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Book Review: Bone White, by Ronald Malfi

Madness and murder in the backwoods of Alaska.

Bone White

Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2017, 384 pages

Paul Gallo saw the report on the news: a mass murderer leading police to his victims' graves in remote Dread's Hand, Alaska.

It's not even a town; more like the bad memory of a town. The same bit of wilderness where his twin brother went missing a year ago. As the bodies are exhumed, Paul travels to Alaska to get closure and put his grief to rest.

But the mystery is only beginning. What Paul finds are superstitious locals who talk of the devil stealing souls, and a line of wooden crosses to keep what's in the woods from coming out. He finds no closure because no one can explain exactly what happened to Danny.

And the more he searches for answers, the more he finds himself becoming part of the mystery...

Dread's Hand is a great name for a town out in Bumfuck, Alaska. Whenever I read about some remote village with practically zero amenities, employment, culture, or anything to do except get drunk and start eying your spouse's neck while fondling a butcher knife, I wonder what holds a place like that together. Obviously anyone with any intelligence or ambition in life or a desire to see something other than long, dark winters would leave, but enough people stay for the place to linger, a barely-populated dot on the map that occasionally makes national news when, say, an old coot wanders out of the woods and announces he's killed a dozen people and left them buried all over the place.

Bone White is a murder mystery on the surface — when the friendly neighborhood serial killer surrenders to the police (he has to wait several hours for them to get up to Dread's Hand), the only thing he won't tell them is why he did it, or the names of the people he killed. But back in Baltimore Paul Gallo sees the news and since his identical twin brother happened to disappear up near Dread's Hand, Alaska, a year ago, naturally he sees this as the possibility of getting answers and/or closure. So he flies out to Alaska and drives up to Dread's Hand, asking questions, poking around, and getting treated like you'd expect an outsider poking around to be treated in a place like Dread's Hand.

That the locals are superstitious and soon there emerge campfire tales of Wendigo-like demons and madness, people going "Bone White" and having their souls stolen by the Devil out in the woods, is not surprising. Paul, of course, believes none of this, even as things do start going creepy and sideways. The novel teases with the hint of supernatural dealings for quite a while — this isn't a book that goes straight to the meat and the horror, but lets the reader guess. Is the author going to pull a Wendigo out of the woods, or will this be a mundane mass murder after all?

The Big Reveal was pulled off better than most novels of this sort, and I thought the author preserved the tension and creepiness and mystery almost to the end. If you like creepy thrillers set in remote places, that may or may not have supernatural elements in them, Bone White is quite satisfying.

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