Friday, February 8, 2013

" I would recommend 'The Burn Palace' to people who enjoy Carl Hiaasen's outlandish humor along with their crime. " --Hank

The sleepy community of Brewster, Rhode Island, is just like any other small American town. It’s 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.

Hank says:
"Mystery writer and poet Stephen Dobyns' novel The Burn Palace has twin premises: People Do Weird Things, and People Believe Weird Things. And they do and believe a lot of them! First off, a corn snake is swapped for a baby in a neonatal ward, while a slutty nurse is off, well, doing what slutty nurses do. And then it gets strange! Every time a new character was introduced, I found myself thinking, "Uh-oh! What bizarre thing are they going to discover, or participate in?" This approach to the book served me well. 

Midway through, the various threads begin to draw together, for the most part. The Burn Palace is more cynical than Dobyns' brilliant book The Church of Dead Girls (which I would place among my Top Ten intriguing crime novels), but it explores small town dynamics in the same convincing way. Periodically, the narrative voice shifts into a persuasive omniscience, inviting the reader to see what's happening around town in a "Let's listen in" way, that draws on Dobyns' poetic side.

Saying too much about the plot would spoil the fun of the many twists and turns it takes before the satisfying conclusion, but it won't hurt to explain that the title is an irreverent nickname for the local crematorium. I would recommend The Burn Palace to people who enjoy Carl Hiaasen's outlandish humor along with their crime."

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