Review: Small Town Horror by Ronald Malfi

Small Town HorrorSmall Town Horror by Ronald Malfi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Small Town Horror is the latest release from one of my favorite authors, Ronald Malfi. As you could probably guess, it’s also one of my most anticipated releases of 2024.

I’m please to announce, it did NOT disappoint!!

In this story, we follow Andrew Larimer, a NYC attorney, who suddenly gets called back to the hometown he fled almost two decades ago.

Kingsport, Maryland, was where Andrew grew up. The beautiful coastal town holds a lot of memories for Andrew, but one in particular, an event that happened on his 16th-birthday in 2003, made him want to never look back.

When he gets a call that his childhood friend, Dale, is in trouble though, and that he could really use Andrew’s help, Andrew begrudgingly packs his things and returns to the place he swore he’d never see again.

Once in town, Andrew is ultimately reunited with all of his old friends: Dale, Meach, Eric and Tig. It’s like getting punched in the face by the past. There’s so much unresolved between them, you can feel the tension oozing off the page.

Andrew is also staying at his childhood home, his father’s house which transferred to him upon his father’s passing a few years ago. The house is in disrepair, with a flooded basement and insects, it’s a house of horrors come to life.

Through past and present perspectives, the Reader is slowly keyed into the truth of what happened on Andrew’s 16th-birthday, which also happens to be the 4th of July.

I found both perspectives equally interesting. The past did have an added nostalgic feel to it, which I always appreciate, but the present had an intensity that I couldn’t turn away from. I felt like the connections between the past and present were also so well done.

The creepy imagery and lush atmosphere were absolutely fantastic. The coastal town, the lighthouse, the birds, the dark endless water, the mystery, the intrigue, the supernatural flourishes, it was all top notch stuff.

Malfi is an incredible writer, who never fails to draw me in. While not all his characters may be particularly likable, they’re always believable. Hell, I don’t like a lot of people in real life, so why would I expect to like all the characters I read about?

I did feel for Andrew in this one though, and maybe even Tig. They weren’t perfect, but I think the choices they made were understandable. As they transitioned into adulthood, they truly never got past the things that happened that one 4th of July night. The shadow they couldn’t shake.

The idea of hauntings, or being haunted; it’s not just places and it’s not just supernatural, people can be haunted for a variety of reasons, and I enjoyed that exploration here.

Malfi is always able to channel such emotion into his writing. It feels like he is pouring his heart into his stories. Honestly, it must be exhausting, but I feel like that extra touch makes his stories stand out against the crowd.

As an atmosphere girlie, I can’t stress enough how deeply atmospheric this story is. As I was reading it, I was swept down the coast to Maryland. I could feel it.

Unlike the standard Autumnal vibes we’re used to getting from Horror novels though, this exudes Summer Horror. If you do not have this on your Summer TBR, you need to change that immediately. This isn’t one you want to save until October. You need to read this now!

The beginning did remind me a lot of Black Mouth, but of course, Malfi brought it in its own distinct direction. I walked away from this silenced. I had to just stare off into space for a while and ponder everything I’d read.

The ending, wow. Dang! It was completely unexpected, yet somehow a perfect conclusion. It sort of broke my heart, but also made me just so excited that talent like Ronald Malfi’s exists in the world, and that I can keep picking up his books for a long, long time.

Thank you to the publisher, Titan Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I recommend this to any Horror Reader, particularly if you are looking for great Summer Horror with palpable small town vibes.

View all my reviews