Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi

Firstly, a huge thank you to Titan Books for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher: Titan Books
Publication Date:
19/07/2022
Length: 436 pages
Genre:
Horror | Psychological Horror | Psycholical Thriller

CW: suicide, alcoholism, child abuse, domestic abuse, animal abuse, some homophobic language, some abelist language

Blackwells.co.uk

For nearly two decades, Jamie Warren has been running from darkness. He’s haunted by a traumatic childhood and the guilt at having disappeared from his disabled brother’s life. But then a series of unusual events reunites him with his estranged brother and their childhood friends, and none of them can deny the sense of fate that has seemingly drawn them back together.

Nor can they deny the memories of that summer, so long ago – the strange magic taught to them by an even stranger man, and the terrible act that has followed them all into adulthood. In the light of new danger, they must confront their past by facing their futures, and hunting down a man who may very well be a monster. 

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Review

I absolutely adored Come With Me when I read it last year, so I was not surprised in the slightest that I also devoured Black Mouth in a single sitting. There’s just something about Malfi’s writing that it’s utterly captivating, making it impossible to put the novel down. The pacing, the plot, and the characters all work wonderfully together to build the tension and uneasy atmosphere throughout the novel.

The way Malfi will switch from darkly, lyrical descriptions of the setting and the trauma to the very blunt, almost crude, thoughts and dialogue was jarring in the best way. It would really keep you on your toes and doesn’t allow you to feel comfortable or settled as you read. There are several moments in the novel where I felt genuinely uncomfortable reading it, whether that would be the actions of particular characters or just the characters themselves.

I really enjoyed the characterisation of each of the characters and felt that we got to see a lot of them and got to know them. I particularly loved Mia. She was such a fantastic character to have in a horror novel, the fact that she was so aware of all the horror clichés and would actively take strides to avoid them was so brilliant to read. Jamie was an interesting protagonist, I liked the different conflicts that he faced and his relationship with his brother, Dennis. I also loved Clay and the way he developed from his childhood and how he turned what he was bullied for as a child into a tool to help children open up to him as a social worker.

I was fascinated by the character of The Magician. Everything about him from the descriptions of him from the kids, the other adults, and his mannerisms and speech were incredibly unsettling. From the very first meeting, you can feel that there’s something off about everything but it’s difficult to pinpoint what it is. This continues to build the more you see him and especially when Dennis is added into the mix. The mystery surrounding The Magician was handled wonderfully by Malfi through the pacing of the novel. Small pieces of information would be revealed, just enough to help you understand but never fully. Additionally, I really appreciated the fact that Malfi didn’t drag out the reveal any longer than necessary.

It’s difficult to talk about the greatness of this novel without delving into any kind of spoiler territory and, just like Come With Me, going into this book without any ideas or expectations. If you’re a fan of horror and psychological horror then you’re going to love this novel. I can’t wait to see what Malfi does next!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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