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DAPHNE by Josh Malerman


by Josh Malerman

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-593-15701-5
Publisher: Del Rey

After a member of the girls' high school basketball team in fictional Samhattan, Michigan, is gruesomely murdered, her surviving teammates fear an avenging ghost of local legend—a 7-foot woman named Daphne—is responsible—and is coming for the rest of them.

When Natasha Manksa relates the myth of Daphne to the rest of the team at a sleepover the night before a big game, no one is more freaked out than star player Kit Lamb, who is immediately overwhelmed with fear. Even as she wins the contest with a clutch free throw, Kit is consumed by the threat of Daphne, a one-time Samhattan baller who died a mysterious death many years ago. Then freshman-to-be Tammy Jones is found dead in her bedroom with “trauma to her face. To her head.” Could it have been Daphne? Kit suffers from intense anxiety, which she closely documents in her diary, and believes she is somehow responsible for Daphne’s return because she’s been thinking about her. As Daphne—who can be seen only by her victims but leaves behind the smells of smoke and whiskey—continues her murder spree, secrets from the town’s past begin to emerge. Daphne has inspired a cult following, perhaps because she’s covered in KISS makeup. Malerman, whose thrillers—including Bird Box (2014)—are uncommonly varied, now ventures into the teen sports territory owned by novelist Megan Abbott and the Showtime series Yellowjackets. Though he effectively captures the team’s group chemistry, this is one of his spottier efforts. Too much is invested in the theme of making a thing true “just by thinking about it”—and, ultimately, reversing that process—and the climax is convoluted. The book may well have fared better as the novella Malerman says he initially wrote.

Hoop dreams with too much explaining to do.