best modern gothic novels

The Ultimate List of the Best Modern Gothic Novels

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…).

Modern Gothic Novels: How could you fail to love them?

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, buried 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!

Modern Gothic Novels: My Ultimate List

best modern gothic novelsModern Gothic Novels: The Classics

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

The modern gothic novel finds its roots in the brilliant mind of Daphne Du Maurier, specifically in her 1938 novel, Rebecca. It features a young protagonist who marries a wealthy widower, only to discover that her new life at Manderley estate is overshadowed by the mysterious legacy of his previous wife, Rebecca.

In true gothic style, the novel is filled with eerie descriptions and spine-tingling suspense. And I maintain there has never been a better opening line than “last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier ” BUY HERE

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Another nineteenth-century gem is Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. This iconic novel merges mystery, suspense, and intrigue with biting social commentary. The story revolves around an art teacher, Walter Hartright, who encounters a mysterious woman in white (Did you guess? DID YOU?)and is drawn into a complicated web of deceit and danger. Love that for him.

The Woman in White on Amazon

Kate Morton: Queen of Modern Gothic Novels

The Forgotten Garden

We find ourselves lost in the lush world of The Forgotten Garden (find it here), a twisty tale of a hidden garden, a mysterious family legacy, and dark secrets, where a century-old mystery waits to be solved. This is one of my absolute favourite books in the genre, which is why I describe Kate Morton as the Queen of the Modern Gothic Novel: if she writes it, you better believe I’ll read it…

The House at Riverton

Next, we dive into the enchanting shadows of The House at Riverton (snag your copy here), set against the backdrop of World War I. This beguiling narrative unravels the secret lives of the Hartford family whilst the world crumbles around them, and it’s another one for which I have absolutely no notes. That’s how much I enjoyed it.

The Lake House

Wander into the eery halls of The Lake House (available here), a family drama filled with unanswered questions and long-buried secrets. (Spoiler alert: they will not remain unanswered and long-buried for long, though. Oh, hell to the no.) With dual narrative timelines, this tale has a hint of intrigue that will leave you hooked.

The Distant Hours

Lastly, we tumble into the pages of The Distant Hours (grab it here), a mesmerising tale of three sisters haunted by a chilling letter, unearthed secrets, and dark family legacies. GOD, I love it.

Modern Gothic Novels Containing Mysteries and Secrets

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

In this modern gothic novel, a governess (LOVE IT) is swept away by her mysterious employer’s charming personality, because obviously. She soon realises that her young charge might be in danger. The suspense deepens as she uncovers dark secrets hidden in the castle’s walls. Are you shivering? I’m shivering…


The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

A reclusive author (An under-used, but effective trope, if ever there was one…) summons a biographer to write her life story. As the tale unfolds, the reader is captivated by well-crafted twists and turns, and eerie family secrets that unravel like a great piece of literary art.


Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

Gothic-style nostalgia is woven into the fabric of this tale. Dark family secrets, an old manor house, and a hidden diary make for a gripping read filled with suspicious events and heart-stopping intrigue. They had me at “hidden diary”, really. As Taylor Swift once said, I don’t know how it gets better than this…


The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House by Stephanie Lam

Two intertwined stories, set decades apart, uncover secrets within the walls of the fabulously-named Castaway House. As relationships crumble and power dynamics shift, the reader is left in suspense, waiting for the ultimate revelation of the mystery.


The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan

This haunting story is filled with dark family secrets and tainted love. It follows two generations of the same family and their connections to a mysterious (OF COURSE) hidden (NOT FOR LONG) past.


The Legacy by Katherine Webb

Family secrets are at the heart of this novel set in the English countryside. A woman searching for answers uncovers a century-old secret that could change her family and their legacy forever. I am HERE FOR IT.


