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The Burn Palace (2013)

by Stephen Dobyns

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
23920114,530 (3.65)31
The sleepy community of Brewster, Rhode Island, is just like any other small American town. It's a place where most of the population will likely die blocks from where they were born ; where gossip spreads like wildfire, and the big entertainment on weekends is the inevitable fight at the local bar. But recently, something out of the ordinary--perhaps even supernatural--has been stirring in Brewster. While packs of coyotes gather on back roads and the news spreads that a baby has been stolen from Memorial Hospital (and replaced in its bassinet by a snake), a series of inexplicably violent acts begins to confound Detective Woody Potter and the local police--and inspire terror in the hearts and minds of the locals.--Publisher's description.… (more)
  1. 00
    Needful Things: The Last Castle Rock Story by Stephen King (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both books are about small towns that go nuts.
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English (18)  Dutch (2)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Dobyns seems to produce two lines of books: his mealticket, the Saratoga Springs mystery novels, and his one-offs, the odd and varied -- but not actually experimental -- novels like Cold Dog Soup and The Two Deaths of Senora Puccini.

Burn Palace seems to combine the two approaches: a semi-supernatural police procedural which unexpectedly veers off into more cerebral territory. There were shades of The Wrestler's Cruel Study in many of the the occult digressions.

It's not perfect, and I admit that I like his one-offs much better, but this was still a fun, diverting read. ( )
  mkfs | Aug 13, 2022 |
The Burn Palace by Stephen Dobyns is, overall, a wonderful novel that's obviously seen major influence by Stephen King, especially with its intriguing characters and descriptive prose. There's also a lot of homage given to King in The Burn Palace. I won't go into the details, just know that the kids in the story are very Stephen King-ish characters ... I always take a while to read any of King's works, and the same can be said about Dobyns' The Burn Palace, but don't let that menial fact deter you from picking up The Burn Palace and giving it a go.

Frankly, The Burn Palace is a wonderfully suspenseful book that's fast-paced and quite thrilling, regardless of its few short comings (sometimes it's better not to be overly descriptive, especially when the reader - a.k.a. me - has a bit of an ADD thing going on the day), but I know it would have been better if I had read this book on one of those lazy days where all you have to worry about is reading a novel that's filled with mystery and horror. In other words, it's my fault for finding the story dragging in places, not the author's.

Stephen Dobyns is quite an articulate author with a lot of talent thrown into the mix. The third-person point of view gives the reader a great perspective over the small town (Brewster) and its various inhabitants, and somehow it seems real. So often we get horror novels that deal with the unnatural, supernatural, evil, etc. but usually it's too fantastic to be believable. The Burn Palace is, however, quite believable.

Readers with a love for Stephen King, as well as readers who are looking for a realistic horror/mystery/thriller with a few supernatural tendencies, will thoroughly enjoy The Burn Palace by Stephen Dobyns.

Review originally posted on:
( )
  MoniqueSnyman | Oct 3, 2019 |
"I think I'll read some fiction next," my spouse said at dinner tonight. He'd just finished reading A First-Rate Madness and was looking for a break from nonfiction.

"Well, the book I just finished was pretty good," I offered.

Our seven-year-old chimed in. "Oh, The Burn Palace?" he asked. "The one with the snake on it?"

I confirmed that he'd remembered the title---and cover art---correctly. "Yes. It was good, but it wasn't edifying."

And that's just how I think of this novel. It was fun to read and took a direction that was more satisfying than the one it seemed like it was going to take. It deals with the ways in which our assumptions cloud our vision to reality and cause us to make unwise decisions, which was interesting, but I'm not sure much of the novel is going to stick with me for long.

Of course, it's not always necessary to be edified by the books we read, but I prefer it if I am. Being entertained at the same time I am spiritually and/or intellectually improved satisfies me. It feels like multi-tasking. This novel was more uni-tasking.

It also provides a biased, unflattering, and inaccurate view of individuals with mental illness. Sure, not all of the homicidal characters are mentally ill, but the only mentally ill character is homicidal---and rather gratuitously so, plot-wise. Given that those with mental illness are no more likely to be violent criminals than those not diagnosed with mental illness, this characterization seems biased and inaccurate to me. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Jun 20, 2017 |
THE BURN PALACE is a book that any lover of mysteries/thrillers doesn’t want to miss. Several mysteries are going on at the same time, all in and around one small town

What happened to a newborn baby kidnapped from a hospital?

What is the significance of a snake in the baby’s place?

Why was a man scalped and who did it?

Why does the mother of the kidnapped baby hate him?

Why does this small town suddenly have a problem with cougers prowling the area and attacking humans?

Why are old people suddenly dying at a greater rate?

And more mysteries continue throughout. Stephen Dobyns skillfully brings them all together and solves each one.

However, be prepared for an overly long book. It could use more editing to eliminate a few redundancies. An even greater challenge to the reader is Dobyns’s use of SO MANY characters. I literally had to use a yellow highlighter to mark each new character name so I could leaf back a few pages when I needed a refresher of who was who. ( )
  techeditor | Jan 4, 2017 |
Compulsively readable mystery with great characters. Life in a small town is as much a character as any of the principles. ( )
  jjaylynny | Nov 12, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
An utterly believable tale, and Dobyns isn’t above scaring the reader silly with surprise twists and turns.
added by sturlington | editKirkus Reviews (Nov 19, 2012)
 
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For Phyllis Westberg,

with love and gratitude
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Nurse Spandex was late, and as she broke into a run her rubber-soled clogs went squeak-squeak on the floor of the hallway leading to labor and delivery.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The sleepy community of Brewster, Rhode Island, is just like any other small American town. It's a place where most of the population will likely die blocks from where they were born ; where gossip spreads like wildfire, and the big entertainment on weekends is the inevitable fight at the local bar. But recently, something out of the ordinary--perhaps even supernatural--has been stirring in Brewster. While packs of coyotes gather on back roads and the news spreads that a baby has been stolen from Memorial Hospital (and replaced in its bassinet by a snake), a series of inexplicably violent acts begins to confound Detective Woody Potter and the local police--and inspire terror in the hearts and minds of the locals.--Publisher's description.

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