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Church of Dead Girls
Stephen Dobyns
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Church of Dead Girls

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  1,657 ratings  ·  191 reviews
A literary chameleon, Stephen Dobyns is as well known for his poetry as he his for his taut and chilling mysteries. The two disciplines collide in The Church of Dead Girls, a lyrical novel that inspired Stephen King to comment, "If ever there was a tale for a moonless night, a high wind and a creaking floor, this is it ... I don't expect to read a more frightening novel th ...more
Published 1997 by Holt Metropolitan
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This is how they looked: three dead girls propped up in three straight chairs.

The suspicion didn't just go away. It just slipped back to wherever it hid.
Wow. What a meaty and cerebral read -- textured, layered, nuanced. It is a quiet novel that takes its time to carefully contemplate on its subject. And what is its subject? Despite the title, not the disappearance and death of three young girls, not really. Solving the crime, locating the victims, is secondary to the examination of a small to
This is an underrated gem of a novel by a little known author.

The classic theme of a murder in a small, quiet town has been done in decades by authors of many mysteries and thrillers. Those who approach The Church of Dead Girls with hope of discovering a fast-paced, nailbiting murder mystery will be most likely disappointed, because it's anything but. For all the better.

The victims, three dead girls are discovered in the first chapter; the book opens with the conclusion, though the who murdered
David H.
In the past, I would find an author that I liked and then read nothing but their works until I was saturated. These days, I have decided to read as many different authors as possible. I found this paperback in one of my father's bookshelves. I had never heard of Stephen Dobyns, but I am hardly any kind of expert on literature. The Title, " The Church Of Dead Girls" seemed dark and preverse to me (which is my favorite genre). The novel even had an endorsement from Stephen King.. "Very Rich, Very ...more
This novel is ok but i anticipated more from reading King`s comments its a slow moving story more a cerebal mystery. One by one, three teenage girls are abducted from a small American town. The only trace of them is their clothes returned, washed, ironed and neatly folded. With each disappearance suspicion spreads among the townsfolk,initially falling on anyone 'different' the college Marxist group, the gay community but soon extending to friends and neighbours, even the narrator himself. As pan ...more
Jim Thomsen
"The Church Of Dead Girls" is as perfect as it is unusual. Half cerebral literary fiction and half mystery thriller, this book tells the story of a serial killer targeting preteen girls through the eyes of a nameless narrator who serves as the lens and the conscience of a small-town community in upstate New York.

Dobyns, who developed his ability to create a community with a cast of intriguing dozens in his "Saratoga" mystery series, broadens his palette even as he narrows its focus — Aurelis, N
Matthew Iden
May 17, 2012 Matthew Iden rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Stephen King fans, Twin Peaks fans, psychological mystery on the spooky side
This review of The Church of Dead Girls is a moderately long analysis I did on the book in an attempt to get at why I liked it so much as a reader and how I could emulate the parts that worked as a writer.

As a result, what follows might be a little dry for some readers, since I'm reviewing from an author's perspective. And it's chock full of spoilers. But that shouldn't keep you from running out and grabbing a copy of this imminently creepy, thoughtful, and suspenseful tour de force. If you do,
Dobyns is better known, perhaps, for his wonderful and hilarious “Saratoga” mystery series featuring private eye Charlie Bradshaw. This is more serious in its implications and genre. A promiscuous woman is murdered, mother of Aaron McNeal, a troubled youth, who is involved with the IIR, Investigations Into the Right, a reading group formed by a new professor at Aurelius College, in the small town of Aurelius. The professor immediately alienates himself from the community by driving a red Citroen ...more
Brian Hodges
This book started off amazingly. It's all about how a string of murders rips a small town apart as everyone begins accusing the wrong people. As the product of a small town I could totally see the people I knew growing up in this exact setting. Unfortunately it fell off toward the end simply because the revelation of the actual killer was never going to live up to all the intrigue and suspense that had been built up over the course of the book.
Very slowly and deliberately paced, certainly not scary in the more usual 'horror' sense. I found the illustration of how suspicion tears a community apart and insidiously ruins previously long-standing friendships more moving than the actual crimes (though these are indeed creepy) Very well-described characters, and I didn't guess the murderer until the very end.
May 11, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Brit Hume

If you can semi-ignore the 180 minor characters and just concentrate on the 60 major ones, you'll have a much easier time reading this intelligent horror novel. Also, accept the fact that the novel will unfold very slowly.

