The Modern Gothic Explained in Ten Books

May 10, 2023
Dimitris Passas

NOTE: This list is a republication- Source: Criminal Element (by Amanda Quick).

The wave came out of nowhere a few years back and swept over the suspense/thriller/horror market before a lot of readers realized what was happening. Back at the start, the term “psychological suspense” was often used to describe the books, but it didn’t take long before booksellers, readers and reviewers realized what was really going on. Proving yet again that genres aren’t so much invented as they are re-invented, the Gothic novel was back.

Before I get to my list of ten examples of the Modern Gothic I want to thank the two people who offered advice and recommendations. I would have been overwhelmed by the curating task without the guidance of Barbara Peters, the owner of The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona, and thriller writer, J.T. Ellison who has written a couple of great examples of the Modern Gothic and knows the genre well.

The first step was to settle on a working definition of the Modern Gothic. For the purpose of compiling this list I’m using the one that Barbara and J.T. and I came up with in the course of a Zoom chat. (I think wine may have been involved). We concluded that the new Gothic is founded on the three elements that characterized the old version.

1) The protagonist is trapped in a remote, claustrophobic or otherwise isolated situation. (Traditionally a creepy old house, sanitarium, private boarding school, etc.)

2) The source of the danger is from within—family, household staff, et. al.—not from outside.

3) And here’s the kicker: There is a question of amnesia, unreliable memories, madness, or the supernatural. The protagonist has a reason to question reality.

From a writer’s point of view, the great thing about the Gothic is that it is so adaptable. The core elements work beautifully across a spectrum of plots. I leaned on all three in my new release, The Bride Wore White. This is a novel of romantic suspense which includes an isolated house on the cliffs, a dangerously dysfunctional family, and some serious gas-lighting.

With our agreed-upon definition in mind, Barbara and J.T., helped me assemble the following list of ten books that provide a sampling of the breadth and depth of the Modern Gothic:

To read the full list click here

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