Ronald Malfi is primarily a horror and thriller writer, but this little gem is something of a ghost story. I love ghost stories, especially if they are not malevolent ghosts bent on destruction. And this ghost is a little boy.
It is a story of loss and coming to terms, of the loyalty of family and the bonds that loyalty can take.
It has been said that nature does not know extinction. In effect, it knows only change; nothing ever truly disappears, for there is always something — some particle, some formidable semblance — left behind.
It is the first-person story of a successful horror writer, who has spent all of his adult years trying to come to terms with the drowning death of his ten-year-old brother when he himself was thirteen and they were both where they should not have been.
He and his wife are living in London in a tiny, cramped apartment when his older brother in a small town outside of Baltimore advises him of a house for sale near him at a spectacularly great price. Travis and his wife seize the opportunity and buy it sight unseen.
It is on a large lake, in the middle of which is an old wooden structure that looks like a staircase, but is actually the remnant of a double dock which was destroyed a number of years ago in a storm.
After experiencing some odd noises, and strange shadows, the couple finds out that two years ago, a young boy drowned in the lake, but his body was never found. The family was very strange, kept to themselves, and the boy was said to be developmentally slow.
Our protagonist writer is convinced that the boy was murdered, especially after finding a hidden room in the basement that was set up like a boy’s bedroom, and he sets off to try to uncover the circumstances surrounding the death.
It is a mystery, yes, and a personal story that kind of tugs at you, with an ending that probably more astute readers than I could have foretold, but which caught me unawares.