Title: Nothing but Blackened Teeth
Author: Cassandra Khaw
From the back: A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.
It’s the perfect venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends, brought back together to celebrate a wedding.
A night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare as secrets get dragged out and relationships are tested.
But the house has secrets too. Lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.
And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.
The gist: There’s been a lot of authors compared to Shirley Jackson, but Khaw’s Nothing but Blackened Teeth is one of the few where I’ve really felt that ringing true—Khaw writes a beautifully horrific ghost story that takes Jackson vibes and pulls them into a modern, gruesome tale.
It’s the perfect reading for this time of year.
Khaw quickly builds tension—introduces you to the cast, hints at muddied histories, makes the house as much a character as the people in it. I’m not usually a fan of overly ‘flowery’ writing, but for me the intricate descriptions here help to build the atmosphere, help to give the whole story a surreal tinge that builds inside you to create a sense of ghostly chaos. It’s beautiful yet ghastly. As you read it, you lose yourself in the vivid picture-scapes, the lush scenes absorb you in an almost detached sort of way, contrasting perfectly with the panic and, at times, gore, that unfolds.
And the core of the story being set in Japanese folklore is both fascinating and refreshing for me, as someone not well versed in this area—I’ll certainly be seeking out more from both the author and the genre.
It’s a short read, the sort you can devour in an evening. A brilliant, chilling haunted house story that’s straight up there as a classic horror story. And what better time to read it than now?
Favourite line: apologies didn’t exonerate the sinner, only compelled graciousness from its recipient.
Read if: You want a perfectly chilling and original haunted house story to keep you company as we head into spooky season.
Read with: No thoughts of looking to this for your wedding venue inspiration.