I recommend these two recent reads of mine, both “contemporary classic” British supernatural horror tales (in the sense that they’re fairly recent titles but set in the past and specific settings to conjure a particular ghost story aesthetic).
Again, I found Sarah Waters’s complete mastery of her characters and settings impressive; she knows everything about her stories from the inside out, and in such minute detail, which is one reason why those extraordinary twists in her stories are so startling. Makes you realise how few modern novels are written with such care, consideration and preparation. And yet, I’ll wager that books of this quality will probably endure for future readers when the smoke clears. I couldn’t wait to get back to this story and the exquisite writing in my free moments.
The Barraclough is actually a children’s book – I didn’t know until I held it, though don’t let that deter you. I read this novel out of curiosity because I partly based Thin Len from ‘Under a Watchful Eye’ on the same English folk song that haunted me as a child (The Steeleye Span folk song about child killers). A good book here, that also made me consider the contradiction that supernormal horrors perceived through the eyes of the young are so different and more visceral, and yet young characters are rarely used for adult readers – in that adults want to read about adults, children about slightly older children etc, as rule of thumb (though not in the short story). I also thought that the strangest thing about ‘Stranger Things’ – they were able/allowed to break that rule for an adult audience. But I rarely felt I was reading a children’s book with ‘Long Lankin’ and I’ll read it to my Nipper when she’s 20.