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A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter

3.36 of 5 stars 3.36  ·  rating details  ·  506 ratings  ·  112 reviews

"A Special Place," Peter Straub's first published novella, will come to stand as one of the author's most deeply unsettling works of fiction. A rumination on the nature of evil, the story centers on a boy, Keith Hayward, who is drawn by his nature to an irresistible fascination with death and the taking of life. His father's brother, the good-looking suave Uncle Till - th

Hardcover, signed limited to 250 numbered copies, 89 pages
Published 2009 by Borderlands Press
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Community Reviews

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That is a whole lot of emotion packed in such a small book.

First of all, that cover is stunning. I was in love with it from the moment I first saw it.

This book was terrifying. It chilled me to the bone. Straub is a master weaver of tales and, most of all, characters. It's a novella, there cannot be much room for elaboration, but you can definitely tell that, after such a seemingly innocent set of a boy and his uncle perched on a tree stump having a co
Erika Schoeps
2.5 stars

I own the Peter Straub/Stephen King collaborations, but I haven't read them yet... while I was at the library, this cute little novella caught my eye. So, I had my first taste of Peter Straub.

I liked Straub's writing style, basic and suspenseful, with the occasional punch. I also enjoyed the narrator's thought-provoking and insightful inner reflections... but even as the narrator thinks interesting thoughts, I just couldn't connect with him. In fact, I couldn't connect with any of the c
Excellent novella. Sort of like a portait of a sociopath as a young man. Great introduction to Straub, finally an author who lives up to his reputation and accolades. As I understand, this is a prequel (which can be read as a stand alone) to A Dark Matter, in which case way to whet the appetite. Really like the narrative style and great detailed character descriptions. Quirk dark disturbing read. Recommended.
Horror is definitely out of my comfort genre zone but this is a short book so I was figuring it’d scare me quickly and I’d move on. And perhaps the scare will get me out of my reading rut! Well, it was intriguingly sickening. As I understand it, this is a background on a character in Mr. Straub’s novel A Dark Matter. Having not read the full length novel (and most likely won’t since I’m too much of a wuss) and thinking that A Special Place is a good indication of what that novel would be like, s ...more
An extremely well written, truly horrific book, "A Special Place" is compelling enough (and short enough) to be read in one sitting, but the disturbing after-images will linger for much longer.

Though this book is filled with violence -- physical, sexual, and psychological -- the majority of it is implied, as Straub describes its aftermath and lets his readers fill in the gaps.

The story he delivers is something of the Anti-Dexter, as budding sociopath Keith is encouraged in his interests by his
Extremely disturbing story of how deviance,violence,and disposable behavior is condoned, pampered, and even applauded by relatives.
How an older male relative initiates a younger male relative into a life of violent secret crime. Starting with a "supposition" that he might need a special place to put his special things.
Most serial killers start out with small animals, and then proceed on up the food chain. The young boy in this story has already stood on that step, and is ripe for
William Cook
in researching a novel I had a mission to read the majority of first person accounts of serial homicide, stream of consciousness-style fiction. Here is my list.

1. Killer on The Road by James Ellroy
2. A Special Place: the heart of a dark matter by Peter Straub
3. The Killer by Colin Wilson
4. Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite
5. Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates
6. The Girls he Adored by Jonathan Nasaw
7. Head Hunter by Michael Slade
8. Stray Bullets (series) by David Lapham
9. The Killer Inside Me by Jim Th
Reading this book is like being inside the head of a serial killer...except we meet him when he's only 12 years old. And he's being coached by his uncle. It's shockingly realistic and at times extremely disturbing. I've read True Crime that upset me less than this book.

All that being said it was excellently written. The prose is tight, compact. This is a novella and really a character study of a boy who will later appear as a man in a full length novel. It can be read as a stand alone. It's abo
AmberBug **
Short but enormously terrifying!!! My stomach is quite unsettled after this read and that feeling is hard to come by with all the prior books I've experienced. This is not a book for someone who sickens easily. I'm not one of those and I think this book will stay with me awhile, maybe even haunt my dreams.
Joe Cummings
A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter the 2010 publication by Peter Straub is not a novel. At best, it's a curt prequel to his 2010 novel A Dark Matter. In reality, it's a well crafted short story about one sick puppy of a kid who is mentored by well intentioned, charismatic uncle along with an afterword to tie it into the aforementioned novel. And while it's a bit derivative of the TV series Dexter, it is a macabre and horrifying tale. Unless you're interested in reading a short well wr ...more
If you want to read about the development of a psychopath, this novella is for you. The advice Keith receives from his uncle is chilling and disturbing
Robin Hobb
As always, Peter Straub creeped me out. Not a book to read when in the house alone.
How do you successfully become a serial killer? Ask your uncle!
I understand this is prequel novella to the full length book "A Dark Matter" but I read it as a stand-alone and it worked perfectly on its own (maybe even better since with having read the novel outcomes might have been already known?!). This is basically a little character study of a young boy who has, well, certain interests and tendencies. The type of interests where you might want to lock up your cat.
Especially towards the ending
Short book, creepy cover, written by noted horror author, Peter Straub, A Special Place, seemed like a good idea at the time…

Keith Hayward is 12 years old, growing up in an average little neighborhood, with average parents, including a stay-at-home mom and a hard-working dad. Occasionally, his Uncle Till stops by and stays with them as well. The book opens with a conversation between Till and Keith. Keith has just cornered a lost neighborhood cat and killed it. His mother is horrified. His Uncle
this is a quick and easy...and disturbing read....

miller is an interesting character. the victim. i'd read a dark matter earlier this year and though i thought this story is from that larger story and though much of it is familiar, after paging through the longer story, i can't find it.

but miller...there's a nice afterword by gary k wolfe titled "fractal evil"...could be that something in that generated these questions, concerns about miller. the victim.

the willing victim.

maybe it was something
Dana Burgess
Question: What does a budding twelve year old psychopath need most?
Answer: A blooming psychopathic uncle to be his mentor.