In a small town in upstate New York, a middle-aged woman who happens to be the town slut is murdered and her left hand cut off. Over the following months, three young girls, ages 14 and 13, are abducted. We find out in the novel's opening flash-forward scene that they have been
After three girls go missing from a small upstate New York town, the town is ripped apart from the effects of suspicion. Where are the girls? Who has abducted them? Are they still alive? Who should be suspected and why?

It's been said that this book is more about the effects of these horrible events on the small town, and less about the murders of the girls. I have to agree with that assessment, but I don't think it was the best choice on the part of the author. I didn't find this book particular
As I was reading this book, I kept thinking this was a five star read. The writing style is so great, rich, detailed, truly immersing...this really is a literary novel with a mystery undercurrent. And, as far as the mystery aspect of it goes, I didn't figure out the killer till the very end. However, upon reading the whole book and pondering it for a few days, I subtracted two stars from my original estimate based on two things. #1 - despite a menagerie of well drawn out characters, there are no ...more
A very, very satisfying read. A tense thriller exploring the human nature in a time of crisis, specifically human nature in small communities.
Little girls start to disappear in the small town of Aurelius, and soon after, all eyes are on the more peculiar townies. First, the gay, the single, the foreign man get singled out, than, as things get more desperate, everyone becomes a suspect. No ones secrets are safe, and since there is a dark side to the best of us, the towns dirty laundry soon comes
I would classify this novel as a psychological murder mystery, which is normally not my preferred genre. I do not enjoy being scared, nor do I like exploring too deeply the “dark” side of life. I refused to see The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo at the movies because I was having a hard enough time getting the pictures out of my head just from having read the book.

I almost stopped reading this book after the first chapter.

I found the first chapter to be gruesomely detailed, but (lucky for me) the e
Lisa James
This book is one I am glad I took a chance on, even though the librarian herself never finished it, LOL. This story takes place in a small town in upstate NY, where things are supposed to be safer than in the big city, Well, every small town has it's secrets, & this one is no exception. Told through the eyes of a high school teacher who's name we never know, this is a riveting murder mystery that is not nearly as straight forward as it seems. It makes you think, & no one is above suspici ...more
"Life is a Mascarade, who is behind the mask?"... that song from Bend Folds and Josh Groban fits perfectly with the story narrated in this book.
Speaking of narration, at first, the way the story is presented, made me think of Truman Capote's "In cold blood". Is ok, the teller might not be a journalist but he is a privileged witness of the story. This is a small town, where everybody knows eachother, the question is, do they really know eachother? When the first girl disappears, all the people i
In dem Psychothriller "The Church of Dead Girls" ("Die Kirche der toten Mädchen") geht es um die Auswirkungen des Verschwindens von drei Mädchen auf das Leben in einer beliebigen amerikanischen Kleinstadt. Es entsteht eine Atmosphäre von Misstrauen und Angst, keiner ist vor den Verdächtigungen, der Täter zu sein, gefeit.

Was verbirgt der Nachbar hinter seiner öffentlich sichtbaren Fassade? Welche Geheimnisse lauern im Verborgenen?

