the-burn-palace-dobynsReviewed by Jessi Buchmann

I’ve never read a Stephen Dobyns novel. Let me give you the long and short of it-if his other novels are anything like this, I’m hooked. Stephen Dobyns has a way with imagery that makes The Burn Palace flow like a song. One gripping example exists immediately on page 4, ‘In the moonlight, the shadows of the maples planted along the driveway to replace the dying elms swing back and forth across the body of the ambulance like predatory cobwebs, while the blowing leaves are like fluttering bats, and dark forms skitter past like goblins…’ I had no choice but to be engrossed immediately. You aren’t reading about the town of Brewster, Rhode Island-you’re entering it. And upon entering, you meet a cast of rich, thrilling, thought-provoking characters.

The story begins with a bird’s eye view of Brewster-Any town USA. Cinematically we pan into our first character, Nurse Spandex who has just completed a tryst in the bathroom of Morgan Memorial Hospital with Dr. Jonathan Belfour. Alice Alessio is called ‘Nurse Spandex’ because she alters her scrubs to ‘fit’ her figure better-and I imagine in an attempt to lure a husband. It’s this event-the aforementioned tryst-that unfolds every other event in the novel. Nurse Spandex is working the nursery alone and leaves two infants temporarily to ‘feed the need’. Upon returning she discovers a baby has been kidnapped and replaced with a large snake. Woody Potter -our main character-detective for Brewster Police is called to the scene and here a chain of events too horrific for one town unfolds. People are dying in droves, coyotes are taking over the town, satanic rituals are occurring and women and babies are going missing. What could be causing these events? And what or whom is at the eye of the storm? It’s up to Brewster’s Detectives to find out.

The Burn Palace has so many layers and facets that you don’t know who is bad, who is good or who could be behind these heinous crimes. The twists and turns make for an electrifying read. I cheered for the paltry ‘acting’ police chief Baldo who couldn’t seem to get it together and immediately disliked Peggy Summers, the mother of the missing baby. Her disinterest in finding her baby is clear from the beginning when she declares ‘it’ was like ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. Needless to say I really enjoyed this book. Stephen Dobyns paints a picture so vivid and stirring I didn’t want it to end.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Jessi Buchmann lives in Beaverton, Oregon and works as a Project Manager. When she is not reading she can be found: writing, painting or wreaking havoc on her house doing home repairs.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Blue Rider Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.