Book Review: 'Floating Staircase' by Ronald Malfi


Ronald Malfi, author of Snow, Shamrock Alley, Borealis, and The Ascent, has for years been a rising star in the horror genre. His books are a surreal blend of mystery and horror that are as rewarding as they are entertaining. His lyricism and sense of character stand with the very best of the genre, and though I am hesitant to make comparisons, one cannot help but think of writers like Peter Straub, Chet Williamson, F. Paul Wilson, and Stephen King when reading.

His latest, the Bram Stoker Award nominated Floating Staircase, is no exception, and is undoubtedly the best he's produced. It's the story of horror novelist Travis Glasgow, who moves with his wife into an old house in Westlake, Maryland. Soon after, strange things begin to happen, a hidden room is discovered in the basement, and Travis becomes obsessed with solving the mystery of what became of the boy who'd disappeared from his new property over a year before. His search leads him to the boy's mother and uncle, one insane and the other a criminal, possibly a murderer, and stirs up memories of his own brother's death years before, a death he'd caused. As Travis inches closer to solving the mystery, he finds himself at odds with the local police, his wife, the boy's dangerous uncle, and his own sanity.

Like all of Malfi's books, the sense of dread and tension are palpable, recalling another great writer, Charles L. Grant. His language is stirring and evocative, and I would argue that the first lines of Floating Staircase both recall and stand up to the greatest first lines in the history of horror, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. As with Malfi's other books, Floating Staircase is a deep story, and though it is, at its core, a haunted house tale, it is so much more. Guilt and love are as dangerous in Malfi's world as ghosts and murderers. Do yourself a favor and pick up this great novel.