currency and to cement alliances.

  6. Nice to see an old Mary Stewart on this list. You probably would enjoy Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge and Barrow Sinister by Elsie Lee…if you can find them!

  7. Oh, I absolutely adore Nine Coaches waiting by Mary Stewart – she is in fact a favourite author of mine, so I was very happy to see that book on your list. Must check out some of the others too. Loved the title for this post by the way!! xxx

  8. I possibly suggested this in a previous post, but you might like The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Or if you feel like going back to spooky childhood stories, Footsteps on the Stairs by C.S. Adler was a beloved favorite in those late elementary school years. Thanks for the reminder to read more Kate Morton! I adored The Forgotten Garden but never picked up any others.

    1. I actually mentioned The Little Stranger in my last book-related post:
      http://www.foreveramber.co.uk/best-mystery-books

      Definitely one of my favourites!

  9. I do love a good Barbara Erskine! The one you mention here is a page turner as are Lady of Hay, Kingdom of Shadows and Child of the Phoenix (which almost stopped me seeing all kinds of bands at Glastonbury one year). I never keep paperback novels as I like to pass them on, but I’ve often re-bought her novels. Sticking them on a Kindle is a good plan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.