10. The Lost, by Jack Ketchum (2001)
There’s a reason why Stephen King refers to Jack Ketchum as “the scariest guy in America.” Through his naturalistic, supernatural-and-fantasy-free novels, Ketchum earns his frights without any gimmicks, bells, or whistles. He simply peels back mankind’s psyche and yanks out the most animalistic impulses.
On the surface, The Lost, easily the author’s grandest achievement, is a coming-of-age story about New Jersey youth gone wild. But that’s not taking into account the book’s central figure, teenage Ray Pye, who’s a burgeoning Hannibal Lecter without the taste for human flesh. The Lost watches the evil Ray slowly decimate the lives of everyone around him, culminating in a finale that’s intensely appalling, gruesome, and, best of all, totally off the rails.