The Narrows by Ronald Malfi; Darkfuse; 2012; 304 pgs; $50.00 US
Very rarely do I go into a book with almost no knowledge of its contents. I generally try to know, at the very least, what the back cover/jacket flap description is. I didn’t have that advantage going into The Narrows. I had been hearing a lot of praise for Ronald Malfi, and although I owned a lot of his work, I hadn’t gotten around to actually reading any of it yet. So I gave in to the hype, and dove into his latest book sight unseen.
The good news is, it’s a really good book.
The bad news is, and I don’t consider this a spoiler, since it’s in the book’s Amazon.com copy, is that it’s a Vampire book, and we seem to be going through a “Vampires aren’t hip” phase at the moment.
And these Vampires aren’t hip….they’re creepy. Disturbing. Heartbreaking, even.
Malfi’s story revolves around the town of Stillwater, a small little dot on the map that is prone to devastating floods, due to its unusual geographical features. Stillwater has been dying a slow death for the past few decades, and the town is a shadow of its former self. A young boy vanishes into thin air in the middle of the night, leading his (Slightly….) older Sister and a local Police Sergeant into a deepening mystery that threatens the entire town and everybody in it.
The Narrows reminded me a lot of ‘Salem’s Lot, which is a good thing. Malfi doesn’t ape the narrative style Stephen King used in his classic Vampire novel…..Malfi’s story is a whole different beast. What put me in an early Stephen King frame of mind was Malfi’s well-drawn characters and the fully realized town of Stillwater and its inhabitants. A Horror story just doesn’t work if you don’t care about the characters, and Malfi really brings his cast to life. I especially enjoyed the unlikely Vampire-Hunting duo of Sergeant Ben Journell and Brandy Crawley, the teenaged Sister of the vanished Matthew Crawley. Her quiet, unswerving devotion to her younger Brother is incredibly touching, and her determination to save him from the darkness engulfing her town is both heartbreaking and inspirational. The ultimate answer to the search for the evil that is plaguing Stillwater is both original and creepy, and I certainly wouldn’t mind it if Malfi explored their history at greater length in the future. And I’m not ashamed to say that the ending made me a little bit misty. You hear a lot of talk about “The next big name” in Horror……If there is any justice, Ronald Malfi will be a “Big Name”. But whether that happens or not, the man is an incredibly talented Writer, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he has in store for us in the future.
The Narrows is sold out in hardcover (From Darkfuse), but will be available in paperback and digitally from Samhain this Fall. Ronald Malfi has a short story prequel, The Boy In The Lot, that will be available digitally when the novel is released this Fall, and its currently free to download from Amazon.com.
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