Books

Between the Lines: Did you hear that noise? It’s the sound of scary books

MARGARET SPENGLER mspengler@sacbee.com

Halloween arrives Saturday, but before we scare up at a few titles to help intensify those bumps in the night (and the post-Halloween chills, too), there’s spooky news: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson will encounter ghostly goings-on in a special episode of the PBS “Masterpiece” series “Sherlock.”

The eccentric, uber-popular show stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as writer Arthur Conan Doyle’s conjoined characters. In the three-season series, they do their detecting in modern times. In a special episode to air on Sacramento’s KVIE Channel 6, the duo will time-travel to the Victorian era (221-B Baker St. and all that) for an otherworldly adventure. View the trailer at http://vids.kvie.org/video/2365578701/.

The question is: Just when will the episode run? PBS isn’t talking. “Mum’s the word on the release date,” said a KVIE representative, who checked with PBS HQ. It’s speculated that it could air around Christmas, or PBS may decide to release it in February, after Season 6 (the final one) of “Downton Abbey” concludes (it premieres Jan. 3). The game’s afoot – albeit a tiresome one.

Meanwhile, back to books:

Audrey Niffenegger, who wrote “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” took her time choosing the 16 haunting tales in “Ghostly” (Scribner, $28, 464 pages). Included are stories by Edith Wharton, P.G. Wodehouse, Neil Gaiman and Niffenegger herself. One in particular, the subtly horrifying “The Beckoning Fair One” by Oliver Onions, is worth the price of admission.

Eerie goings-on inhabit “Rooms” by Lauren Oliver, when dysfunctional family members show up at the country house of a wealthy and recently deceased family member to rifle his belongings and collect their inheritances (Ecco, $15, 320 pages). What they didn’t expect are the house-bound ghosts who aren’t happy with the intrusion.

Gillian Flynn has shocked readers with “Gone Girl,” “Dark Places” and “Sharp Objects,” and now turns to a novella, “The Grownup,” in which the villains are otherworldly (Crown, $10, 64 pages; on sale Nov. 3): A fraudulent “psychic” agrees to help a naive woman client investigate the paranormal activity in Carterhook Manor, a supposedly haunted Victorian house. Sometimes, the psychic discovers too late, true evil does exist.

The original black-and-white movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was scary enough in 1956, with the 1978, 1993 and 2007 remakes bringing more tension and paranoia (and color) to the big screen. The four films had roots in the 1954 sci-fi novel “The Body Snatchers” by Jack Finney, set in a fictionalized Mill Valley, in which aliens create emotionless replicas (pod people) of humans in a quest to repopulate Earth. Now the 60th anniversary edition is out, with a foreword by Dean Koontz, who calls it “a gift of gold” (Touchstone, $15, 224 pages). Finney (1911-1995) also wrote the time-travel novels “Time and Again” (1970) and its sequel, “From Time to Time” (1995).

Irish author John Connolly is known for his Charlie Parker series, starring an LAPD detective-turned-PI who involuntarily communes with the deceased. Beyond that, Connolly’s second stand-alone volume of short stories, “Night Music: Nocturns,” dwells on ghosts, demons and menacing hauntings (Atria, $17, 464 pages).

New Orleans is one of the most superstitious (and haunted) cities in the United States. Helping guide us through its terrors is Michael Murphy with his inviting and well-researched “Fear Dat: A Guide to the Voodoo, Vampires, Graveyards & Ghosts of the Crescent City” (Countryman, $19, 208 pages). In novelist Anne Rice’s “fore-warned” foreword, she notes, “The dead walk alongside the living here, and we talk to them all the time.”

“Slasher Girls & Monster Boys,” edited by April Genevieve Tucholke (Dial, $19, 400 pages), is a young-adult scare-fest anthology from some of the top YA authors working today, including Stefan Bachmann, Leigh Bardugo, A.G. Howard and Megan Shepherd. School Library Journal notes, “The diversity of content and the variety of writing styles makes this collection a top choice for fans of horror and supernatural.”

Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe

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