cover image We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone: Selected Stories

We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone: Selected Stories

Ronald Malfi. JournalStone, $18.95 trade paper (302p) ISBN 978-1-945373-97-8

In this uneven collection of 20 horror stories, Malfi (Little Girls) explores a wide range of human failings, foibles, and flaws. A psychotic man mentors a disturbed and bullied child in “Under the Tutelage of Mr. Trueheart.” Another child is preyed upon in “The House on Cottage Lane,” which will haunt readers. In “Pembroke,” a secretive bookstore proprietor comes across a book with fearsome power. An unusual quartet convenes in “Couples Seeking Couples.” A few of the stories are throwaways: “In a Pet Shop,” “Chupacabra,” and “The Housewarming” have no real point. Others are powerfully scary: “All the Pretty Girls,” about a serial killer, is downright chilling, and “Closing In,” about a criminal suddenly confronted with his sins, is deeply disturbing. “Painstation” and “Discussions Concerning the Ingestion of Living Insects” resonate like horrible nightmares. Malfi concludes with “Then There Is Boston,” which meanders but eventually proves to be a fitting end to the collection. Many of the stories have decidedly ambiguous endings, which may frustrate some readers. This is a potluck-like mix from which readers can pick and choose. [em](Nov.) [/em]