Book tip: "The Burn Palace"

Stephen Dobyns

Blue Rider Press

This is a masterful and relentless achievement in the tradition of Stephen King's "Salem's Lot," which was as much a study of smalltown life as it was about vampires. "The Burn Palace," set in Brewster, Rhode Island, in the shortening days before Halloween - and with plenty of local references - is a sly study in the phenomenon of creeping hysteria in a small town. Creepy incidents are starting to occur against an evolving and suggestive backdrop of witchcraft, madness, human sacrifice, stolen babies and, yes, packs of preternaturally stalking coyotes. Dobyns, a Westerly resident whose "The Church of Dead Girls" is one of the most criminally under-recognized thrillers ever, is an award-winning poet as well as a prolific novelist. He writes like a dark, bemused angel, and this book will rip through your brain like star-shells.

- RICK KOSTER

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