Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi

Posted On 1 August 2022

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My Five Word TL:DR Review : I absolutely loved this book


Everything about this book worked for me.  The writing is fabulous.  The storyline is intense.  The characters and friendships are drawn well.  The setting is dark and packed with atmosphere.  I didn’t want it to finish and yet I couldn’t put it down.  It was just excellent.  I expected to love this.  Last year I read and adored Come With Me by Ronald Malfi so my expectations for this were already high and I can genuinely say, hand on heart, that nothing about this book disappoints.

This is a story of four people returning to their childhood home to confront the horrors from their past so that they can move on with their futures.  The story is told by Jamie Warren in two alternating timelines.  Jamie takes us back to a summer when he was eleven years old, something of a misfit with an unhappy family home suffering neglect and abuse and yet finding friendship and a sense of place with his friends Mia and Clay and his brother Dennis.  To be honest this story takes a look at young children who are preyed on by predators and these four are targets without doubt.  They don’t fit the perfect cookie cut out pattern, they have unhappy family lives and are picked on at school, small wonder that given attention by a strange individual who befriends them and shows them magic tricks they find themselves beguiled.  Of course not everything is quite so rosy and a sinister undercurrent is slowly brewing.  Malfi takes us back and forth showing us the adults that they’ve grown into and the way they’re still haunted by that summer where their actions had such dire consequences.

The setting here is perfect.  Black Mouth, known  as such due to a mine collapse that took the lives of many and left the area with a dramatic and forbidding landscape, really lends itself to the story and the supernatural elements that are subtly woven into the piece.  You’re never quite sure if this gang are misremembering things or simply embellishing events and seeing things through a childhood lens.

The characters themselves are really well written.  Jamie, although he fled his childhood home as soon as it was possible, has never truly made a clean break.  He is haunted by his past actions and suffers from alcohol abuse.  Mia has taken her past experiences and used them to spark a creative talent in making horror movies.  Clay has himself gone into the field of trying to help children in need, his own past and personal experiences giving him an inside knowledge.  Dennis is the catalyst for return.  The only one of the gang to remain in Black Mouth until the death of their mother compels Jamie to reluctantly return.

Slowly but surely the events from the past unfold to their terrible conclusion and in the current day the characters come to an understanding that they must find the monster who orchestrated their downfall.  It seems that the character, known simply as the Magician, is still operational and causing misery wherever he appears.

For me I loved the way that you’re never quite sure whether this is going to vere completely into the supernatural or not.  Those elements are subtly woven into the story in a way that always allows for doubt.  Then there’s the dramatic finale.  You can feel it building like a thunderstorm and it provides flashes of inspiration and plenty of destruction once it hits.

I’ve seen this compared to Stephen King and I can completely see where those comparisons are springing from, particularly in terms of It and a coming back together of childhood friends to confront events from their past.  On top of this though there’s a wonderful carnival background that reminded me of Bradbury’s Something Wicked.  There’s an examination of secret pacts and strange and ancient ceremonies and I also had rumblings of King’s Doctor Sleep in the way the adults preyed on children.  Put bluntly, this is a horror story that will undoubtedly put you in mind of so many others that have come before it, but only in a way that it brings them to mind but then progresses to stand confidently on it’s own two feet.

I loved this and have no hesitation in recommending.  Dark and compelling horror that held me bewitched with it’s ghosts and fascinating characters.  I’m not a horror aficionado but this is definitely my kind of scary catnip.  It’s not a blood soaked slasher so much as an intriguing look at something sinister, a look at monsters and the shape they come in and more importantly that truth is quite often stranger than fiction.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 5 of 5 stars


10 Responses to “Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi”

  1. Tammy

    Yes! So glad you loved this too, I knew you would😁 Malfi is so good, I’m planning read his backlist books as soon as I get the chance!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I would also like to get to his backlist. I love his writing and his books are not just compelling reads but also always manage to give me a case of the goosebumps.
      Lynn 😀

  2. pagesandtea

    As I was reading your review I kept thinking this sounds a bit like King’s It so smiled when that book got a mention too, along with Doctor Sleep. The only one of those you mentioned that I haven’t read is Something Wicked.
    This sounds like like a perfect read for the darker nights of Autumn. Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Oh, it was so, so good. I think you would love it.
      Lynn 😀

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    I’m reading it right now and I find this story very compelling: the narrative change from past to present keeps increasing my curiosity about what happened, and I know this will turn out into one of my best reads for this year.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I can’t wait to read your thoughts. I just loved it and want to gush and read other people similarly gushing.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Roxanne Michelle

    Completely agree, I couldn’t have said it better 😁

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Really loved this, and hope to have my review up Friday. I saw the similarities/nods to Stephen King as well.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I actually really liked the ‘nods’ to King and other books. It gave me a kind of happy glow and I didn’t feel like it was poaching at all.
      Look forward to reading your thoughts.
      Lynn 😀

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