Daphne by Josh Malerman sets a new bar for horror novels in the masterful way it blends a terrifying serial killer plot with the revelations of a coming-of-age story.
When I found out Josh Malerman, the bestselling author of Bird Box, released a new horror novel, it rocketed to the top of my to-read list.
Fiercely scary, Daphne left me both breathlessly tense and reflective.
Daphne tells the story of a long-dead serial killer who’s come back to the town’s collective consciousness to stalk those who think about her too much. Her victims? The high school girls' basketball team.
This story is so much more than its ghostly, towering villain, though Malerman’s descriptions of Daphne have already firmly wedged into my mind. (See: Daphne, a rabbit suit, and a candy shop.) It’s also a coming-of-age story and a contemplative take on what it’s like to struggle with anxiety and other horrors of the mind.
Yes, Daphne is terrifying, the plot is captivating, and the writing quality is excellent. But what kept me turning the pages were the characters. Written in third person, the book swiftly dives into the minds of multiple characters, all tightly drawn with unique voices. The flow between viewpoints kept the story moving at a clipped pace.
A fan of Malerman’s best-sellers Bird Box and Malorie, I added Daphne to my to-read list long ago. What I loved about some of his other books I’ve read is how he ratchets up the tension in chillingly scary passages. In that respect, Daphne did not disappoint. Interwoven with more introspective prose, the horror scenes are intense page-turners.