Book Reviews by Kurt Dinan


"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?"


Ronald Damien Malfi’s Passenger is best described as a novel of the search for identity. The novel opens with a nameless protagonist regaining consciousness on a Baltimore bus. He has no memory, no identification, and no direction except for an address written on his palm.  The rest of the novel is his search through the city for an understanding of a past he comes to realize may best be left undiscovered.

Ultimately, the less you know of the plot the better. The novel is best experienced with the same sort of lost feeling as that of the protagonist. Along his journey, he encounters a steady stream of interesting characters, none more carefully drawn than the city of Baltimore itself. Malfi’s description of the city gives the novel a gritty, bleak feel that no doubt will be left off the Baltimore Chamber of Commerce’s website.

Because this is Baltimore, there are the homeless, obscured in the darkness like rats in hiding. They snicker and cough their phlegm-like coughs, the sound of spilling change like a splash falling from up high. There are the eccentrics, too, and they all seem to materialize after the daylight hours: the roaming packs of thugs, switchbladed and steely-eyed; the solitary drunkard with the stare that lingers uncomfortably long, one eye milk-soured...