Bone White – Ronald Malfi, 2017.
A remote Alaskan village. Sinister, superstitious townsfolk. Mysterious disappearances. Granny tales of doppelgangers and devils stalking the woods, turning folks mad. Cue a delicious shiver: Ronald Malfi’s unique new horror novel delivers all this and then some.
In Dread’s Hand, Alaska, a backwoods serial killer turns himself in, confessing to eight murders. The investigating detective, Jill Ryerson, grows uncomfortably aware that the killer’s story defies rationality and is disturbingly connected to other uncanny killings.
On the far side of the country, Paul Gallo is certain that his missing twin brother, Danny, must be one of the victims. Paul travels to Alaska and ends up starting his own amateur probe into Danny’s disappearance.
But the folks of Dread’s Hand keep their macabre secrets well, and they don’t like outsiders. The deeper Paul digs, the greater his horror grows. And the danger grows, too.
Bone White is a crackerjack of a story. In a slow, menacing build, Malfi hooks us with tantalizing snippets of demon stories, dark impressions of village rituals and brief glimpses of the story’s ancient evil. All the while, we anxiously hope for the best – but expect the worst – in Paul’s quest.
Like Paul, we feel increasingly claustrophobic and vulnerable in Dread’s Hand. The inscrutable townspeople, affected by generations of long, lonely winters – and by the presence of the lurking malevolence in the woods – are alien and disturbing to us. This characterization brilliantly adds to our rising readerly paranoia.
Our chill of fear is matched by a nearly palpable chill of winter. Under Malfi’s deft detailing, the bitter landscape becomes a hostile entity in itself. All around, Bone White is distinctively unnerving.
Grab an extra comforter – you’ll need it – and curl up with this one.