Audiobook Review: Ghostwritten 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.

Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Tantor Audio (October 11, 2022)

Length: 12 hrs 58 min

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Joe Hempel

Novellas and short stories are not my preferred format so I don’t often read them, but there are some authors for whom I will make an exception, and one of them is Ronald Malfi. Although I am still somewhat new to his work, his books Come With Me and Black Mouth have already rocketed up my list of favorite horror novels, and when I found out about Ghostwritten—anthology or not—I knew I had to read it.

This collection contains four separate self-contained stories, but they all take place in the same shared world and are united by the common theme of books, storytelling, and the written word!

The Skin of Her Teeth

This opening story was my second favorite of the collection. It begins with talent agent sitting down with her colleague to discuss one of her screenwriter clients who has gone MIA. Davis McElroy had been tapped to adapt a bestselling book for the big screen, but it seems he hasn’t been heard from in weeks. With deadlines looming, our agent decides to go check up on him and is shocked by what she finds. There’s a reason why no screenwriter has ever successfully adapted this particular novel and those who’ve attempted it have all met disturbing fates.

The tone of this one gradually gets darker and more ominous as it progresses, a horror story through and through. Still, as an avid reader and a booklover, I was tickled pink by the themes raised by this tale. We’ve all heard the saying, a good story sometimes takes on a life of its own. Or how about, an author pours his or her entire heart and soul into writing a book? The Skin of Her Teeth takes these idea to a whole new level.

The Dark Brothers’ Last Ride

This one was riveting but also downright weird, which might explain why I enjoyed it but didn’t love it. It follows two brothers, Danny and Tommy, who are part of a smuggling operation. For their latest job, they are instructed to deliver a book to a very particular buyer whose demands are strange but simple: don’t touch the book, and don’t talk to anyone about what they’re transporting. The brothers are also given a time-consuming and circuitous route to their destination, but they’re told it’s of the utmost importance not to stray from this specific path.

Needless to say, someone breaks the rules, leading to fatal results. This story started out strong but eventually devolved into a fever dream of bizarreness. Stylistically this story just wasn’t for me, but others may enjoy it more.

This Book Belongs to Olo

For me, this one ranked about the same as the previous story. At the heart of this tale is boy named Olo, who isn’t like the other neighborhood kids. The child of two writers, he lives in an imposing mansion where he often plays alone, talking to mannequins on the front lawn and running around in a creepy clown mask. He’s also great with papercrafts, creating a pop-up book that replicates the labyrinthine house in which he lives. Then one day, he makes his way down to the playground to invite all the local kids to his birthday party, because his storybook needs some new friends, you see…

This was one of the more harrowing tales in this collection but also on the stranger side, reading like a drug-induced hallucination or nightmare. It also dragged on a little too long without adding much to the plot. I did love the atmosphere though, as well as the inventive twist on the creepy old house concept. Plus, the characterization of Olo was amazing. This is one kid you won’t ever want to cross.

The Story

And speaking of inventive twists, this last novella treats us to a horrifying take on the classic Choose-Your-Own-Adventure tale. As the story opens, a journalist receives tragic news from an old colleague. One of their mutual friends whom they used to work with on a supernatural themed podcast has killed herself. Finding some the circumstances behind her death obscure and suspicious, our protagonist decides to do his own digging into the project she was working on before she died, uncovering an urban legend about a story on the darknet that is different for everyone who reads it. Very soon, he becomes drawn into his own story, and as fiction warps into reality and vice versa, the wrong choices he makes will have deadly consequences.

I was glad to see the anthology end on a strong note with a story that’s pure horror with some mystery thrown in. This one had a bit of everything—interesting premise, suspenseful plotline, deep character development. I felt for the protagonist, his complex feelings for his late friend, his determination to get to the bottom of her apparent suicide, and then the fearful desperation and paranoia as his reality began to unravel. The terror and dread of this shook me to my core.

Ronald Malfi fans, do yourselves a favor and pick up Ghostwritten, and don’t let the short fiction anthology format put you off. The tales in here are a good example of his talent for storytelling and why he has so quickly become one of my favorite horror writers.

Audiobook Comments: A bit of a missed opportunity here to use multiple narrators for the different stories to reflect the diverse personalities and backgrounds of their respective main characters, but in spite of that, Joe Hempel made it all work. He delivered a great performance, and I would highly recommend the audiobook edition.

12 Comments on “Audiobook Review: Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi”

  1. This does sound good but I decided not to request this one. I know we’re very similar and you don’t usually read anthologies and can clearly see you loved this one but I’m trying to catch up as well so behaving myself.
    Lynn 😀


  2. As a relatively recent (past year or so) fan of Malfi, and being someone who used to subscribe to an F&SF short story magazine, and being a fan of books or stories about books and stories, I feel as if I might just be within the target audience of this one. 🙂 Just finished and very much enjoyed the audiobook of Black Mouth, also narrated by Joe Hempel.


  3. Pingback: Bookshelf Roundup 11/06/22: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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