Synopses & Reviews
The sleepy community of Brewster, Rhode Island, is just like any other small American town. Its a place where most of the population will likely die blocks from where they were born; where gossip spreads like wildfire, and the big entertainment on weekends is the inevitable fight at the local bar. But recently, something out of the ordinary perhaps even supernatural has been stirring in Brewster. While packs of coyotes gather on back roads and the news spreads that a baby has been stolen from Memorial Hospital (and replaced in its bassinet by a snake), a series of inexplicably violent acts begins to confound Detective Woody Potter and the local police and inspire terror in the hearts and minds of the locals.
From award-winning author Stephen Dobyns comes a sardonic yet chillingly suspenseful novel: the literary equivalent of a Richard Russo small-town tableau crossed with a Stephen King thriller. The Burn Palace is a darkly funny, twisted portrait of chaos and paranoia, with an impressive host of richly rendered, larger-than-life characters and a thrilling plot that will keep readers guessing until the final pages.
"The latest from the prolific Dobyns (after Eating Naked) is by turns an affectionate portrait of smalltown life, a terrifying supernatural thriller, and a sly horror comedy. Brewster, R.I., is a sleepy burg populated with a cast of lovable eccentrics. But something is wrong in this prototypical New England town. First, a baby is stolen from a local hospital and a huge striped snake put in the bassinet in its place. Then a body is found scalped in the woods. Meanwhile, packs of murderous coyotes make increasingly daring attacks on the townspeople. Most disturbing of all, locals begin coming forward with stories of strange rituals in the woods. For detective Woody Potter and acting police chief Fred Bonaldo, it's obvious something evil is afoot, perhaps to do with the town's new yoga center, or maybe linked to suspicious goings-on at the nearby funeral home. As the authorities descend from multiple jurisdictions creating chaos, it takes the help of young Hercel McGarity Jr., a 10-year-old who may possess the town's only benign magical powers, to give the people of Brewster a chance to defend themselves against something far darker than anyone imagined. Despite the novel's complexity, Dobyns gives his many characters space to come alive and allows each of the spooky subplots time to build maximum suspense. Scenes of young Hercel being menaced by a madman start out merely disturbing, but turn into some of the scariest in recent literature. Dobyn's tone, shifting from amused to sinister and back again, elevates the material by buttressing the horror with pitch black humor. A tour de force genre buster that could be a breakout. Agent: Phyllis Westberg, Harold Ober Associates." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"[Dobyns] possesses a sensibility that is worth capturing in the amber of fiction, thoughtful but not devoid of sentiment, intelligent but not sterile." The Washington Post
"Using plain but always precise language, [Dobyns] plumbs the reservoirs of emotion lurking beneath the events of everyday life." Booklist
"His writing is honest, toughminded, and as uncompromising as his unforgettable hero. There's not a false sentence anywhere, not a moment where interest flags." Washington Post Book World
"Stephen Dobyns's mystery novels have two major assets that accumulate high rates of interest from book to book: his setting, Saratoga Springs, and his private detective, Charlie Bradshaw....Unlike most fictional detectives, who give the same flawless performance over and over again in a world outside time, Charlie is allowed by his creator to suffer changes and even to age. He is mortal, like us, and his struggles and successes matter." The New York Times Book Review
“I've read some very good novels this year, but this one is the best of the best. In a real sense, I didn't read it at all, after the first five pages; I entered the small-town world Stephen Dobyns creates with such affection, horror, and fidelity. I can imagine Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sherwood Anderson, and--yes--Grace Metalious rising to their feet in that special Writing Room of the Dead and giving Dobyns a standing ovation.
