Book review: December Park

Jan 30, 2017 by
December Park Book Cover December Park
Ronald Malfi
Medallion Media Group

In the quiet suburb of Harting Farms, the weekly crime blotter usually consists of graffiti or the occasional bout of mailbox baseball. But in the fall of 1993, children begin vanishing and one is found dead. Newspapers call him the Piper because he has come to take the children away. But there are darker names for him, too ...Vowing to stop the Piper's reign of terror, five boys take up the search. Their teenage pledge turns into a journey of self-discovery ...and a journey into the darkness of their own hometown. On the twilit streets of Harting Farms, everyone is a suspect. And any of the boys might be the Piper's next victim.

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program.

I’m a little conflicted on this book. As a bildungsroman, it’s great – well observed, realistic characters, interesting arcs – but as a mystery the end is a complete wash out.

The two genres clash in awkward places, pulling a reader out of the novel. On the one hand, as a bildungsroman, it makes sense of the teenagers of the town to be so divided from the adults and to keep their own counsel. As a mystery, it’s ludicrous; the teenagers are actively obstructing the investigation and endangering their own lives. Even the main character allows his police officer father to follow lines of investigation he knows are dead ends (like the girl who is assumed to have gone off with someone she knew having actually snuck out for a smoke). Thematically it highlights the division between adults and teenagers, but realistically it jars.

Overall, I enjoyed it, and it’s a nice insight into small town east coast America. Malfi just about gets away with the self-inserted references to Stephen King because his writing as a whole really is comparable. The sense of dread that hangs over the town is gradually ramped up, the idea that it really could be anyone the boys know, including each other. It’s a shame, really, that the final resolution has no connection to the mystery plot (and everything to the bildungsroman), since the mystery is what gives the plot its forward momentum, rather than the character study.