When you think of creepy books, you probably think of dark, dark woods and long, cold nights. But I'm here to tell you that scary books aren't just for dim, winter evenings; in fact, thrillers set in summer might be the best of all. When the sun is out and the sky is blue, only the most talented of writers can send shivers down your spine. The 11 books on this list do exactly that: they'll cast eery shadows even over the hottest beaches you'll be sunbathing on this summer.
Summer is usually associated with romance or comedy, but blindingly hot days actually provide a brilliant backdrop for books that go a little darker. On a deliriously hot summer's day, you can almost imagine that you might make like one of the characters in these books and join a cult, or track a criminal, or try to hunt a giant shark...
Some of these novels are psychological thrillers, some are good old-fashioned horror, and some dig in rather different ways into the creepy ways humans can turn on each other — but every last one will have you flipping the pages so fast you'll be out of breath. So when you're heading off for your summer vacation, make sure to leave a little room in your suitcase for one of these scorchingly scary novels set in the summer heat.
'The Girls' by Emma Cline
One unhappy summer, teenager Evie meets a charismatic cult leader and the group of intriguing women who surround him. The cult is based on the Mansion family — and the ending that this novel builds towards is just as brutal as the real events of that fateful summer in 1969.
'It' by Stephen King
IT actually takes place across a pretty wide time range, but it's the summers of 1958 and 1984 that are the most defining. During those terrifying summers, a being known only as 'It' terrorizes a group of children. 'It' can appear in any form to scare its victims — but it's at its absolute scariest in the form of a creepy clown.
'The Summer That Melted Everything' by Tiffany McDaniel
In a small town in Ohio, the summer of 1984 is maddeningly hot. As the intense heat blurs the lines of reality for the town's inhabitants, a small boy turns up claiming to be the devil. Even in the most unbearable heat wave, the hatred that humans are capable of is chilling.
'Jaws' by Peter Benchley
You're going to need a bigger boat if you plan to go in the ocean this summer. We've all seen the movie, but the giant man-eating shark in the original Jaws book is even scarier (probably because it doesn't look as fake as the mechanical shark in the film).
'Fierce Kingdom' by Gin Phillips
The events in Fierce Kingdom aren't given an explicit place on the calendar, but it all takes place over the course of three hours on one sunny evening at the zoo: a location you may well find yourself this summer. But this is a trip to the zoo more terrifying than any you've had before — because an active shooter situation keeps the main character Joan and her four-year-old son running for their lives throughout the entire length of the novel.
'Final Girls' by Riley Sager
Ten years ago, a summer trip to a cabin in the woods ended in terror for Quincy, who was the only one of her friends to survive a deadly knife attack. Now, Quincy is one of the infamous Final Girls — a group of girls who were the sole survivors of similar attacks, named after the horror movie trope of the Final Girl left standing at the end. They survived once, but now somebody is after them again... If you're a fan of '90s slasher movies like Scream, then you'll have great fun with Final Girls.
'Real World' by Natsuo Kirino
One hot summer in a crowded Tokyo suburb, four teenage girls get caught up in the murder of their neighbor by her teenage son. For different reasons, they each try to protect him — leading them further and further into danger.
'The Marsh King's Daughter' by Karen Dionne
Helena was born in captivity, in the cabin where her teenage mother was held for years against her will by Helena's father, a man she loved and feared in equal parts throughout her childhood. Years later, Helena is free and living under a false name — until her father escapes from prison, drawing Helena into a scavenger hunt that only she can solve.
'Last Seen' by Lucy Clarke
Many summers ago, Sarah and Isla's young sons went swimming together, but only Sarah returned alive. This summer, Sarah's son Jacob has gone suddenly missing on the anniversary of his childhood's friends disappearance. Only one person knows what happened on that day seven summers ago, and they'll do anything to keep the truth buried.
10'He Said/She Said' by Erin Kelly
In the summer of 1999, Laura and Kit witness a brutal attack at a festival to celebrate the solar eclipse. Laura calls the police, and acts as a witness in the court case against the attacker. But fifteen years later, Laura and Kit are still living in hiding, pursued by a danger that seems ever round the corner. The truth of what really happened that summer is about to emerge.