Kirkus Reviews QR Code
PHOENIX ROSE by Michael Bailey Kirkus Star


by Michael Bailey

Pub Date: Dec. 3rd, 2009
ISBN: 978-1449902452
Publisher: CreateSpace

In Bailey’s (Palindrome Hannah, 2005, etc.) horror saga, a small town seethes with ghouls, apparitions, pranksters and dysfunctional families.

Bailey returns to the haunted landscape of Brenden, Wash., with a sequence of intersecting plotlines that balance all-American ordinariness against outbursts of supernaturalism and carnage. Among them: A young boy mauled by a wolflike dog discovers an even more disconcerting foe in a dentist who puts silver fillings in his teeth, while a gas station attendant staring down the barrel of a mugger’s gun is improbably rescued by an animated corpse. Elsewhere, a priest wakes up after 150 years in the grave, thirsty for blood, and two snarky brothers hatch a scheme to craft grandiose crop circles, although they encounter something ominous in the dark wheat fields. Tying these narratives together is the story of Todd, a 3-year-old boy maimed when a horse kicks him in the head. As the tragedy causes his family to unravel, Todd gets caught up in a spiritual calculus of life and death. Bailey’s accomplished novel loops through time and logic in luxuriant tendrils as characters drift through dream states and alternate realities; the players see their futures and return to their pasts in a terrain stocked with insinuating crows, withering blood-red roses and disembodied entities obsessed with a grisly numerology. Although his prose teems with mystic symbolism and hallucinatory enigmas, the author keeps the novel firmly grounded in reality by way of pungent characterizations, sharply observed behavior and an evocative sense of social setting. Here, Poe-like phantasmagoria amid Stephen King–style naturalism results in a fictive world that’s familiar yet eerily strange—and plenty scary.

An engrossing blend of creepy atmospherics, gory jolts and mind-bending conundrums.