Das eigene Verhalten (des Ich-Erzählers) wird vorsichtiger, er wägt
I'm not much of a re-reader. But, I actually kept my copy of this book and have read it twice. This is much more a than just a mystery. The way the author builds the suspense as our narrator tells a chilling tale of how a town turns in on itself after a young girl goes missing.
Human nature is explored as people began to eye their neighbors and secrets are brought to light in a small town.
There is a murderer among them and the reader gets sucked into the vortex of the investigation and maybe we
Angel Elizabeth
Some of the writing was good, but overall, I felt like it moved at a glacial pace and spent time judging people through the lens of an unreliable narrator. Might revisit at a later date.
I didn't find this book to really be much of a thriller. I think thrillers tend to grab you by the throat and make you read late into the night. Not so with this book. I didn't feel "compelled" to finish until the last 3-4 chapters in this fairly long book. On the other hand, I can't say I disliked the book. The author clearly knows his way around good prose and has incredible character development. He made some interesting points about the "crowd/mob mentality." I'll probably continue to think ...more
I came to this book because I knew Dobyns' work as a poet. I don't know what I expected of this novel, something consciously poetic, I suppose. It's definitely not that. But it is a rip-roaring good story. I couldn't put it down and plowed through the 400+ pages in a couple of days. In a way, it's a whodunit, but it's also a study of the interconnected secrets of a small town. I enjoyed it a lot. My only complaints about it are that the cast of characters was so large I had a hard time keeping t ...more
Kelley Tackett
I am ambivalent about this book. The book tells you the mystery right off the bat and you have to work towards that place again. I have never had so many characters introduced in a book. It was set in a small town and the narrator (you never learn his name, only that he's a gay man that teaches biology at the local school) felt the need to introduce lots of people and give you their whole backstory. Dobyns is a good writer. I would like to read more of his books but I wouldn't recommend starting ...more
I very much liked this book, but at the same time found it to be unsettlingly scary. I think it is realistic in the way it portrays how people would react to a situation such as presented in the book. If one has ever been singled out as an outsider, made unwelcome, or unjustly suspected or accused of something, one may just find this book too scary to read. It really hits the mark in describing how bad people can be, almost evil in their blindness.
Linda Strong
A small upstate New York village. Friends and neighbors that you've known for years. Quiet, safe ... that's what they all believe..... until young girls start disappearing.

The story, told by a teacher's viewpoint is much more than a who-dun-it and where are the girls. This story takes us into the very lives of everyone living there during this awful time. Suspicion becomes paranoia ..... friends become suspect ..... some become murderers.

Approximately 400 pages, this is not a book you can race t
Aurelius is a small community with people you'll recognize; heck, you see 'em every day. They're good folk--salt of the earth. Until the first little girl disappears. Then the smiling mask of normality begins to slip and the darkness underneath is revealed. You're led further and further down a winding path by a narrator who may or may not be trustworthy.
J.W. Thompson
Good storyline but a bit boring at the begining. The first few chapters were all background information then it read more like a journal than a novel. The only reason I read it was because Stephen King had endorsed it. I was disappointed in the novel.
Emily Crow
I read some reviews of this when it first came out--as I recall, there was a lot of hype--but as it turns out, I didn't get around to reading the actual book until just now. It's a thriller that focuses on the reactions of the townspeople, how quickly they come to distrust and suspect each other when some young girls start to go missing: kind of like a cross between your typical suspense novel and The Ox-Bow Incident. As a mystery/thriller, I thought it was just OK. As a novel about the ordinary ...more
This was pretty good. It reminds me in tone of The Virgin Suicides, but this author has more talent for telling a story.

In the small town of Aurelius, a local woman is murdered - her hand is missing and never recovered and her killer is never found , then some years later, teenage girls begin to go missing

In some ways it seems old fashioned - I'm not sure when this is supposed to be set, people have laptops but a cell phone is not mentioned once. It is a story about murder but it isn't procedura
Sep 02, 2008 Violet rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: oral surgeons
Recommended to Violet by: an ad in the New Yorker
"At times, he seemed no more than a dark block of wood, but maybe that was because he wasn't very tall."

Tell me more, Stephen Dobyns!
This book is a really creepy thriller, very well told
and with a constant sense of menace that keeps the pages turning
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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 Burn Palace 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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“Actions have consequences. Ignorance about the nature of those actions does not free a person from responsibility for the consequences. (28)” 9 likes
“They are asleep. This is the condition they prefer. They are afraid of the world and sleep is a way of dealing with their fear. Someday they will wake. Perhaps something frightful will happen. Indeed, there is no better invitation to the frightful than ignorance - that is, sleep. (29)” 8 likes
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