Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

By Washington Post book critic Ron Charles

With Halloween creeping up on us, here are some new books haunted by ghosts and monsters of one kind or another.

Random House

By the time old spirits start gathering in Daniel Mason’s new novel “North Woods” (Random House), it’s too late to flee. You’ll already be hooked by this elegant, time-spanning novel about a homestead in western Massachusetts.

Mason starts about 400 years ago when two naughty Pilgrims run away from their settlement and marry themselves in the woods. Over the centuries, every time the story returns to this place, fascinating new people have moved in, but something of the old residents still lingers to create this work of sheer storytelling magic.

READ AN EXCERPT: “North Woods” by Daniel Mason

“North Woods” by Daniel Mason (Random House), in Hardcover, Large Print Trade Paperback, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and


“Let Us Descend” (Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, part of Paramount Global), by two-time National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward, is a dramatic story about an enslaved Black girl in the American South. Her owner is also her father, but that doesn’t stop him from selling off her beloved mother – and then her.

Over an impossibly cruel march to New Orleans, she begins to communicate with a spirit inspired by her grandmother, who was a powerful warrior in Africa.

This is a novel thick with ghosts, and history, and searing poetry.

READ AN EXCERPT: “Let Us Descend” by Jesmyn Ward

“Let Us Descend” by Jesmyn Ward (Scribner), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and


Eleven years ago, Ben Fountain won a National Book Critics Circle Award for his first novel, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.” Now, Fountain is back with “Devil Makes Three” (Flatiron), a big political thriller with touches of Graham Greene and John le Carré.

The story opens when Matt, an affable young American in Haiti, loses his scuba business after the coup that sent President Aristide into exile.

Desperate for work, Matt decides to start diving for treasure off the coast. But when the Haitian military gets wind of that, they want a cut of the gold that must surely be down there.

READ AN EXCERPT: “Devil Makes Three” by Ben Fountain

“Devil Makes Three” by Ben Fountain (Flatiron Books), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available via AmazonBarnes & Noble and


In 1816 the notorious poet Lord Byron and some of his friends were trapped by bad weather in a Swiss villa. To pass the time, they decided to write ghost stories. One of those guests was 18-year-old Mary Shelley, who dug up the tale of “Frankenstein” from her remarkable imagination.

And now, Dutch writer Anne Eekhout recreates that astonishing young writer, and some of the events that may have inspired her, in a fresh historical novel called “Mary and the Birth of Frankenstein” (HarperVia).

It’s passionate. It’s brooding. IT’S ALIVE!

READ AN EXCERPT: “Mary and the Birth of Frankenstein” by Anne Eekhout

“Mary and the Birth of Frankenstein” by Anne Eekhout (HarperVia), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and

Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” at 200 (“Sunday Morning”)

That’s it for the Book Report. Check in with your librarian or local bookseller for more suggestions. I’m Ron Charles. Until next time, boo!

For more info: 

For more reading recommendations, check out these previous Book Report features from Ron Charles: 

Produced by Robin Sanders and Roman Feeser.


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