Review: Come With Me by Ronald Malfi
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Paperback: Titan Books | Audiobook: Tantor Audio (July 20, 2021)
Length: 352 pages | 11 hrs and 25 mins
Narrator (Audiobook): Joe Hempel
Come With Me by Ronald Malfi is a haunting, harrowing, breath-holding stay-up-all-night chiller of a novel about one man’s journey to uncover the hidden secrets of his late wife’s past. I loved this one to bits, and mark my words, while this may be my first book by the author, he’s just earned himself a fan for life.
Five weeks ago, when Aaron Decker first heard about the mass shooting at the mall near his Maryland home, his only thought had been for his wife Allison, who’d gone to shop there earlier in the day. After hours of torturous uncertainty and frantic unanswered calls to her cellphone, Aaron’s fears were finally confirmed: his wife had been among the victims gunned down by the crazed killer. Consumed with grief, our protagonist’s fragile state of mind is further threatened when, upon receiving his wife’s belongings from the local newspaper at which she worked, he finds a receipt in her name for stay at a North Carolina motel he’d never known about. Aaron had been out of town on business at the time, and Allison had paid in cash, leaving no evidence on their credit card statements. After her boss informs him that Allison had not been given any out-of-state assignments during that time frame, Aaron is forced to face the gut-wrenching possibility that his wife may have been having an affair.
However, this suspicion is soon dispelled, as Aaron travels to the motel in North Carolina and finds no evidence that Allison had been cheating on him. Instead, he is left with even more questions and a disturbing theory that his wife may have been conducting her own investigations into a string of mysterious deaths going back the last two decades or so. Inside a locked chest that belonged to Allison, Aaron finds a thick file containing her notes and information on the victims, all of them young, blond women. Other than that though, there appears to be nothing else linking the cases which are spread out over different states all along the east coast. Might this simply be research for a work project, or even a book Allison had been working on? But if so, why didn’t she tell Aaron, or any of her friends and colleagues at the newspaper? Why did she keep it to herself, doing all her traveling and information gathering in secret? As Aaron sets out to retrace the path Allison took, following the clues she left behind, he begins to wonder what else she had been keeping from him, and just how well did he know his wife?
Some might categorize Come With Me as horror, and indeed, there’s maybe just the slightest hint of ghostliness to this tale. Still, as far as paranormal elements go, that’s probably the extent. Rather, the novel reads more like a mystery or thriller-suspense with just a tinge of the supernatural, but under Malfi’s talented pen, I think just about anyone can enjoy this no matter which of the aforementioned genres you prefer.
In fact, the first thing that drew me in was the writing. Told via the second-person perspective which should have been jarring, this narrative mode instead had the effect of pulling me in straight away. Feeling adrift and lonely without Allison, a devastated Aaron tells this story to his late wife who was torn from him so suddenly, but whose spirit is with him still. The result was this immensely powerful, personal experience which brought the pain of the main character’s internal conflicts to the surface. Grief and loss are prominent themes, as you can imagine, and Aaron’s voice is tormented and raw as he initially struggles with survivor’s guilt, followed next by the shock of finding out that Allison had been living a double life behind his back. After that, there is also the determination to finish what she’d started, perhaps as a way to connect with his beloved wife one last time—regardless of who she’d been in her past life, or what she’d hidden from him.
The mystery plot is also extremely well crafted, rivaling and even surpassing the work of more established authors I’ve read from this genre. I loved the twists and turns, the red herrings and the subtly dropped clues, and best of all, despite its speculative elements, this story required no great leaps of logic or any over-the-top suspension of disbelief. It was, in essence, an intelligent and convincing contribution to the mystery-thriller genre, dark and suspenseful while steeped in genuine emotion and the complexities of loss and love.
Needless to say, this book has my highest recommendation. Come With Me is a multilayered mystery with haunted vibes that will appeal to thriller and suspense fans, but there’s also so much more about it to love, and you can be sure Ronald Malfi has now been added to my list of must-read authors.