Review: A Shrill Keening by Ronald Malfi

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About A Shrill Keening

Carl Thompson spends his days confined to a psychiatric ward for a gruesome murder he can’t remember committing. But his nights are spent elsewhere, patrolling an evacuated stretch of beach for some purpose that is not readily apparent.

During the day, he struggles to decipher which part of his existence is real and which is not. At night, he tries to uncover the mystery to a numbered code, a silver key, and a band of people who have given him his cryptic instructions.

Are these two realities linked? Could the answers to the mysteries in one reality be found within the other? Carl must find out before time runs out, and the sound of a shrill keening threatens to destroy both realities.


About the Author

Ronald Malfi is the award-winning author of the novels Floating Staircase, Snow, The Ascent, and several others. Most recognized for his haunting, literary style and memorable characters, Malfi's dark fiction has gained acceptance among readers of all genres. He currently lives along the Chesapeake Bay where he is at work on his next book.


My Thoughts

In A Shrill Keening, we find Carl Thompson, a patient locked away at a mental institution for the murder of his girlfriend, Merritt. His days are spent reading multiple volumes from the hospital's library, but his nights are spent as a Watcher at the beach, equipped only with a sheet of paper bearing nine numerical digits, waiting for the arrival of a world-ending beast.

As with Jennifer Loring's Conduits, a quite notable DarkFuse release from earlier this year, Ronald Malfi's work tackles the twisty divide between sanity and madness, upending reality and the various interpretations of what constitutes reality. Is this a story of pure delusion, or a Lovecraftian last-hurrah for all of humanity? The onus of answering this question lies completely with the reader and how willing they are to take the easy route, or to, perhaps instead, plumb the depths of the veil separating the multiverse and join the spokes and cogs of The Wheel alongside Carl.

Malfi's writing is top notch, and Carl's voice is lyrical and, often, poetic. I found myself completely engrossed in the central mystery of this novella, working alongside Carl to piece together the trips back and forth across the divide between his dual realities, effortlessly pulled along by the author's sweetly lulling prose.

Well written, nicely paced, and curiously intriguing, this is an easy title to recommend, particularly for readers with an affinity for Lovecraft's works (Malfi makes no bones about this particular influence in the text on either he or Carl) or fans of The Twilight Zone. Simply put - I found this to be a terrific story.

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Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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