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The Burn Palace

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  946 ratings  ·  233 reviews
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 ...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published February 7th 2013 by Blue Rider Press (first published February 5th 2013)
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Surely fear is the oldest emotion. Not love, not pride, not greed. The emotion urging you to run is older than the one telling you to embrace. ~The Burn Palace
Let's get the Negative Nelly rant out of the way first: I may have just taken too damn long to read this book (it was a hellish work week, and I couldn't seem to find the time needed to just attack the book and submerse myself in it the way it demands). It starts out really strong -- with a great premise -- but somewhere along the way, Do
First new novel from Stephen Dobyns in 14 years! I thought the guy was abducted by aliens or something.
Harry Roger Williams III
After completing this I re-read the cover material. Dobyns is listed as teaching creative writing at Warren Wilson College. I wasn't familiar and tracked down WWC, and found among their downloadable audio lectures one given by Dobyns in 1990. The catalog says, "Stephen Dobyns argues that structure is both the means by which information is released and the information itself... structure, whether in poetry or prose, represents the means by which formal elements (language, texture, pacing, and ton ...more
Patrice Hoffman
I have completed The Burn Palace by Stephen Dobyns. First thoughts are that I liked it and I look forward to reading some of the older books by this author. The New England town of Brewster has been riddled with strange occurances such as a newborn baby being replaced by a snake in the hospital nursery. An insurance agent is found murdered and there is a heavy presence of highly aggressive coyote roaming the town. There are many suspenseful moments that cause the reader to wonder what is going o ...more
Stephen King recommended. Book blurb says: "I've read some very good novels this year, but this one is the best of the best. In a real sense, I didn't read it at all, after the first five pages; I entered the small-town world Stephen Dobyns creates with such affection, horror, and fidelity. I can imagine Nataniel Hawthorne, Sherwood Anderson, and - yes- Grace Metalious rising to their feet in that special Writing Room of the Dead and giving Dobyns a standing ovation. Dobyns has always been good, ...more
Weird stuff happening in a small town, but everything comes together in the end in a believable conclusion (of sorts). That alone makes it worth the read.

Also, this book has hints of Stephen King... actually, it's more like a bouillon cube of Stephen King. It has Stephen King flavorings, but stewed in a more fortified crock pot (if that makes any sense).

The familiar: sleepy small town, gossipy towns folk, gifted (read: not annoying) children, supernatural happenings, unusual deaths, mental illn
Rosina Lippi
I had an advance copy of this novel for review purposes, and I must say I’m pleased to have been able to read it sooner than later. Because it was that good. I read it in December and posted a shorter review on my weblog. Here's the long version.

The marketing copy for this novel calls it a horror novel. It is not exactly that. I see it more as a new direction in magical realism. If you have read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, you may remember that impossible things happ
Is this a horror novel or not? No spoilers here; let’s just say that if you are looking for a horror show, you’ve got it; if you’re looking for a mystery, it’s here, and if you are in the mood for a small town character study, you’ve picked up the right book. The fact that Steven Dobyns can scratch the itch for several genres is a tribute to his writer’s skill and makes “Burn Palace” a satisfying experience.

Since I go for the small town character angle, let’s talk about Brewster, RI. It’s a smal
A vast cast of strangeness shows it head in this tale. It starts with an interesting character Nurse Spandex, the name more or less quite befitting. Then a missing baby, a snake and coyotes, unlike the common breed, appear and attack citizens of the town. The story has a feel of eeriness, strangeness and elements of horror. As investigations into crimes that arise are carried out many interesting elements to the story get introduced. I enjoyed parts then there was other parts that left me not wa ...more
Mar 04, 2014 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Horror and murder mystery readers
The Burn Palace starts out with the disappearance of a newborn baby from the local hospital. In its place is left a snake. From there, things in the small town of Brewster, RI only go downhill. Attacking coyotes, witchcraft, murder, telekenisis, kidnappings. There's a little bit of almost everything in this book.

