cover image Black Mouth

Black Mouth

Ronald Malfi. Titan, $15.95 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-78909-865-5

It takes a village, or at least a neighborhood, of misfits to deal with the malignant monsters at the core of this accomplished psychological horror story from Malfi (Come with Me). Jamie Warren, a not-quite-recovered alcoholic, returns to his hometown to bury his mother and care for his developmentally challenged brother, Dennis, even as his childhood friends Mia and Clay tangle with hauntings involving a homeless drifter all four knew as the Magician when they were young. As children under the Magician’s spell, the friends attempted to reach the source of magic, delving into the vast collapsed coal pit called the Black Mouth. Escaping his control caused tragic deaths—and they worry history will repeat when they discover that the Magician is stalking new apprentices. Malfi pulls in familiar horror elements—a weird carnival, an eerie backcountry filled with ghosts, a serial killer with a face fixation, a disabled person with supernatural sensitivity—but rings new changes on them, keeping readers tensely off-balance and unsure of what’s real. The well-done cosmic horror and mix of mundane and magical scares make this a standout. Agent: Cameron McClure, Donald Maass Literary. (July)