Review – Passenger by Ronald Damien Malfi


A man wakes up on a Baltimore City bus with no memory of who he is, where he is going, or what has happened to him. His head is recently shaved. His clothes appear new. And written on the palm of one hand is an address… Passenger is a haunting journey of discovery, where the protagonist stumbles through Baltimore’s crumbling streets and a collection of strangely wonderful characters in search of his identity. Yet the more he tries to uncover the mystery of his past, the more he learns it has been hidden from him for a reason.


Ronald Damien Malfi has utilized one of the greatest forms of horror with his novel Passenger, a silent and invisible horror that you can feel sneaking around the edges. The famous Twilight Zone theme would be the perfect accompaniment to this story, as the mysterious Doo-doo-Doo-doo-Doo-doo melody filters through your mind as you subconsciously wait for the final jarring DAH-DAH!

“If you have no memory – no sense of self – then you will not know if you have ever been happy or sad, frightened or content, proud or modest. And you therefore would be unable to experience these things without some hinge, some nexus to the past. If you cannot remember being happy, how will you know what happiness is or when you have found it again?”

The main character of Passenger is a man who has awoken into a world he knows nothing about, mystery both surrounds and haunts him. He seems to know that he should avoid searching out the truth of his identity but he is helpless to ignore the need to know. With only an address to go on, he begins on a journey that may not end the way he hopes, or perhaps it will. Along the way he will come by characters who offer help and guidance, but how does he know who to trust and can he even trust himself.

When you don’t know who you are, it is hard to tell where you end and where the world begins.”

Passenger takes place in the city of Baltimore, and the author’s descriptions of it bring this city to life in such a way that a reader may feel a part of the story itself. The people that live in this city are an unusual assortment, all very original but also containing a hint of the familiar, as though they could be the people you pass everyday on the street. The writing is especially engaging, both in the realistic dialogue and the darkly alluring descriptions.

“The Middle Eastern sandwich shop slumps halfhearted against the buildings on either side of it. The neon lights behind the grated window reflect in the sidewalk snow. In the daylight, so obvious, it looks embarrassed of its existence, looks like it pulls back from the sidewalk to hide itself among the bigger buildings.”

I loved this quiet horror, this sense that everything around you is a threat, the terrifying feeling of being unable to truly trust your self. How could you, when that self is a stranger. Ronald Damien Malfi presents a character so hopeless, that you can’t tear yourself away from his search for answers. But as he gets closer to the final revelation you cannot help but feel nervous – you know the DAH-DAH is coming, but perhaps you’d be more comfortable with an ongoing loop of Doo-doo-Doo-doo-Doo-doo…


About The Author
Ronald Damien Malfi is a novelist and author of short fiction, primarily mainstream and literary works with occasional speculative themes. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1977, Malfi's family eventually relocated to Maryland where he spent most of his childhood growing up along the Chesapeake Bay. He professed an interest in the arts at an early age and is also known to be a competent artist and musician. In 1999, he graduated with a degree in English from Towson University. For a number of years, he fronted the Maryland-based alternative rock band Nellie Blide. His most recent fiction deals primarily with characters suffering from some inner turmoil and their strained and often peculiar relationships with others. These latter works tend to focus more on characterization than plot. He currently lives in Maryland with his wife, Debra.

Author Website

Published by Delirium Books 2008

Passenger Trailer from ryan fowler on Vimeo.

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


Lenore said...

Identity is one my fave topics to explore in literature, so I might just have to check this out, despite its' horror label.

Serena said...

what a fantastic review and this book is on the list of must reads for the year. thanks so much.

Nymeth said...

I think the premise alone would have sold me. But this

"this quiet horror, this sense that everything around you is a threat, the terrifying feeling of being unable to truly trust your self"

seals the deal.

Belle @ MsBookish said...

Great review - your ending sold me. I'm adding this to my i-want list!

E. L. Fay said...

This sounds really interesting! I've taken the train through East Baltimore several times and always thought it looked frightening even in daylight. I'll have to check this out.

Love the phrase "quiet horror."

naida said...

sounds great, wonderful review.
now I want to read this one too!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! This would work so well with the 666 Horror challenge. :)