Book Review: Little Girls by Ronald Malfi

22891406Title: Little Girls

Author: Ronald Malfi

Genre: Horror, Suspense, Ghosts

Age Group: Adult

Rating: 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

From Bram Stoker Award nominee Ronald Malfi comes a brilliantly chilling novel of childhood revisited, memories resurrected, and fears reborn…When Laurie was a little girl, she was forbidden to enter the room at the top of the stairs. It was one of many rules imposed by her cold, distant father. Now, in a final act of desperation, her father has exorcised his demons. But when Laurie returns to claim the estate with her husband and ten-year-old daughter, it’s as if the past refuses to die. She feels it lurking in the broken moldings, sees it staring from an empty picture frame, hears it laughing in the moldy greenhouse deep in the woods…

At first, Laurie thinks she’s imagining things. But when she meets her daughter’s new playmate, Abigail, she can’t help but notice her uncanny resemblance to another little girl who used to live next door. Who died next door. With each passing day, Laurie’s uneasiness grows stronger, her thoughts more disturbing. Like her father, is she slowly losing her mind? Or is something truly unspeakable happening to those sweet little girls?

In Little Girls, Laurie moves back to her parental home after her father commits suicide. The old man suffered from dementia for years, and as his estranged daughter, Laurie barely has any emotions toward him passing away. But when she goes back to the place she used to call home, before she and her mom moved out, memories of her childhood start to resurface. She starts questioning her father’s suicide – did he really jump through the window at the top floor of the house, in the belvedere? Was his paranoia during the last few months of his life real? Was something trying to get into the house, as he suspected?

The more time Laurie spends in her old childhood home, the more secrets she uncovers. She starts hearing noises form the belvedere too, like something trying to crawl its way in. On top of that, her daughter Susan’s new playmate, Abigail, bears a striking resemblance to Sadie, a girl Laurie used to be friends with before she changed and became wicked and started scaring Laurie.

While Laurie’s husband Ted isn’t convinced something sinister is going on, it’s up to Laurie to put the pieces of her past back together. Why is Sadie here? To get vengeance? And if so, how can she escape? Are the noises from the belvedere real, or are they all in her mind? Is she going insane, or being haunted by things from the past?

At first glance, this might not sound like the most original horrorr story out there – a man committing suicide, a dead girl from the past, noises in the middle of the night – but trust me, it is. It takes these well-known tropes and completely turns them around, mixing them with a few surprises I never saw coming, and which results in a story that is highly entertaining and scary at the same time. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but if you expect you’re usual ghost story, you might be in for a surprise.

The book focuses on family secrets, on the dark things of our past we’re sometimes too afraid to face. Laurie is a believable character, a woman suffering from the secrets she was forced to hide, who is hurt by her husband’s affair and afraid her daughter might change into a person she barely recognizes. She’s easy to relate to because her fears sound genuine. She’s flawed, questions her sanity, and doesn’t always do the right thing for her family, but she tries. God, she tries so hard. You have to give her credit for that. Rather than just telling a ghost story, a lot of the creepiness of the book comes from Laurie’s past, from the dark side of human nature, and as such it works remarkably well.

The ending…God, the ending. It’s magnificent in its simplicity. I had to reread it because the punch was given so swift my mind couldn’t wrap around it. A fitting ending for this book, delightful and creepy.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys haunted-house books, who likes a slow build up and who doesn’t mind getting scared. Because this book genuinely scared me, and that’s not an easy feat.

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