By Ronald Malfi
Published by Titan Books in paperback, audiobook and ebook format
Published by Titan Books, THEY LURK is a collection of five novellas from American horror author Ronald Malfi: Skullbelly, The Separation, The Stranger, After The Fade, and Fierce. Touching upon the weird, strange and the supernatural, these five tales of terror deliver a dark sense of unease that’s very hard to shake once you’ve made the plunge into its pages.
Having never read any of Ronald Malfi’s work previously, it was exciting to discover the author’s style. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an author as descriptive as Malfi. He goes to town on the details to the point where you don’t need to even imagine the scenario – his words take you directly there. The picture he paints is so vivid that you genuinely feel your heart in your mouth when confronted by the horrors he pens. It grips you, sucks you into his work and only releases you when it’s done. Reading each novella in one sitting is a fine example of how I could not tear myself away from the pages once I started.
Being a horror fan, both of the cinematic and the written word, some of the twists and turns in the novellas are a little predictable, but with each novella the quality improves significantly. You may even get a flavour of other stories from his work, such as Stephen King’s The Mist and Ken Russell’s The Lair of the White Worm. Not one to seemingly pigeon-hole himself, Malfi’s tales touch upon different types of horror, from creatures and monsters to the human kind. Each novella has its own horror flavour but Malfi’s seemingly trademark-style of providing such an intricately detailed account is present throughout each and every story.
What I did find interesting is how the stories seem to be set in the same universe. An aspect from first novella Skullbelly is mentioned in another novella later in the book and was something that I couldn’t help but smile at. A little thing, perhaps, but nevertheless a nice nod to reference a creation of the author’s own devising, something which the reader can recognise and be a part of.
As a set of horror stories, THEY LURK isn’t short of brutality with some distressing scenes in novellas The Separation, The Strange and Fierce that may be difficult to overcome. Whilst they can be difficult to read, they’re just a small part of a larger whole and add to the stories they’re a part of in their own individual ways. For that reason alone, I’d say that this book of short stories is suited to readers 18+.
Whilst I preferred a couple of the novellas to others, with some endings of later works handled better than earlier ones, the overall quality of the stories are terrific and terrifying in equal measure. Malfi’s skill with the written word is perfect for the horror genre and I sincerely look forward to exploring more chilling tales the author has penned.