Shh…Its a Secret: Secret Societies in Fiction

By their very name, secret societies inspire curiosity, fascination and distrust.

Some secret societies go to great lengths to hide the fact that they even exist. Others, though, don’t hide their existence. Most secret societies have a few things in common, though. These sometimes include difficult membership qualifications, secret rituals or ceremonies, and close personal bonds between members. Secret societies can be found on many college campuses as fraternities and sororities and others exist on a global level.

Here is an article on secret societies from The Encyclopedia of Religion that can be accessed via Gale Virtual Reference Library with your library card.

 Packed with mystery, danger, code-breaking, government conspiracy, and even murder, books revolving around secret socities can make for riveting reads.  After all what can be scarier than a secret society planning to take over the world?

 Here are a few fiction titles that can bring a chill down your spine and are spooky enough to set the right tone for October.

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

When world-renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to a Swiss research facility to analyze a mysterious symbol, he discovers evidence of the unimaginable: the resurgence of an ancient and powerful secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati—which has its sights on its longtime enemy: the Catholic Church.

Desperate to save the Vatican, Langdon joins forces in Rome with the beautiful and mysterious scientist Vittoria Vetra. Together, they embark on a frantic hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals, and the most secretive vault on earth—the long-forgotten Illuminati lair which houses the only hope for the salvation of the Catholic Church.  Also Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

Beirut Hellfire Society: a novel by Rawi Hage

Picking up his late father’s arrangement with an anti-religious sect that performs secret burials for marginalized outcasts, an eccentric undertaker in 1970s Beirut confronts perspectives on death in the face of war.

The Forbidden Door: a Jane Hawk novel by Dean Koontz

She was one of the FBI’s top agents until she became the nation’s most-wanted fugitive. Now Jane Hawk may be all that stands between a free nation and its enslavement by a powerful secret society’s terrifying mind-control technology. She couldn’t save her husband, or the others whose lives have been destroyed, but equipped with superior tactical and survival skills–and the fury born of a broken heart and a hunger for justice–Jane has struck major blows against the insidious cabal. But Jane’s enemies are about to hit back hard. If their best operatives can’t outrun her, they mean to bring her running to them, using her five-year-old son as bait. 

The Hellfire Club by Jake Tapper

After a mysterious fatal car accident kills his predecessor, Congressman Charlie Marder struggles to navigate the dangerous waters of 1950s Washington, D.C., where he finds an underworld of backroom deals, secret societies, and a conspiracy at the highest levels of the government.

Hidden Order: a thriller by Brad Thor

The most secretive organization in America operates without any accountability to the American people. Hiding in the shadows, pretending to be part of the United States government, its power is beyond measure. Control of this organization has just been lost and the future of the nation thrust into peril. When the five candidates being considered to head this mysterious agency suddenly go missing, covert counterterrorism operative Scot Harvath is summoned to Washington and set loose on the most dangerous chase ever to playout on American soil.

But as the candidates begin turning up murdered, the chase becomes an all-too-public spectacle, with every indicator suggesting that the plot has its roots in a shadowy American cabal founded in the 1700s.

King of the Road by R. S. Belcher

Jimmie Aussapile, Lovina Marcou and Heck Sinclair are members of a secret society dedicated to protecting those who travel America’s highways from the monsters, both supernatural and mundane, that lurk in the darkness just beyond your headlights. They are the Brotherhood of the Wheel. One way or another peace must be maintained and the many roads of America must be protected. But it might just cost the Brotherhood their souls if they aren’t careful.

More Miracle than Bird: a novel by Alice Miller

On the eve of World War I, Georgie Hyde-Lees-on her own for the first time-is introduced to the acclaimed poet W. B. Yeats at a soirée in London. Although Yeats is famously eccentric and many years her senior, Georgie is drawn to him, and when he extends a cryptic invitation to a secret society, her life is forever changed.. Amidst the chaos of war, Georgie finds purpose tending to injured soldiers in a makeshift hospital, befriending the wounded and heartbroken Lieutenant Pike, who might need more from her than she is able to give. At night with Yeats, she escapes these realities into an even darker world, becoming immersed in The Order, a clandestine society where ritual, magic, and the conjuring of spirits is practiced and pursued. As forces – both of this world and the next – pull Yeats and Georgie closer together and then apart again, Georgie uncovers a secret that threatens to undo it all.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Clay Jannon, a web-design expert in San Francisco, is forced to work in a bookshop after the recession costs him his job. But all is not what it seems in this hole-in-the-wall store. Suspicious customers “check out” mysterious volumes and no one ever buys a book. After Clay begins snooping for answers, he discovers a bookish cult beyond his wildest imagination. 

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

A fantastical reimagining of Bardugo’s own time at Yale University, this novel follows Alex Stern, the sole survivor of a multiple homicide. While recovering in the hospital, Alex is offered a full-ride scholarship to Yale University by a mysterious benefactor who asks only that Alex monitor Yale’s aristocratic secret societies while she’s there. But Alex soon learns this is no easy task as the activities of these societies are far darker and more deadly than she could have ever imagined.

Sea Change by Nancy Kress

In 2022, GMOs were banned. A biopharmaceutical caused the Catastrophe: worldwide economic and agricultural collapse, and personal tragedy for lawyer Caroline Denton and her son. Ten years later, as Renata Black, she is a member of the Org, an underground group of scientists hunted by the feds. But the Org’s illegal food-research might just hold the key to rebuilding the worlds’ food supply.

The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

The murders of two Foreign Office officials appear to be connected to the theft of a top-secret formula. Lady Brent’s investigations into the crime lead her to the mysterious Seven Dials Club.
Hoopla has a number of ebooks to do with secret societies.

-Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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