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Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon



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Binge watching is something we all know and love, but is there a thing called binge reading? Ah the library, how it gives me permission. Free of guilt for spending too much money or not reading my TBR books, I have been doing that a bit with Jennifer McMahon since this is the 3rd book of hers I’ve read in about as many weeks. Once again she hooked me with a touch of the supernatural within a larger story of secrets and sins. Because this one featured kids so prominently, I didn’t like it as much though. Half the shit that went down wouldn’t have if not for those meddling brats. Plus there were descriptions of people going fishing wearing silk and most of the characters had such bad judgement that it was hard to feel any sympathy for what happened to them.

The credo/manifesto for the Compassionate Dismantlers was hilarious. McMahon totally pegged that teenaged angst that the artistic and especially the aspiring artistic type can really get wrapped up in. It shows how absolutely young they all are that they fall for it so completely. One part, the thing that Suz kept repeating over and over and over was especially funny. Here’s what she said - “To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart.” to which I can only quote the brilliant Douglas Adams - “If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.” She burned her art, destroyed her teacher out of spite, vandalized electrical plants and construction sites and tormented a fellow-classmate because she could...all of it a desperate cry for fulfillment she could only get when others fawn over her wild and outrageous behavior. Another character describes her as sociopathic with a touch of narcissistic personality disorder. Bingo.

Suz was such a malevolent character that it was hard to swallow the others’ blind devotion to her blatant manipulation. Even when it’s revealed they thank her for it and continue their worship, sacrificing their morals on her altar. Another thing you have to let go of is the fact that neither Henry nor Tess have any sense. Emma is such a little nutbar that I can’t believe neither of them brought her to a shrink. Having one backward, smelly real friend and the imaginary friend are reasonably benign, but that damn effigy. OMG that was very creepy and disturbing and what parent wouldn’t be alarmed into action? These two apparently, who are so self-involved it’s almost comical. Henry with his mugfuls of merlot and his dugout canoe. Tess with her artistic self-loathing and boxing gloves.

With a little communication, the mysterious postcards, photographs, riddles and words painted on the trees surrounding their house, could have been explained easily and quickly. Of course then there would have been no story. No diary which read like performance art. No Claire and her offer of a commission. No returned co-conspirator and Dismantler. And the end, well it’s pretty open isn’t it? I can’t say I like the rabbit out of a hat accomplice much though. So far, this is the weakest McMahon book I’ve read, but it won’t stop me reading more. I will break from the binge though. ( )
3 vote Bookmarque | Sep 5, 2015 |
More creepy than the other two books of hers I have read, it also was a little long in spots, and a bit too far fetched/nicely wrapped up, but still it was a good read. This author has an amazing gift for telling a story. ( )
  zmagic69 | Jan 23, 2015 |
Tess, Henry and their daughter Emma live a comfortable life in a small community. By all appearances, they are a happy couple. Emma seems to have a touch of OCD, but she is getting by and has a best friend at school. A troubled past lurks beneath the surface, though, and it is about to change all their lives forever.

Ten years in the past, Tess and Henry were part of a small group of college students calling itself the Compassionate Dismantlers. Led by a charismatic student named Suz, the Dismantlers lived by their credo that true art and understanding is achieved by taking a thing apart, dismantling it, destroying it. The Compassionate Dismantlers were responsible for acts of vandalism and destruction in the community, with only a thin veneer of social activism as justification. Gradually, the group began to go too far, until one day the results were irrevocable and deadly.

As the original group members are drawn by a mysterious summons back to the scene of their worst tragedy, they struggle to come to grips with what is happening. Has someone come back from the dead to exact revenge? Is someone who knows their secret toying with them? How does young Emma seem to know about things from her parents' hidden past?

I recommend this book, with some reservations. The first chapter is overwritten, trying too hard, all atmospherics and imagery. I almost gave up on the book before I ever finished the chapter. The narrative improves from there, though, and after a while, I was hooked. As you read, you'll wonder: is this a ghost story? A supernatural thriller? A mystery with very human and explicable answers? You'll want answers; this is a real page-turner.

By the time I reached the end, my feelings were a little lukewarm.
All the characters are unlikeable, with the possible exception of young Emma. You will despise them all for their weakness, meanness or dishonesty. Also, the author tends to repeat certain words over and over. For instance, when characters feel threatened, they "stiffen." Over and over again, until the word choice takes you out of the moment. More important, the final chapters of the book have to work a bit too hard to give the reader some answers, and there is an unfortunate reliance upon a left-field revelation that just felt too easy. (I can't better explain this without making this a spoiler!)

I do recommend this book for its page-turning, creepy tale. Despite my criticisms of Dismantled, I did enjoy it overall, and I would read another book by McMahon.
( )
  ksimon | Feb 6, 2014 |
Very out there from what I am used to reading. It flowed nice and had some nice twists and turns. Not an easy to figure out 'who done it'.
The cast of characters is small and each are interesting with new levels of depth added as the story goes on.
I am finding this type of writing exciting at times. Not sure what genre it is considered, I put it under suspense.
( )
  Strawberryga | Dec 28, 2013 |

Extraordinarily reminiscent of Donna Tarrt's The Secret History, this sees a group of people ten years after they were a college clique called The Dismantlers, whose ethos was that "to understand the nature of a thing it must be taken apart". The end point of their destructive pranks was the semi-accidental murder of the instigator of The Dismantlers' exploits, Suz, the promiscuos star around which the others orbited, reflecting her light. At the time, the death was adroitly concealed from the world; now, though, various enigmatic parties seem determined to dig up the truth, and one of them could well be an impossibly reanimated Suz. This is by no means a bad book -- especially when it focuses on Emma, the 9-year-old child of two of the original Dismantlers -- and overall I enjoyed reading it. The writing was good enough that I might well look out for McMahon books in future. It's just that this one seemed to have nothing much new to say.
( )
  JohnGrant1 | Aug 11, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
McMahon has constructed an intricate back story for the strange behavior of the 9-year-old Emma DeForge, who seems to have channeled Suz’s spirit as an imaginary friend she calls Danner. But for all the story’s spooky trappings, it’s ultimately about Emma’s unhappiness at her parents’ very real separation.
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Book description
Henry, Tess, Winnie and Suz banded together in college to form a group they called the Compassionate Dismantlers. Following the first rule of their manifesto - "To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart" - these daring misfits spend the summer after graduation in a remote cabin in the Vermont woods committing acts of meaningful vandalism and plotting elaborate, often dangerous, pranks. But everythign changes when one particularly twisted experiment ends in Suz's death and the others decide to cover it up.

Nearly a decade later, Henry and Tess are living just an hour's drive from the old cabin. Each is desperate to move on from the summer of the Dismantlers, but their guilt isn't ready to let them go. When a victim of their past pranks commits suicide - apparently triggered by a mysterious Dismantler-style postcard - it sets off a chain of eerie events that threatens to engulf Henry, Tess and their inquisitive nine-year-old daughter, Emma. Is there someone who wants to reveal their secrets? Is it possible that Suz did not really die - or has she somehow found a way back to seek revenge?
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A decade after covering up a friend's death during a prank in the Vermont woods, Henry and Tess are tormented by the secret, the suicide of another member of their group, and a chain of events that threatens their life with their young daughter.

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