Simply Heaven by Serena Mackesy

Mystery and romance collide in this gothic novel, as a young woman uncovers YET MORE family secrets that threaten the very foundations of her world. Don’t be fooled by the Chick-Lit cover on this: it’s one of the most genuinely thrilling modern gothic novels in this list, and one of my all-time favourites.


The Unseen by Katherine Webb

Supernatural occurrences and eerie twists of fate make this modern gothic novel an enchanting read. If you’re guessing there are SECRETS to be revealed, you are correct. And if you’re guessing I am ALL ABOUT THAT, well, you’re right about that, too.


The Dream House by Rachel Hore

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to stumble across the house of your dreams, and then find out it has a chilling, mysterious past? Because I certainly have: and so had Rachel Hore, I would imagine, because that’s what this book is about.


House of Echoes by Barbara Erskine

You’re adopted… but then your real mother leaves you the ancestral family home, which is huge, beautiful — and, unfortunately, haunted. WWYD?


A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore

Honestly, I’m getting tired of typing the word “secrets” at this point, but I don’t think it really counts as a modern gothic novel if there are none. As you’ll have guessed from the title, however, this book has its fair share of secrets — and you’re going to have to read it to find out what they are.


The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan

An abandoned mansion serves as the backdrop for this chilling gothic story, which has a wonderful sense of place and time, and a hauntingly sad backstory, which I had trouble getting out of my head afterwards.


House of Silence by Linda Gillard

Old house. Unspeakable betrayals. SECRETS. You get the gist by now, I’m sure.


Secrets of the Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford

This novel is set on the Isle of Harris, and it has a bleak, chilling feel to it that will be familiar to lovers of modern gothic novels. It also has mermaids. You heard what I said….


Modern Gothic Novels Containing Ghosts of the Past

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

This modern gothic novel, set in post-WWII Britain, introduces us to Dr. Faraday as he explores the spooky incidents surrounding the once-great Hundreds Hall and its remaining residents. This one was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and, if it had been up to me, it would have won it, too.


Modern Gothic Novels Containing Chilling Discoveries

The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine

Another one set in in the remote Scottish Hebrides, this book sees our protagonist, Hetty, discover human remains in the house she’s inherited. Undaunted, she sets out to find out more…


The Forgotten Village by Lorna Cook

In The Forgotten Village, a young woman named Melissa discovers an old black-and-white photograph of an abandoned village – and if that alone isn’t enough to make you want to read it, then I don’t even know why you’re reading this list, seriously.


Tides of Change

The Silent Tide by Rachel Hore

  • Creepy old house setting? CHECK
  • Dramatic, haunting past with hidden manuscripts? CHECK
  • SECRETS being uncovered? I mean, do you even need to ask?


So, these are MY favourite modern gothic novels, but the problem is, I’ve read them all, so now I need more. What are your favourites from this genre?

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books by Amber Eve
  • Amber, you should read House of Bones by Graham Masterton, it kind of a weird story but it really scary and gothic. xx

    January 9, 2017
  • Modern gothic is a genre I’ve yet to try out! I’m more about crime novels and thrillers, but one of your picks would make an excellent choice for my reading challenge to branch out this year.

    Charmaine Ng
    Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    January 9, 2017
  • Brilliant post! I love a mysterious house story but wouldn’t know where to start…until now! I’ll keep this list handy 🙂

    January 9, 2017
  • Violette


    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.

    January 9, 2017
  • 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.

    January 9, 2017
  • rings90


    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

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

    January 9, 2017
  • 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.

    January 9, 2017
  • Myra Boyle


    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.

    January 9, 2017
  • Nickolina


    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!

    January 9, 2017
  • 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

    January 10, 2017
  • Well that’s me sorted for books for a while 🙂 thanks! xx

    January 10, 2017
  • Amy K


    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.

    January 10, 2017
  • Nickolina


    Oh yeah, Footsteps In The Dark by Georgette Heyer. Creepy house, secret stairways, all the stuff.

    January 10, 2017
  • 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.

    January 11, 2017