What makes it unique is that The Burn Palace is half mystery, half horror story. It's got the police procedural side of things, and then the things that go bump in the night. It's a grea
So happy to have another Stephen Dobyns novel. Loved how all the pieces came together. Laughed out loud so often I may no longer be welcome in the laundromat where I was reading this.
Stephen Dobyns is such a talented author. His depictions of small town, America are dead on.
Something is terribly wrong in Brewster. The disappearance of a newborn starts off a chain of events that boggles the mind.
Rumors of Satanist, weird parties out in the swampy woods and shapeshifters have law enforcement at a loss.
Then there is Carl Krause. He is becoming a menace, actually growling at people.
Then an insurance agent is murdered and scalped . A teenage girl reports a rape, then disappears.
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I finished this book in two days, literally staying up until ungodly hours of the night to do so. Upon finishing, I can say it was a messy, creepy, action-filled suspense-y thriller set in a small New England town. However, while reading this book, I couldn't stop grousing!

The novel opens dramatically: 'Nurse Spandex', a thirty-something nurse known for modifying her scrubs to make them more flattering, has just left after a fling with a doctor while on duty. Returning to the nursery, she's horr
Stephen King introduced me to this book by RAVING about it in Entertainment Weekly. As I started reading I quickly saw what he liked in it as it had many of his favorite themes: kids with possible powers, mysterious and gory deaths, links to the occult, damaged relationships and people, etc. Oh and, it's long and dense. The first few hundred pages I was engaged but (much like a long Stephen King novel) was periodically frustrated with the density of detail, much of it extraneous. But then, the m ...more
Rick Fisher
Convoluted. Obfuscated. Innocuous. Verbose. Pointless. Sad.

It was many years ago when I read the wonderful "Church of the Dead Girls" and "Boy in the Water", so maybe what I enjoy has changed or Mr. Dobyns style or writing has changed. Either way, I found this novel so damn tiresome and unnecessary.
There are so many unnecessary aspects of this novel. To many characters, to many wasted pages of nonsensical claptrap leading nowhere, to many subplots. The list goes on and on.
Personally, I woul
This is a really well done mystery. I really would rate this at four and a half stars if I could. Dobyns paints such a great picture of this little town literally going through hell. And fills it with a really cool cast of characters as well. But don't get to attached to anyone because Dobyns is not afraid of whacking his characters. Some authors seem willing to carry their characters through a nuclear explosion. With The Burn Palace Dobyns seems to take a perverse delight in removing characters ...more
This was a second read for me and I liked it much better this time. I think that the first time around the plethora of characters in the beginning was too much to keep track of, so I lost interest. This time I noted certain characters that I thought were of larger interest in the story and got along much better.

The cliff hanger chapter endings were wonderfully frustrating! I continually screamed "Don't cut to a different scene now!" That and impossible odds, kept me reading on for more.

With quir
Daniel Rudge
More like 3.5 stars. In the Burn Palace, Dobyns introduces us to both a series of macabre mysteries and the town of Brewster, Rhode Island. The novel opens with the theft of a newborn baby at the local hospital, with the babies body replaced by a snake. When other terrifying events begin to take place, Detective Woody Potter begins an investigation. This book is crammed full of strange and often demented characters, packs of aggressive coyotes, and numerous unrelated murders. Or so one is led to ...more

I've read rave reviews on this book, including one from no less an expert in writing than Stephen King. I wish I could agree with them, but I neither liked nor hated this book. It just sort of “was”.

Mystery and horror combine as unexplained deaths occur in Brewster, Rhode Island. Along with sightings of a few unnaturally large – and organized – wolves. To say much more would risk providing the spoilers which I absolutely hate to discover in a review.

Why didn't this book grab me? Perhaps it was b
Victoria Waddle

A nurse in the obstetrics ward of the Morgan Memorial Hospital comes back to her post after a quick tryst with Dr. Balfour. In sleepy Brewster, Rhode Island there hasn’t been much to worry about in the many long years since the town’s founder, Wrestling Brewster, was eaten by wolves. So, Nurse Spandex isn’t too worried about deserting her post. If anyone noticed that she had left, she will just say she had to use the restroom or lie down for a bit because of her cramps. But then she sees that on
Monique Snyman
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 y ...more
Stayed up far too late to finish this book and it just wasn't worth the lost sleep :( Felt the author was trying very hard to be the next Stephen King but fell woefully short. His writing could be good at times but it was far too rambling a narrative to follow clearly. There were too many characters and none were really fully developed. The storyline did scare me at some points but that may have been due to the lateness of the hours reading it - my mind starts to play tricks on me. LOL
I picked this book up mainly for the fact that Stephen King gave it such high praise. I don't know what Mr. King was on when he read this book but such high praise it is not worthy of. I will say the book started good. A shocking start that kept getting stranger and stranger as the story progressed. However, since nothing much was happening by the mid portion of the book I was bored. However, I kept reading on hoping for some real big shocker but was let down with a mediocre conclusion. Also, I ...more
I picked out this book based on a recommendation by Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly- he said this was one of his fave 10 books of the year. I wasn't sure what to think starting to read this book, but once I was immersed within the town of Brewster, and all the characters, I found it quite enjoyable. This is fully a mystery of many proportions, but it's done in an entertaing, if not slightly gory, way. I havent' read anything like this in some time, and enjoyed it.
Joshua Buhs
Either I really missed something, or the book didn't deliver on all its promises.

