I have to confess I have not read a ton of horror. OK, I have probably read more horror than the average reader, but still not a ton. I tend to go more for the psychological suspense or the creepy mystery because they usually do not go over the top with fantasy and thrills that, for me, weigh the story down and make it harder to believe or connect with. When I taught high school, my students would occasionally tell me, “Mr. T., you’re doin’ too much!” And that is exactly how I feel sometimes when reading modern horror. This is one of the reasons I like horror short stories; the author does not have the space to get carried away. They have to get to the point and deliver the scares fast. With horror, less truly can be more.
With that idea in mind, I can recommend the relatively recent release by Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdardottir. I Remember You is a novel with two stories working side by side- one about three twenty-something friends all alone in a remote part of Iceland beginning rehab work on a house, and the other about a doctor trying to cope with the disappearance and almost sure death of his young son. The friends’ rehab project is in a beautiful place to spend vacation time in the summer, but they quickly find out that without electricity, the off-season cold and darkness may offer more hardship than they anticipated. And they are all alone. Meanwhile the doctor gets caught up in the investigation of the mysterious suicide of a local elderly woman who appears to have been obsessed with the disappearance of his son. Yrsa really knows how to write, the prose is terrific and the story is well crafted.
So when does this get scary? I must say it takes a while to set the story, and I began getting impatient. But the scares do come, and once they start there is no turning back. The young rehabbers are not alone. An angry and horrifying someone or something does not want them there and they have no way to leave before the arranged pick up. The doctor is haunted and taunted by a devilish entity that pulls him deeper into his investigation and the lies of his past.
The author goes back and forth with the stories until they hook up in the end. Sound simple? It is, and that is precisely why it works. That and the fact that the scares are creative and old-fashioned at the same time, and really creepy, creepy, creepy. Yrsa knows when to surprise, when to let the reader off the hook, when to turn up the suspense and when to really scare. This ghost story is the real deal without all the bells and whistles. Go get a copy.
“…the wooden floor on the lower story was creaking loudly. They’d all got to know this noise, which came from loose boards in the kitchen. Now Gardar reacted and sat up next to Katrin. ‘What the hell…?’ Again Lif cried out inside her sleeping bag. Katrin gripped Gardar’s upper arm tightly. ‘Could the wood in the house be contracting because of the weather?’ She could hear how shrill her voice sounded, but she couldn’t care less. ‘We’d have heard if someone had come in, wouldn’t we?’” (Sigurdardottir p. 129).
I Remember You, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Minotaur Books, 2012. 370 pages | Buy Now
For more from Yrsa Sigurdardottir, check out our Short Story Recommendations.