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A Choir of Ill Children [Mass Market Paperback]

Tom Piccirilli
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 1 2004
This lyrical tale of evil, loss, and redemption is a stunning addition to the Southern gothic tradition of Flannery O’Connor and Harry Crews.

A Choir of Ill Children is the startling story of Kingdom Come, a decaying, swamp backwater that draws the lost, ill-fated, and damned.

Since his mother’s disappearance and his father’s suicide, Thomas has cared for his three brothers—conjoined triplets with separate bodies but one shared brain—and the town’s only industry, the Mill.

Because of his family’s prominence, Thomas is feared and respected by the superstitious swamp folk. Granny witches cast hexes while Thomas’s childhood sweetheart drifts through his life like a vengeful ghost and his best friend, a reverend suffering from the power of tongues, is overcome with this curse as he tries to warn of impending menace. All Thomas learns is that “the carnival is coming.”

Torn by responsibility and rage, Thomas must face his tormented past as well as the mysterious forces surging toward the town he loves and despises.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In this compelling Southern Gothic, Piccirilli (whose 2002 novel The Night Class has grabbed the Stoker for Best Novel) presents a searing portrait of twisted souls trapped in a wasteland. Thomas, the wealthiest inhabitant of the swamp-infested county of Kingdom Come, a bastion of superstition and ignorance where he's simultaneously reviled and revered, lives with his brothers, conjoined triplets sharing a single brain who act as a sort of Delphic oracle. Thomas also shares a platonic relationship with his wife Maggie: the two were married by his best friend Drub, a black preacher with a penchant for nudity and prophecy. Into this jambalaya intrudes a northern film student (who falls in love with one of the triplets), a sexually precocious young girl from the swamps and a "dog kicker" who terrorizes Kingdom Come. When the local granny witches become agitated and accuse Thomas of neglecting his duties to the land, you can just bet there's plenty of trouble ahead. Piccirilli masterfully increases the tension by playing with stereotypes and manipulating the flaws of his subjects' characters, creating a world where what happens on the outside is a pale reflection of what goes on inside. As such, the novel will appeal both to genre fans and to readers of Flannery O'Connor and even of William Faulkner. James Lee Burke and Harry Crews devotees should also take note.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“A gothic noir that mates Flannery O’Connor with Stephen King.”—San Francisco Chronicle

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Beauty Meanders July 18 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Tom Piccirilli is no stranger to fans of the indie horror field. I'm so happy to finally see his work released in the mass market format. This is one author who deserves a wider audience. Comparable to Stewart O'Nan, Piccirilli's writing is always beautiful, always lyrical and very deep. Unfortunately, A Choir of Ill Children, the sad and poetic tale of a young tormented soul, just isn't Piccirilli's best effort yet.
The story centers around a young man who has had more than his share of troubles in his life. His father killed himself, his mother disappeared and is still missing, and he is still haunted by horrible dreams and some horrible events of his past. His brothers, conjoined triplets, have powerful minds and thoughts. And everyone in the small town of Kingdom Come is hiding something under the surface. There are just too many dark secrets for this little town.
As the dark forces try to avenge the past, Thomas has to deal with his own ghosts, the ones inhabiting his mind. The fact that everyone arounds him seems to be on his case doesn't help matters either. The novel is at its best when Piccirilli brings us into Thomas's past or when he describes some of Thomas's dreams. Those scenes just feel surreal and disturbing, leaving the reader to feel completely uneasy.
The story meanders without aim for too long. Although you get to know these characters very well, you never actually feel close to any of them. All of this brings us to the heavy finale, where too many things seem to happen all at once. Everything just explodes and, once again, moves aimlessly towards the finish.
That said, A Choir of Ill Children's prose is so powerful, so gripping that you forget about its flaws. Piccirilli has a way of reeling you in and making you want to keep on reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars strong sinister drama June 1 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
As much of a hold Thomas has on Kingdom Come, an inbred small town located in the Deep South, Kingdom Come in turn has as strong a hold on Thomas. His brothers Are Siamese twins that share a brain but have separate faces and bodies are his responsibility as is the mill of which he and the brothers are the owners. Thomas, the only mobile somewhat sane one, makes sure it is making a profit for it is the only source of income the town has.
Except for incest it's a place where anything goes. Thomas loves the woman who takes care of someone he once loved, but evil times are ahead for him as he learns why she spends all her time in the swamp. A child killer who Thomas left to die in the swamp returns to take his revenge and he finds the body of the child that the murderer killed with the body of his mother locked away in a trunk in a long forgotten room. His brothers disappear and the father he thought dead is alive though not of sound mind. Unable to solve the town's problems, Thomas quits feeling he is the savior of Kingdom's Come and in doing so finds his own freedom.
The main character in CHOIR OF ILL CHILDREN is the town of Kingdoms Come; a place that represents all the depravities that mankind is known to have accumulated as if Pandora opened the box here. Thomas accepts the inhabitants for who they are even though their customs and morality are outside the mainstream of society. Tom Piccirilli's dark gothic is frightening because it vividly exposes a way of life most people find abhorrent. Fans of Pappy Z. Brite will love this sinister drama.
Harriet Klausner
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5.0 out of 5 stars A rare and wonderful book! April 30 2004
As a whole, southern gothic stories have never appealed much to me. A few exceptions are Douglas Clegg's Neverland and Robert McCammon's Gone South.
Tom Piccirilli's forthcoming Bantam Books release, A Choir Of Ill Children, not only made the exceptions list, but quickly catapulted to my favorites list. Tom Piccirilli has yet to disappoint me, and this is "Pic" at his best.
Choir's players are striking and sympathetic. I feel like I know them, and like them or not, I feel for them.
Piccirilli's language is poetic, grim, so fluid you could drown in it. Which is just what I did. And I will do it again. Writers do not just have fans, they earn them. Tom Piccirilli has earned a lifelong fan in me.
Tom Piccirilli's A Choir Of Ill Children is a rare and wonderful book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of the macbre June 5 2003
By GDKid
This is an incredibly important piece of literary horror that all true fans of dark fantasy and speculatve fiction should be on the lookout for. Piccirilli pulls together and entwines a number of dark genre elements to give us a terrific (and terrifying) novel of small town evils filtered through an eye of normality. This is the type of effectve, brooding, literate work that is populated by characters so bizarre and yet authentic that it reads like a non-fiction tale of murder, vengeance, and swamp water superstition and magic. This is as luscious, delicious, freakish, and gripping as the works of Harry Crews or Flannery O'Connor. Go now and enjoy!
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5.0 out of 5 stars WOW ! WHAT A BOOK Aug. 5 2003
This is really one of the best book's I've read. This is not so much horror as it is southern gothic and it is great. Tom Piccirilli weaves a twised tale of swamps, in-breading, granny-witches, and the town of Kingdom Come. Our hero? is Thomas and he with his three brothers (joined at the head) take us on a great ride through deaths, storms, love, and mutilation. This is a MUST READ. The limited edition also has a chap book that adds a chapter to the story, worth it if you can find it (limited to 100 signed copies). Tom Piccirilli is a great story teller and I hope he gives us more about Potts county and Kingdom Come.
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