I was excited to see this book advertised, so much so that I bought it in hardcover, which I rarely do. I haven't read Dobyns's Syracuse series, and his "Two Deaths of Señora Puccini" was dry, but "Boy in Water" was really good and "Church of Dead Girls" was amazing--it should be considered a classic of weird literature.

Coming after those, "The Burn Palace" was surprisingly clumsy. It was like the debut novel of som
A good but slight and somewhat disappointing effort from Dobyns. The mystery, which begins with kidnapping of a baby, feels tired and rather lackluster despite the inclusion of Satanism and Wiccan in the story. The characters are engaging and the writing is top notch but the story pales in comparison to Dobyn's The Boy In The Water and Church Of Dead Girls. Not Dobyn's best effort but still has its moments.
Why Stephen Dobyns is not more widely read is the mystery here. His novels subtly explore the human horrors of paranoia and distrust in small town settings. The characters are our next door neighbors. Church of The Dead Girls is a brilliant example of this, however Burn Palace is a close second. For mystery fans this book is a must.
An excellent novel which succeeds on numerous levels. It's part character study, part profile of life in a small town, and part horror story.

It's by turns scary, funny, and sweet.

By the time you finish it, you will feel as if you have lived in Brewster, Rhode Island, and know everyone there.
I am always leery of books that are highly praised by Stephen King. I usually very much enjoy Stephen King books, but until this book, I have never liked a book he heaped high praise on. The Burn Palace is not like most books, in that it doesn't fit into one genre, or category. It is darkly funny, often times disturbing, it blends mystery with horror, and touches on philosophy and religion. From the first chapter the reader is given loads of detail about the town of Brewster where the story take ...more
Daren Girard
This is a thriller/mystery that takes place in South County, Rhode Island. Most of the place names and descriptions are authentic so local readers can really picture the scenes. Also, there are numerous recognizable South County character stereotypes: new-age, holistic-health yoga instructor, chatty owner of independent coffee-shop, "Swamp Yankee" farmer, boater, fishing enthusiasts, URI professor. Alas, I noticed that there was no surfer among the cast. Despite this, I still was able to suspend ...more
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Books Stephen Kin...: The Burn Palace -Overall Imprssion 8 20 May 09, 2015 12:44AM  
Books Stephen Kin...: The Burn Palace -Ch 15 - Epilogue (Spoilers) 8 19 May 08, 2015 07:37PM  
Books Stephen Kin...: The Burn Palace -Ch 8 -14 (Spoilers) 10 14 May 08, 2015 10:09AM  
Books Stephen Kin...: The Burn Palace -Ch 1 -7 (Spoilers) 12 19 May 06, 2015 12:13AM  
Books Stephen Kin...: Burn Palace General Discussion (NO SPOILERS) 19 26 Apr 05, 2015 04:53AM  
Books Stephen Kin...: Burn Palace 13 28 Apr 07, 2013 08:44AM  
giveaway never received 2 23 Feb 13, 2013 06:30AM  
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Dobyns was raised in New Jersey, Michigan, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He was educated at Shimer College, graduated from Wayne State University, and received an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1967. He has worked as a reporter for the Detroit News.

He has taught at various academic institutions, including Sarah Lawrence College, the Warren Wilson College MFA Program
More about Stephen Dobyns...
The Church Of Dead Girls Boy in the Water Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry Velocities: New and Selected Poems, 1966-1992 The Wrestler's Cruel Study

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“Fill in the blanks, you’d have a novel; keep it short and it’s a play by Beckett.” 0 likes
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