Dobyns has always been good, but this book is authentically great. The characters are vivid originals, not a stereotype among them, and the story pulled this reader in so completely that I didn't want the book to end, and actually did go back to re-read the first chapter. One of the characters, Bingo Schwartz, loves opera, and there's something operatic about this book. All the disparate plot-threads draw together in a smashing, full-volume climax. This one is the full meal, by turns terrifying, sweet, and crazily funny. By God, there's even a sex scene so hot it makes those 50 Shades books look like Little Women. I've written some "secrets of a small New England town" books, and in The Burn Palace, it's as if Stephen Dobyns is saying--very gently--"Hey Steve…this is how you really do it." One more thing. If ever there was a novel that demonstrates why this mode of entertainment remains healthy and vital more that 150 years after Charles Dickens did his thing, The Burn Palace is that book. It is, simply put, the embodiment of why we read stories, and why the novel will always be a better bang for the entertainment buck than movies or TV. Great story, great prose. Musical prose. You can't ask for more than this book gives. I loved it.” —Stephen King
“The latest from the prolific Dobyns is by turns an affectionate portrait of small town life, a terrifying supernatural thriller, and a sly horror comedy…despite the novels complexity, Dobyns gives his many characters space to come alive and allows each of the spooky subplots time to build maximum suspense…Dobyns tone, shifting from amused to sinister and back again, elevates the material by buttressing the horror with pitch black humor. A tour de force genre buster that could be a breakout.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred review
“An utterly believable tale, and Dobyns isnt above scaring the reader silly with surprise twists and turns… Nicely done—and you may never look at doctors the same way again.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Dobyns peoples this literary chiller with a fully rounded cast of memorable characters… Expertly paced and smoothly written, this should appeal to both thriller and horror fans.”—Booklist
“[A]n intricate who-done-it with richly drawn characters, a superb sense of place, and just enough otherworldly action to tantalize… Should appeal to readers of literary mysteries and lovers of New England fiction.”—Library Journal
“All of the characters are so well drawn that they seem like familiar people from your own hometown.”—Read Me Deadly
“A huge, seamless tapestry of narrative…You can't wait to turn the page to see what happens next, to what might be hiding right around the next corner, or living quietly in that sleepy house next door to yours.” -Shelf Awareness
“Mysterious and engaging.”-New York Journal of Books
“A huge, seamless tapestry of narrative… You can't wait to turn the page to see what happens next, to what might be hiding right around the next corner, or living quietly in that sleepy house next door to yours.”—Shelf Awareness
“With nods to Nathaniel Hawthorne and Stephen King, two other writers who know something about terrorizing small New England towns, Dobyns has created a riveting work of the imagination.”—San Antonio Express-News
“A story that rocks along without a word wasted… Dobyns writes a straight thriller, but his mastery of language puts the reader into empty streets swirling with bits of paper and dead leaves, makes us feel at one moment hurried along and at the next expansive and thoughtful…Read slowly (if you can!) to enjoy his craftsmanship.”—Charlotte Observer
“Veteran novelist Stephen Dobyns reveals how easily people can get worked up into hysterics about evil they can only imagine, even as they miss the evil right in front of their eyes. Buy it.”—New York Magazine
"An utterly believable tale, and Dobyns isn't above scaring the reader silly with surprise twists and turns....Nicely done — and you may never look at doctors the same way again." Kirkus Reviews
"Veteran novelist Stephen Dobyns reveals how easily people can get worked up into hysterics about evil they can only imagine, even as they miss the evil right in front of their eyes. Buy it." New York Magazine
From award-winning author Stephen Dobyns comes a sardonic yet chilling literary novel of suspense about a small New England town beset by all manner of inexplicable — and perhaps supernatural — criminal acts.
About the Author
Stephen Dobyns is the author of more than thirty novels and poetry collections, including The Church of the Dead Girls, Cold Dog Soup, and Cemetery Nights. Among his many honors and awards are a Melville Cane Award, Pushcart Prizes, National Poetry Series prize, and three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. His novels have been translated into 20 languages, and his poetry has appeared in the Best American Poems anthology. Dobyns teaches creative writing at Warren Wilson College and has taught at the University of Iowa and Sarah Lawrence College.