"Bone White" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Kensington Publishing
Written by Ronald Malfi
2017, 384 pages, Fiction
Released on July 25th, 2017
The variety of emotions snow can bring forth is fascinating. On one hand, romantics and lovers alike want nothing more than a white Christmas, or a sleigh ride over a field or road covered with the white stuff. There’s also the joy the young and young at heart get taking part in snowball fights, the creation of a snowman, a blistering fast trip down a hill on a sled that you have little to no control over. And then there’s the feeling of utter desolation and loneliness during a quiet winter evening, when you look out your window and see nothing white for miles. This is the terror that a good snowfall can bring with it as much it brings the happy memories; and artists know this. Author Ronald Malfi certainly does, and uses it to his full advantage in his latest novel, Bone White.
When a resident of the Alaskan town of Dread’s Hand leads the police numerous buried bodies, the murders of which he’s responsible for, the news goes nationwide. Way down in Maryland, Paul catches the breaking report while drinking at his favorite watering hole and immediately thinks of his brother. Turns out his twin, Danny, was last seen in the town where our serial killer has admitted to his hobby. Naturally, Paul heads north to find if his brother is one of the victims and thus begins a horrifying adventure filled with mystery, intrigue, annoying locals, and a myriad reasons why I won’t be visiting the small towns of Alaska anytime soon.
I’ve read a few of Malfi’s novellas before I read my first full-length prose of his, Night Parade. A book so enjoyable that it made my Horror Favorites of 2016. So, as one would expect, I was very excited to jump into Bone White. I didn’t even bother with reading the description because Malfi is fast becoming a favorite author of mine. One of the reasons for this is how he tells a story. He takes his time getting to the scares, doing the right thing to create believable characters and solid foundation for his story before scaring the hell out of you. Plus, his books – at least the ones I’ve read – deliver fear without grossing you out. Do not misunderstand me; I love the brutality of the work of the likes of Richard Laymon, Edward Lee, and Jack Ketchum, but when it comes to scares, I prefer my dread to be delivered in such a way that I’m squirming from discomfort rather than disgust.
"Someone send you in here to ask me all these questions?" he asked.
"No, sir. I'm the lead investigator on this case."
"Seeing how you found that little hole beneath my house, ma'am, you haven't asked me the one question you really want to ask, have you?" Something about his face – not his expressioin, Ryerson thought, but his face – chilled her. He looked like a skeleton stuffed into people clothes and puppeted by a mad wizard.
With Bone White, Malfi has you on the edge of your seat from almost the beginning of the novel all the way to the end. Much of the piece is spent with Paul searching out his brother in the wilds of Alaska with no help from the townies of Dread’s Hand and little help from the chief out in the bigger town. He’s figuratively on his own, and even more so when he goes out his own to start putting the puzzle together, and boy, once all the pieces fall into place, you are in for a treat.
The characters in Bone White are exceptional. Paul is broken. He may be the main guy here, but he’s not strong at all and that’s what makes him so completely real he’s almost tangible. The supporting characters fare just as well. Malfi does a nice job going against type on some of his choices, but also smartly writes the stereotypical fodder for some of the townsfolk. Look, I have family who live in the wilds of West Virginia, and I’ve met many folks who are exactly what you’d expect living in a particular area. You need that balance when telling a story, and Malfi expertly dances that line. He also makes Dread’s Hand a character itself, which is vastly important for this type of novel, and it brings an added element that the book would suffer for without it.
If you look at films like The Thing or 30 Days of Night, you know how terrifying it can be in a winter environment. Now put that in a book form and you have Ronald Malfi’s Bone White. As much as I hate using this term because it’s so played out, it really is a must read and I can’t see it not making my Favorites of 2017 list. So go get your scarf, mittens, and that favorite winter hat of yours with the little ball on top to pick yourself up a copy and have the hell scared out of you.