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DESERT PLACES by Blake Crouch

DESERT PLACES

By Blake Crouch

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 2004
ISBN: 0-312-28644-9
Publisher: Dunne/Minotaur

Brotherly love hammered ad nauseam in an unsavory horror debut.

Thirtysomething Andy Thomas, a successful horror novelist, is about to experience how unsettling it can be when life decides to imitate art: in other words, he's about to be scared silly. The note, contained in an unstamped envelope, seems at first unworthy of serious attention: “There is a body buried on your property covered in your blood,” it says. Andy smiles, chuckles even—a fan, he thinks. In his experience, horror fans are prone to that kind of sick joke; still, why not check it out? He does and, gulp, it checks. He finds poor Rita Jones, a young schoolteacher who’s been missing for about a month, and whose corpse will, in a variety of irrefutable ways, tell tales to police pathologists, tales concerning Andy. In short, he's been well and truly framed—by his fraternal twin, it soon turns out. Andy hasn't seen Orson since they were 20, when, inexplicably, the latter walked out of the room they shared at Appalachian State University and vanished. What’s he been up to since? Why, killing people, innocent people at random, a dozen of them, slicing their hearts out, depositing each in a cardboard box, and then, the collection complete, delivering it to the White House, though without benefit of the usual accompanying apologia. So explain, please. Neither Orson nor the author appears eager to do that. Ambiguous, also, is exactly what game Orson is inviting Andy to play. Whatever it is, Andy’s unwilling. By now, however, he's convinced there's only one way to deal with a sibling gone psychopathic, setting the stage for a clash that gives fresh meaning to the phrase blood brothers.

Sordid and mindlessly sadistic. There may be an audience for stuff this nasty, but wary readers will pass. Sadly, a sequel’s in the works.