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Daphne : a novel
2022
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Library Journal Review
Malerman's (A House at the Bottom of a Lake) latest is a heartfelt coming-of-age tale wrapped in the red viscera of a slasher story. Everyone in Samhattan, MI, including its high school girls' basketball team, knows about local legend, Daphne, even if they never talk about her. Daphne is a literal rock-and-roll nightmare--a tall woman dressed in denim and patches from her favorite bands, and a force of nature that even death cannot stop. And to summon her, all you have to do is think about her. It takes just one errant ghost story to put the basketball team and protagonist Kit Lamb into Daphne's destructive path. Enhanced by the skillful work of narrator Patricia Santomasso, every aspect of this story maximizes tension and terror. When Santomasso speaks as Kit, her breathy whisper might be because Kit is either being strangled by her own anxiety or, perhaps, it's Daphne's bare hands. VERDICT Adding Malerman's flair for creating sympathetic characters and his brutal descriptions of violence creates a fun and fright-filled ghost story, along with a villain that could easily live and thrive in horror fans' nightmares. Fans of Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Grady Hendrix, and Riley Sager will be delighted.--James Gardner
Publishers Weekly Review
The inventive plotting, plausible characterizations, and atmospheric prose that marked bestseller Malerman's Bird Box are wholly absent in this dull horror yarn centered on an urban legend from the unlikely named town of Samhattan. Supposedly, Daphne was a seven-foot-tall local teen decked out daily in "KISS makeup" who was continually taunted about her height during high school in the '90s; those torments ended when jocks, angered that Daphne never joined the school basketball team, knocked her out with a baseball bat and left her to die in the toxic fumes of her garage. According to local lore, Daphne periodically returns from beyond the grave to kill dozens of teen athletes. This story gets new life when Kit Lamb, a member of the girls' hoop squad, follows a tradition of asking a question while shooting a free throw, with a successful shot signaling an affirmative answer. She asks, "Will Daphne kill me?" just before sinking a game-winning shot--and the team victory is quickly followed by the gory murders of several teammates, forcing all to wonder how much of the legend is true. Few, if any readers, will feel remotely scared by the setup, and Malerman offers little reason to invest in Kit or the other characters. This time, the gifted author shoots an air ball. (Aug.)
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