Title: The Burn Palace
Author: Stephen Dobyns
Release Date: February 7. 2013
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Genre: Literary Mystery, Horror
Rating: 4 out of 5
It starts with a missing newborn in a hospital. An innocent newborn baby is kidnapped, and a snake is left in its crib, in the baby’s place. But what Detective Woody Potter and his fellow police officers don’t realize is that this is just the first in a series of odd, malicious, and violent occurrences that will rattle their small Rhode Island town to the core. What is happening to the small town of Brewster, and when will it end?
The Burn Palace is a literary experience that’s a mix of a mystery and a horror novel. Dobyns builds his story carefully; at the beginning, it appears as though the main point of the story is the kidnapping, but it quickly becomes clear that’s not the case. There are strange things afoot in Brewster, and it’s difficult to see how they’re connected or where they’re leading. Dobyns does an incredible job taking the reader on a journey; you don’t know where the novel is going, but Dobyns builds enough trust such that you’re happy just being along for the ride.
The novel is also filled to the brim with atmosphere. There’s something unsettling about The Burn Palace; it’s difficult to put a finger on what exactly it is, but from the beginning it’s clear that something isn’t quite right. As stranger and stranger things start happening, Dobyns uses his seemingly plain language to evoke feelings of fear and a delicious creepiness. If you’re reading this book late at night, you’ll be jumping at every noise you hear, as the entire novel has a close, almost paranoid, feeling running through it.
Dobyns takes many disparate characters and tells their stories in The Burn Palace. From Woody to Nurse Spandex (the nurse who was supposed to be on duty when the baby went missing) to a boy named Hercel and beyond, Dobyns takes extraordinary care with his characters. He balances very well among the competing interests of plot, atmosphere, writing style, and character development. It’s not a fast-paced novel, but it’s one in which you will appreciate the experience of reading it and become lost in the story and the characters’ lives.
If you’re looking for a well-written novel that has both breadth and depth, The Burn Palace is a good book to consider. It’s worth reading for the creepy atmosphere alone, though the unique plot will keep readers guessing from beginning to end.