Postcards From a Dying World
News, views, book reviews and commentary from the Science Fiction and Horror fiction underground. Home of the Wonderland award nominated author of Vegan Revolution...With Zombies and Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich.
Saturday, October 21, 2017
Book Review: Bone White by Ronald Malfi
Bone White by Ronald Malfi
Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 2017 by Kensington Publishing Corporation
I admit I was not familiar with Ronald Malfi before reading this book. I had heard him mentioned on the Horror Show with Brian Keene, but it was a review that tipped me off. Marvin Vernon of the Novel Pursuit who I sometimes do audio reviews with called it "one of the best books of 2017 of any genre." and it was why I immediately went to my library website and put it on hold. I trust Marvin.
I am glad I did. I enjoyed the hell out of this book, which for the first 100 pages felt like the set-up episode of the next season of Fargo. I know it takes place in Alaska not the upper midwest. It does however start with a weird crime in the far north with a woman detective taking the lead despite many around her doubting her. Not sure it was intentional but that is what it made me think of.
Bone White is a northern gothic horror novel that I liked very much. I gave it five stars but I am not sure I ready to use the word Masterpiece. I mean it is very good. It has many moments of dread and outright creepy-ness while never skimming on characters.
The main character is Paul, who is estranged from his twin brother who a year earlier left for a new life in Alaska. He is more stable than his brother Danny who after moving up north has now gone quiet. The story really starts with a creepy scene in a small town called Dread's hands. Joe Mallory a local older man walks into a diner where everyone knows him and informs them that he has committed a series of murders and you better call someone to get the bodies. This intro was very off-putting in a good way. You can feel the thick tension of the scene drip off the pages and we as readers feel the discomfort.
Malfi appears to have a skill for making excellent off-putting discomfort. I don't want to get into it but I find Alaska to be a creepy enough place but Malfi does a good job of making us feel the isolation. Without giving away spoilers for the end the story takes a supernatural turn. With hints of classic Gothic and cryptic warnings that showcase a heavy Stephen King influence Malfi maintains most of the mystery right up to the horrific end.
This is a deeply psychological novel at times, brutal and atmospheric. The skill of the writing takes a pretty basic concept and elevates it beyond tropes into an experience. The pacing of the novel is very impressive that doles out mystery just enough. If I am critical of anything it would be the weak cover that suggests nothing of tone or feeling of the novel. Jill Ryerson the cop investigating the murders is a very interesting and frankly under used character. These are minor issues and the best thing I can say about the novel is I will read more Malfi.