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The Church of Dead Girls: A Novel Paperback – Jun 15 1998

3.5 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (June 15 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080505104X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805051049
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.6 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews
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Product Description

From Amazon

Despite its superficial resemblance to a whodunit, The Church of Dead Girls is not a conventional thriller. Don't expect it to be suspenseful. This is a literary horror tale--slow paced, contemplative, meticulous in its descriptions--about a formerly sleepy small town in which the crucial distinction between public and private life is dissolving as suspicion spreads like a toxin. The reader's guide to this process of corruption is a high school biology teacher--reserved, somewhat snotty, but a thoughtful man, and reliable in spite of his cynicism. He says, "It is dreadful not to be allowed to have secrets. Years ago I happened to uncover a nest of baby moles in the backyard and I watched them writhe miserably in the sunlight. We were like that." Ultimately you realize that the killer's identity, even the deaths of three girls, are small matters compared to the collapse of the town's very soul. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Despite the lurid title, Dobyns's latest novel (he is a poet and author of the "Saratoga" mystery series) is a compelling mystery that shows how the people in a small town change because of a series of murders. First, a promiscuous woman is murdered. Then three girls disappear in succession. The narrator reports how the symptoms of fear escalate into a raging disease consuming the community. Cloaking prejudice and fear with righteousness, certain citizens target individuals who are on the community's fringe. By the story's end, no one escapes suspicion. Many characters and the complexities of human interactions receive well-rounded treatment. This absorbing tale, fit for any general collection, is highly recommended.?Michelle Foyt, Fairfield P.L., Ct.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Afterward everyone said it began with the disappearance of the first girl, but it began earlier than that. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By lawyeraau TOP 500 REVIEWER on Nov. 26 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is an exquisitely written book. So beautifully is it written that, at times, its lyricism is almost poetic. The richness of the writing is immediately apparent in the prologue. It is the prologue that draws the reader in, so rich is it in its decriptiveness. It is there that the reader first comes upon "The Church of Dead Girls."

The book itself is not so much about the murder of young girls, as it is about the reactions of the people in the small town in which the murders occur. It is their reactions to the murders that are central to this book and conveyed to the reader through a brilliantly nuanced, first person narrative by the town's high school biology teacher.

The people in the town of Aurelius in upstate New York are like those found in many small towns, insular and inherently suspicious of anything different from that which they are used to. Aurelius is representative of a lot of small towns across America. There is really nothing special about this moribund, complacent little town, until young, teenage girls begin disappearing, one by one.

Through the contrivance of first person narration, the author explores the deepest recesses of human nature, as suspicions and accusations unfold and fingerpointing begins. No one in town is exempt from the poison of suspicion. The finger is first pointed to the most likely target, a foreign born college professor whose ideas run counter to that of mainstream middle America. He is a newcomer to the town and is as different from the majority of the townspeople as can be. This hapless individual becomes demonized in the frenzy of suspicion, petty hatreds, and fear with draconian results. Unfortunately, he is only the first.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Church of Dead Girls is the best novel I have read in a long time. I imagine that most readers of this review are looking for a good thriller/serial killer novel; this book is certainly that, and an excellent one. Dobyns uses some wonderful techniques to create the sort of suspense that keeps you up at night. Even the most seasoned readers of serial killer novels will be uncertain what exactly is going on until the last few pages.
But what is even more interesting, this "whodunnit" is the story about a small town that has fallen under the shadow of murder and abduction. This is not a novel about police hunting down a serial killer, but rather, a novel about what happens to the inhabitants of a sleepy rural town when they are confronted with the fact that one of them (at least) is a monster.
Still better, though, is Dobyns' masterful narrative. It takes a lot of courage to stray away from the omniscient and anonymous third person and the tell-all biographical first person narratives. Dobyns, however, has done just that. Our narrator is a real person, a teacher at the local high school. He himself plays only a minor role in the story he tells and admits to not knowing everything. Frequently the story is told in a thrid person voice, but the narrator always provides us with the source of his information, so that the feeling of authenticity is maintained. Dobyns brings this town so vibrantly alive that you begin to wonder if this is really fiction.
Dobyns has proved himself to be a masterful storyteller -- don't deprive yourself of this wonderful experience.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I first read this book in the fall last year, and fall is definitely the time of year to read it. I sat outside on my porch becoming more and more unsettled as I turned each page, more and more aware of the fact that I was vulnerable outdoors, and more aware of the lives being lived in each house in my neighborhood, lives that I knew nothing about. Who knows what goes on in people's heads?
Stephen Dobyns does, for one. This is a very spooky book, full of mystery and suspense-I have to say, I actually did find it scary, despite some other readers' feeling the opposite. Yes, it does start out slowly, but I found that-after the stunning image of the opening scene-to be not boring but suspenseful. We know what is going to happen. We know someone will be caught. But who, and why?
If the book has one flaw, I would say it was only that I guessed who the killer was about halfway through. But I'm not even sure that was a flaw. I think we were meant to guess. The scene involving the main character's young friend, and her encounter with the killer (trying not to give anything away) was so finely drawn, and made so oddly important, I do think Mr. Dobyns was trying to make us see-as he does throughout the book-how little we actually know about the people we see every day.
I have since reread the book and it is just as good the second time. Where is a movie adaptation when you need one?
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
except to not expect this to be the usual vicious and gory serial killer murder mystery. I've actually hesitated writing this review for a while now, simply because I cannot decide just exactly what this book is. It's a murder mystery, a horror novel, or a social dissertation of crumbling societal values.
This is not an easy book to read, and no action really begins until you're halfway through. The novel is named after three girls who are kidnapped and presumed dead, but this is really a secondary story. The real story is the town of Aurelias, a sleepy hamlet in upstate New York, believed by its citizenry to be exempt from tragedy or outside interference. Soon the town is rocked by the disappearances, and conspiracy theories and persecutions of seemingly innocent townspersons.
What's most intriguing is that Dobyns has assembled a story that reads as some kind of peverted version of "Our Town." The characterizations are achingly complete. Whether you want to or not, you know these people, and what's worse is that you know people like them. You may even recognize yourself a little (or a lot) in some characters, or an amalgam thereof. Even the narrator, who is incidentally never given a name. Said narrator's gender is not even clearly identified until you're halfway through the book.
This book is really about the ramifications that a tragedy can cause in a town. Not just for the victims' families, but for the police, local government, school faculties, neighbors, and clients. When a town is so small that everyone knows each other, imagine the devestation caused when peoples' most innermost secrets are put on public display? People are taking sides left and right, vigilante lynching mobs are formed, hysteria ensues, and an entire community is destroyed.
I can't say whether or not you'll enjoy the book. You will, however, be thinking about its message for weeks afterward.
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