THE CHURCH OF DEAD GIRLS by Stephen Dobyns

THE CHURCH OF DEAD GIRLS

KIRKUS REVIEW

 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)

Pub Date: June 9th, 1997
ISBN: 0-8050-5103-1
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1997




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