In an Alaskan diner, Joe Mallory steps inside from the wilderness and sits down for a cup of hot cocoa before confessing to a string of grisly serial murders he has committed over the last several years. A few thousand miles away, Paul hears news of the savagery and suspects his twin brother, who went missing in Alaska the prior year, is among the victims. While Paul makes his way to the far north, lead investigator Jill Ryerson begins to make some startling discoveries about the killer and his crimes.
Bone White is a slow-burn horror thriller, and one that is highly effective. Ronald Malfi balances Paul's search for answers and the investigation into Mallory's crimes against a sense of creeping, supernatural dread with an expert's finesse. This book brought me a few chills, some as cold as an Alaskan winter, and the creep factor on this sucker is high throughout. Malfi nails the dark atmosphere and tone of the book right from page one, weaving in a wonderful bit of mythology into the novel's core that deliciously infects and complicates the proceedings.
The story within Bone White is deftly plotted, and there's a reason for everything's occurrence. Even the nature of Paul and Daniel's twinness, which I initially took for a sort of aloof bit of humor given the townsfolk's reactions toward Paul, has a much more sinister nature in relation to the plot, which in turn leads to why those townsfolk react in said manner. There's an ouroboros-like relationship between the characters and the story, with one leading to the other and back again. It's just brilliantly done.
Equally smart is the subdued approach to horror that Malfi takes. Nothing is overstated or overdone, as the author tackles the scares with pared down minimalism that ends up being creepy as all get out. There's a few particular scenes I want to talk about, but won't because they could give away too much. I'll just say that one instance late in the book involving a kid wearing an animal mask was perhaps the most wickedly effective scene in the novel, thanks to Malfi's skill at building tension while setting the stage and slowly unraveling the story for us.
Bone White is the first Ronald Malfi book I've read, and I can promise you right now it won't be the last.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
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