Although it’s still too early in the winter season for a snow day, sometimes I like to dream about those blissful days of nothingness, where only I get to decide what to do. Once upon a time, I would go outside and play in the mounds of ice and slush, but now, my snow pants don’t fit, and I must find something else to occupy my time.
It’s usually at those points that I look at my overflowing bookshelves and realize that I haven’t read half of them, and that it would be a good plan to get started. Occasionally, I instead laugh and continue watching Netflix, or stare at the wall, but sometimes I fake productivity and decide to read.
Since you’re trapped indoors, it’s wise to pick up something suspenseful, if not mildly horrifying, to devour while sandwiched beneath the safety of several warm blankets.
Here are 5 winter thrillers to convince your brain that yes, you’ve done real work today!
1. “Icebound” by Dean Koontz
A team of scientists in the Arctic attempting to send a piece of a polar icecap adrift find themselves drifting away on a bunch of explosives after a freak series of earthquakes, but wildly enough, being blown to bits and dying of hypothermia aren’t their only issues. Among the crew is an assassin, picking off the other scientists one by one, and with time and the elements against them, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will survive.
Originally published as “Prison of Ice” in 1976 under Koontz’s pseudonym, David Axton, this winter-y thriller is an intense whodunit that avoids getting overly technical in its jargon, allowing it to maintain the important aspect: the mystery.
2. “The Winter Ghosts” by Kate Mosse
Freddie Watson is running from his ghosts, and his journey has now placed him in the French Pyrenees in the dead of winter in 1928. When he wrecks his car on the side of the mountain during a snowstorm, he wanders into the near village to take refuge, and he stumbles upon a town with a dark secret.
With the help of town native Fabrissa, the duo unravel histories almost lost to time, even though it’s unclear if they should see the light of day. Mosse’s winter-based novel takes some time for the mystery and thrills to appear, but the mood she builds up is perfectly chilling for a snowy day.
3. “Whiteout” by Ken Follett
Fans of movies such as “Outbreak” and “Contagion” will find themselves at home within Follett’s “Whiteout.” It’s Christmas Eve in Scotland, and a medical lab has a slight problem: a canister containing a deadly virus is missing.
However, the director of the research company, Stanley Oxenford, thinks he has discovered the cure, leading his family members to dream of the money they could make selling it. Meanwhile, security guard Toni Gallo’s only goal is to keep the drug safe, though neither Oxenford nor Gallo realize who’s coming for the cure or what they have in store for it. As someone who is easily freaked out by mystery diseases, “Whiteout” did an excellent job of dragging the suspense out while keeping the plot moving.
4. “Arctic Drift” by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler
In 1847, the Franklin Expedition goes missing while searching for the Northwest Passage. But before they drop off the map, the men appear to be going insane, running about in little clothing despite the freezing temperatures. Switching to present day, Dirk Pitt, his children and Al Giordino are on the search to stop global warming when they come across the ship and its former inhabitants.
Mysteriously, these deaths in the Arctic might be the key to halt irreversible damage to the Earth, if only they can figure out what happened in time. Cussler’s “Dirk Pitt” books have a knack for delivering fast-paced adventure and lighthearted wit even within the thrilling mysteries and high stakes, so if you want something more fun, look no further.
5. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
I might be stretching the title of winter thriller for Shelley’s grotesque creation, but it’s a frame narrative that takes place both in the frozen arctic and brings horror to life — literally. So, I give you this groundbreaking novel.
For those of you who didn’t have to read it in a high school literature class, the young university student Victor Frankenstein recounts his life story to Captain Walton, whose expedition he comes across in the Arctic while in pursuit of his monster, and his tragic story takes up most of the novel.
Frankenstein animates his Creature, as he calls him, and because of the Creature’s grotesque features, he abandons it and deals with his own grief among his family, as his mother had just died, and his nanny was hanged on the charge of murder. For Frankenstein, that’s only the beginning of his tragedies.
The Creature, however, experiences a different sort of grief as people fear his appearance, which eventually drives him to becoming the monster that everyone believes him to be, despite his truly human-esque thoughts and feelings.
Whether or not you live in a climate that brings you a yearly snowfall (or a snow-dumping, in some cases), these books will transport you out of your home and into the terrifying winter chill without the frostbite or snow boots. Hopefully one of the books on this list can fulfill your darker side, or at least give a break to the merry holiday cheer, making even Scrooge smile.