Review: They Lurk - Ronald Malfi
Genre: Horror novellas
Published: Titan Books, July 2023
My rating: 3/5 stars
Sensitivity warnings at the bottom.
With They Lurk, Titan Press have rebound and rereleased 4 of Ronald Malfi’s out-of-print novella’s, together with a brand-new tale in this new collection of short-horrors.
Being a more recent fan of Malfi, after only first discovering his work back in 2021, I was all too happy to be offered a second chance at checking out some of his older work. Overall, I wasn’t disappointed. While I generally prefer his longer novels, each of these novella’s had his signature sense of ominous atmosphere combined with memorable characters, and a perfect balance between supernatural- and psychological threads.
In Skullbelly, a weathered detective investigates the disappearance of three teenagers in a nearby forest, and the urban legend on what happened to them that haunts the town.
In The Separation, a psychotherapist chases down his friend/client; a washed up boxer who’s moved to rural Germany, and is exhibiting increasingly odd behaviour. Is this a simple case of depression, or is something more malicious at play…?
In The Stranger we follow the cuttingly tense situation that arises when a man returns to his car in the parking lot, only to find a stranger at the wheel. A stranger with a gun…
In After the Fade, we witness the start of an apocalyptic event from the point of view of the regulars of a bar, after a young woman stumbles in with something strange protruding from the back of her head.
Finally, in Fierce, a mother and daughter narrowly survive a carcrash in the snow, only to end up in an even more intense survival situation that strangely mirrors one from their past.
I’ve compared Malfi’s novels, stylistically and thematically, to some of the works of Stephen King. Most recently Black Mouth, which reminded me a lot of It, without some of the big problems I had with that book. This collection too was reminiscent of Kings style, in both strengths and weaknesses. The latter is most apparent in their endings. Although I know Malfi has proven he can stick an ending (e.g. Come with Me and the aforementioned Black Mouth), he seems to struggle with this in his older works. Where the final and most recent novella Fierce goes out with a bang, the first four go out with various levels of whimpers.
My final issue that brought me to round my initial 3.5 star rating down instead of up, was the lack of cohesion in the collection. This might be a matter of personal taste, but when a publisher releases something as a joined collection, I like there to be an overarching theme/style or other factor to bind the individual stories together. That isn’t the case here, as these stories were never written to be released together. This is made worse by the fact that the final story was obviously written years later, by a more experienced Malfi, which makes it stand out a bit from the rest.
Overall, I’m a big fan of Malfi’s work, and I’m happy to add this book to my list of reads by him. I’d recommend it if you’re in the market for a good collection of horror novella’s, although I think I personally preferred the authors previously collection Ghostwritten over this one.
Many thanks to Titan Books for providing me with an in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
You can find this book here on Goodreads.
Sensitivity warning: this book contains depictions of violence against animals. The final story also contains the depiction of children with physical deformity in a way I didn’t personally agree with. Depicting those with physical disabilities or deformities as savage or villainous is a trope I personally very much dislike, so do with that information what you will.