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The Church of Dead Girls: A Novel [Paperback]

Stephen Dobyns
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (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.

From Booklist

Dobyns, author of the best-selling Saratoga mysteries, here delivers a dark, cerebral thriller about how the trusting, close-knit atmosphere of a small-town community gives way to rampant paranoia and suspicion after, one by one, three young girls vanish. Dobyns offers probing portraits of a host of the town's residents, including a crusading newspaper reporter, the lovesick police chief, and a deeply troubled college student. His chief character, however, is the town itself, for the first girl's disappearance has given rise to a seemingly innocuous group of prominent citizens, which proceeds to wreak havoc with the police investigation and wantonly trample the civil rights of those perceived to be outsiders, including a Marxist group at the local university and the town's gay residents. Methodically peeling back the veneer of civic pride and community harmony that holds the town together, Dobyns reveals the dark impulses and tangled relationships that lie underneath. He's not as interested in the pathology of the serial killer in their midst as he is in the pathology that exists within us all. An unusually thoughtful psychological thriller. Joanne Wilkinson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A brisk dip into the ice-cold waters of schizophrenia, nymphomania, and serial murder, by the author of Saratoga Fleshpot (1995), etc. Aurelia, New York, is one of those pleasant little towns that you need a good reason to visit and none at all to leave. Situated somewhere in the vicinity of Utica, it has been losing jobs and people for most of the last 50 years. But of late these disappearances have become increasingly macabre. People are horrified to discover Janice McNeal, the town floozy, murdered in her own home, while the amputation of her left hand--presumably as a souvenir--adds an especially grisly touch to an already-repugnant tableau. Janice's son Aaron is naturally disturbed by these events, but he himself begins to arouse more suspicion than sympathy when he chews off a classmate's ear during a lunchroom argument that gets out of hand. And, in rapid succession, three young girls vanish inexplicably, with no trace save the bundles of their clothing that mysteriously appear soon after their disappearance. Just what is going on? Much of the suspicion is directed toward a Marxist study group at the local college, although a vigilante bunch comprised of local rednecks also come to be suspect. Aaron, meanwhile, with his brooding fury and strange charisma, is not the weirdest guy in town by a long shot. The unnamed narrator, a high- school biology teacher, also secretly keeps a collection of nasty objects submerged in formaldehyde to impress his favorite pupils. The solution to the mystery comes at the end of a long trail of blood and perversity that might well have been worked out in a collaboration between John Webster and Grace Metalious. A vivid and deeply scary tale, then, that ultimately becomes too relentless: Dobyns needs to follow Poe's lead rather than Stephen King's and save the scariest bits for the end. (First printing of 60,000; film rights to HBO; Book-of-the-Month/Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection; $75,000 ad/promo) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Very rich, very scary, very satisfying. "-Stephen King

"An intelligent and literate thriller, providing a burst of terror and plenty to contemplate long after we've regrettably turned the final page. "-San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

"One of the scariest books you will read this year. Dobyns takes no missteps. he never gets distracted. And right up to the amazing, chilling conclusion, neither will his readers. "-Plain Dealer

About the Author

Stephen Dobyns is the author of sixteen novels, including the best-selling Saratoga mystery series, and several collections of poetry. He lives in Boston with his wife and three children.

From AudioFile

A series of mysterious abductions causes the citizens of a small town to view each other with increasing suspicion and hostility. Listeners will have to decide for themselves whether this is primarily a study of toxic social dynamics or a low-key exercise in kinky sensationalism. Perhaps it is both. The bulk of the text is a restrained, first-person monologue to which Jonathan Marosz gives an appropriate and listenable voice. When other characters do speak, they are differentiated subtly, but with a sure hand. Without histrionics, Marosz maintains tension and focus in a plot that moves, or accumulates, rather slowly. J.N. © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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