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

BlackMouth

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

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Can’t Wait Wednesday : Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi

CWW

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is: Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi.  Long story short – I loved Come With Me and can’t wait to read more by this author.  Here’s the description:

Black Mouth

Perfect for fans of Stephen King’s IT, a group of friends return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they first stumbled on as teenagers in this mesmerizing odyssey of terror.

For nearly two decades, Jamie Warren has been running from darkness. He’s haunted by a traumatic childhood and the guilt at having disappeared from his disabled brother’s life. But then a series of unusual events reunites him with his estranged brother and their childhood friends, and none of them can deny the sense of fate that has seemingly drawn them back together.

Nor can they deny the memories of that summer, so long ago – the strange magic taught to them by an even stranger man, and the terrible act that has followed them all into adulthood. In the light of new danger, they must confront their past by facing their futures, and hunting down a man who may very well be a monster.

Expected Publication : July 2022