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Daphne

Review

Daphne

There are few horror authors working today who possess the imagination and intensity of Josh Malerman. For those who have yet to discover him, his latest release is a great place to start and will no doubt have you scrambling to read everything he has written. DAPHNE is an admitted love letter to both the game of basketball and classic horror stories --- Malerman’s two great loves --- and the resulting hybrid is a haunting novel that is impossible to put down or shake once you have turned the final page.

High school senior Kit Lamb and her teammates on the Samhattan High School girls basketball team follow a unique routine when practicing. It’s called “talking to the rim.” They shoot their practice shots after asking pointed questions and believe in the superstition that the rim will answer them either favorably with a basket or not so favorably with a rejection. One question that has become increasingly popular from Kit and her friends to their favorite rim is: Will Daphne kill me?

"A deeply rewarding read for either longtime horror fans or those wishing to engulf themselves in a thriller with a deadly bite, DAPHNE is one of the most amazing books that the limitless Josh Malerman has ever conceived."

The legend of the woman once known as Daphne Vann goes through many incarnations and variations throughout the book, with each character appearing to have a different backstory for her. We know that she was nearly seven feet tall, may have been a child abductor, and was murdered in her own home by either angry parents or members of the basketball team. In any event, the legend has not died, and apparently Daphne is still able to reach out and get back at those who so unceremoniously ended her life. She allegedly does this in horrific fashion and seemingly cannot be stopped.

Kit and her teammates, like Dana and Natasha, would like to concentrate on having a great season and senior year, and then skating along into the college of their choice. However, the constant threat of Daphne and her unquenched need for revenge may upend those plans. Their coach finds it impossible to get them to focus on anything else, especially when members of the team start turning up brutally murdered. Bodies are found literally crushed to death like a piece of paper, which only could have been done at the powerful hands of the monstrous Daphne.

Malerman does such an incredible job of keeping the paranoia and fear at almost unbearable heights, all the while never allowing readers to get a full “look” at Daphne. Still, belief in her deadly legend or not, more young female basketball players are turning up dead, including some of Kit’s closest friends. The paranoia permeates the town as well as internet trolls to the point where a freakish stranger is found hiding underneath Kit’s bed claiming to be there to see Daphne murder her. Events like this wreak havoc on Kit’s young psyche. She slowly begins to believe that her fate and Daphne’s are inevitably tied together, and not in a good way.

We get to fully immerse ourselves in this obsession over Daphne in the many excerpts taken directly from Kit’s own journal, which she refers to as Jolly. The secrets she shares with Jolly give us a frightening peek into her mental state as we witness a very real example of what true fear and anxiety look like when left unchecked.

This is the type of novel that continues to sneak up on you when you least expect it. It’s a story of vengeance almost comparable to a crazed slasher tale, like something out of a Friday the 13th film, coupled with an exploration of bone-chilling fear and shared paranoia unlike anything I can recall in recent horror fiction. A deeply rewarding read for either longtime horror fans or those wishing to engulf themselves in a thriller with a deadly bite, DAPHNE is one of the most amazing books that the limitless Josh Malerman has ever conceived.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on September 23, 2022

Daphne
by Josh Malerman

  • Publication Date: September 20, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Horror, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey
  • ISBN-10: 059315701X
  • ISBN-13: 9780593157015