And this is the premise behind Peter Straub's novella "A Special Place: the Heart of a Dark Matter". Thank goodness for short books. This truly was a dark book - I'm talking pitch, midnight, moonless black. Had it been longer, my mind and body would have rebelled. As it was, I was left feeling more than slightly nauseous at the last page. I believe this was the author's inten
Big Shell
It's the kind of book that makes me wish I could give half stars. This book deserve half a star for the following reasons:

1. The font is clear
2. The paper printed on is the usual paperback paper - ordinary but functional and lovely on its own.
3. The page numbers and page breaks are done in non-obstructive ways.

Beside that, this book is a complete mess, in the way that many people would read back to their dark-and-edgey twelve year old self's wannabe rebellion in embarrassment. Animal torturing
Michelle Young
Ugh. Felt gross after reading it because of the perversion and the evil. That's why I'm giving it two stars, although the prose itself is fine and I guess it accomplishes what it's trying to do, which is describe the beginnings of a serial killer. Only tried it because want to train for a genre fiction committee which requires members to read horror. But after this, not so sure I'd be up for it.

The story is Keith Hayward's Uncle Till comes to visit periodically, and he encourages the love of vi
Donna Davis
Were you to go back and look at how I have rated Straub's other work, you would see four and five stars. I can put up with a lot of gore, human misery, and deep sorrow for a well-turned-out novel. I have always considered Straub to be a close second behind Stephen King,and for PURE horror and nothing else (because though reviewers and book stores don't always acknowledge it, sometimes King writes a book that is really dominantly a different genre, tossing in a little supernatural stuff on the si ...more
Dark psychology abounds in this brief tale of a budding killer (a young boy) who is being tutored in murder, deceit, and sociopathy by his already darkly experienced uncle. The reader knows from the first page when the uncle explains the neccesity for our main character to find "a special place," in which to do secret and horrible things, that this novella will not end well. For me, it ended abruptly. I wanted much more of the tale, but alas, it was not to be. This is a small slice of two distur ...more
Ever since reading Shadowland when I was a teenager, I’ve been a big fan of Peter Straub. Reading Ghost Story was great, and one of the scenes in the book represents one of the few moments I can recall where a passage in a book really, truly got under my skin. I think he’s an effective storyteller with a great sense of what’s creepy, and I was thrilled to see that he had written a short novel that was supposed to be the be-all, end-all of creepiness.

It’s true that the book is creepy. It’s about
Diane Dachota
A librarian recommend this very short novel written in 2010 by Straub. I hadn't read this one but almost wish I didn't. It is a story set in Straub's (and my) hometown of Milwaukee about a young boy who mutilates animals and has worse things in his heart, and his occasionally visiting uncle the serial killer. It is very dark and involves harming a young teenage boy so it was pretty disturbing. Straub remains a very good writer even with the dark stuff though.
I've read the King / Straub collaborations and this caught my eye because it was small. I gave it a shot and while the story wasn't bad, the whole idea was just horribly unoriginal. I would like to read some of Straub's other notable works. I'm not passing judgment on Straub himself, but just this novella. I don't recommend it.
There's disturbing and then there is this book. More like a novella. Just amazed how in so few pages the author manages to leave his story deeply imprinted in my mind and with such a bad aftertaste. This is the story of how a serial killer is born. A deeply disturbed, sick and crazy killer. Keith is a teenage boy that starts giving signs that he enjoys inflicting pain and all that it conveys. Along comes his uncle Till, who happens to be the Ladylike killer -of course-. This is the story of how ...more
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Underwhelming but still an okay read, this novella left me wanting more. I would have liked more backstory in regards to Uncle Till and Keith's relationship with Miller. Some parts of it felt rushed and unfinished while others I quite liked.
Peter Straub is an amazing writer. This book was deeply disturbing. The characters were believable. It frightened me, and still I got up early this morning to finish it, in less than 24 hours.
Timothy McNeil
I guess once you've actually studied and researched what goes into the making of a violent psychopath, all the wrong guessing and mediocre writing that accompanies it doesn't hold much allure.
Creepy.. Short read. Not my kind of book.
Think I'll stick with the fantasy/horror of King rather than the graphic/horror of Straub...
A dark novella that is hard to put down. I have not read the novel that this story is connected to, but I plan to soon.
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Book Lair: A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter 1 5 Jun 03, 2015 12:41PM  
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Peter Straub was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 2 March, 1943, the first of three sons of a salesman and a nurse. The salesman wanted him to become an athlete, the nurse thought he would do well as either a doctor or a Lutheran minister, but all he wanted to do was to learn to read.

When kindergarten turned out to be a stupefyingly banal disappointment devoted to cutting animal shapes out of heavy
More about Peter Straub...
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