The Burn Palace
By Stephen Dobyns
The citizens of Brewster, Rhode Island, lead ordinary lives without much excitement. That is until a baby is discovered missing from the local hospital. In its place is a large yellow snake. For a small town like Brewster this disappearance could run the gossip mill for weeks, but the strangeness isn't over yet. A traveling insurance man is killed and scalped, a teenage girl goes missing, and reports of aggressive coyotes are on the rise. Woody, a local cop, is searching for answers but can't find anything to connect the events. "Just a bunch of separate things happening," he says. Acting police chief Fred Bonaldo sees the harmony between neighbors breaking down under the stress, and is "shocked...to see how quickly that could be swept aside." The tension mounts as the people of Brewster look for someone to blame.
The inside flap of this book says that it is "the literary equivalent of a Richard Russo small-town tableau crossed with a Stephen King thriller" and that's an accurate description. Lots of effort goes into painting the town as a real place filled with real people, and yet they are given terrifying realities to deal with. It's a well-told tale of suspense.
By Carsten Stroud
Another story about a small town with big problems, this one focuses more on the supernatural. But it's got plenty of visceral, real-life danger as well. Niceville is a Southern town with a long history. The plot begins when a child goes missing on the way home from school. The disappearance is caught on video, but the police still don't have any clues because the child is there one second and gone the next with no explanation. As the investigation continues, a massive bank robbery takes place sending shock waves through the town. This isn't a particularly uplifting book, but you can probably tell from the cover that Niceville isn't very nice.
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Review by Danny Hanbery