The Mourning House by Ronald Malfi

(8.5/10) A short and sweet haunted house novella

The Mourning House by Ronald Malfi is a short and sweet haunted house novella that uses mood and emotion to evoke suspense and dread in the reader. Malfi has built up a solid reputation in the horror community over the past few years, and now that I've finally read one of his stories, I can see that the reputation has been well earned.

The story follows Sam Hatch, a good doctor with a loving family, whose perfect life is torn away in an instant by a horrific car accident. The good doctor becomes a broken man and he just needs to get away, so gets in his car and doesn't stop driving... until he spies a dilapidated house just off the highway. He gets a burning desire to start fixing this house up, maybe because it will help to fix his own life, and so does just that. But, the longer he spends in the house, the further he slips away from his sanity.

This story creeped me out. It's not intense, it's not violent, it's not packed full of jump-out scares, but you can see the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train, and that it's going to do some damage to the main character when it hits. Malfi builds a sympathetic link between the reader and Sam Hatch right from the start, so we want Sam to save himself, but as the story goes on and revelations are made about Sam's life, the sympathy we have is slowly stripped away. It makes you question if the house is just playing games, or if Sam's perfect life was really as perfect as we were led to believe.

With The Mourning House, Malfi shows that Horror is definitely suited to shorter length stories which readers can consume in single sittings or just a few sittings. Malfi maintains so much emotion, suspense and dread throughout the whole 150 pages, and then he ends it, and you are left with the task of calming yourself down. There is more to horror than violence and scares, and I would have no trouble recommending this powerful story to people who say they don't read horror.

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