Epeolatry Book Review: Small Town Horror by Ronald Malfi


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Title: Small Town Horror
Author: Ronald Malfi
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Titan Press
Publication Date: 4th June, 2024

Synopsis:Five childhood friends are forced to confront their own dark past as well as the curse placed upon them in this horror masterpiece from the bestselling author of Come with Me.

Maybe this is a ghost story…

Andrew Larimer thought he left the past behind. But when he receives a late-night phone call from an old friend, he finds he has no choice but to return home, and to confront the memories—and the horror—of a night, years ago, that changed everything.

For Andrew and his friends, the past is not dead, and the curse that has befallen them now threatens to destroy all that they’ve become.

One dark secret…

One small-town horror…

 Nostalgia is common, and returning to one’s roots after many years can be a wondrous reflection. This town is where I grew up. This is the street I lived on. This was my school. This was my home. 

But for Andrew Larimer, his roots are coated in blood. He doesn’t want to return to his childhood home, Kingsport. He’s built a new life with his pregnant wife in New York, but when an old friend rings, asking for help, Andrew has no choice but to dig up the secret he’d buried. 

Ronald Malfi’s 400-page Small Town Horror circulates between five friends: Andrew the lawyer, Eric the town’s deputy sheriff, Dale a real-estate developer, Tig a single mum and bar owner, and Meach a drug addict and alcoholic. They are bound together by a deadly secret. Only this secret is now haunting them after twenty years. Small Town Horror is a slow burn, hinting at the paranormal and strange ongoings, while shifting perspectives from the present day to 2003, on that fateful night when their lives changed forever.

For me, the horror was explosive. Spooky shadows, corpses, animals, things that appear at random, etc. The list goes on, diving from eeriness to disturbing to full-on gore. This is not for the faint of heart or for those looking for a gothic-like ghost story. This ghost plays tricks on your mind, disturbing your mentality. Is there a ghost or not? With some characters like Eric and Dale in denial about the weird things occurring, it is easy to follow their reasoning. Andrew never concludes an opinion about it, which was frustrating, so it felt almost maddening as I read on.

As for the characters, none were particularly likeable. I didn’t feel any connection towards them, but a bit of sympathy for Meach, who suffers hallucinations and warns the group over and over about the ghost. A ghost that is a part of a curse.

The plot overall was phenomenal. Every disturbing occurrence and weird event connected with no gaping hole to the structure. There was a huge twist I didn’t see coming and once it’s revealed everything slid into place like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s worth the journey to reach that twist, I assure you. The ending was interesting with some of it obvious to me. There was no other way it was going to go. The ending also concluded with a sort of limbo that perfectly satisfied me. How we end up in this limbo, however, was a bit weak in the story-structure.

Small Town Horror is sharp, dark, creepy, and tense throughout. Malfi writes with an elegance to his language and sentences, poetic in parts, while relentless with his gory, heart-pounding, and terrifying events. His characters do not hide their ugliness, nor do his settings. For fans of the small town horror trope, this should be high on your to-be-read list. If you want to be truly terrified, you can do what I did, which is read it when there’s a power cut, when you’re home alone, and when it is dead of night. I won’t forget Small Town Horror anytime soon, that’s for sure. 


Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

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