The Church of Dead Girls

The Church of Dead Girls

4.3 17
by Stephen Dobyns
     
 

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For decades, the faded, rural upstate New York village has lain dormant—until it is startlingly stirred to life wen, one by one, three young girls vanish...

Nightmare are turned into horrifying reality when their corpses are found, brutally murdered, each missing their left hand...

Now, as the search for a madman gets underway, suspicion shrouds the quiet

Overview

For decades, the faded, rural upstate New York village has lain dormant—until it is startlingly stirred to life wen, one by one, three young girls vanish...

Nightmare are turned into horrifying reality when their corpses are found, brutally murdered, each missing their left hand...

Now, as the search for a madman gets underway, suspicion shrouds the quiet streets of Aurelius when its residents soon realize that monster lives amongst them...

But no even prayers can save their loved ones from the rage of a twisted mind who has only just begun his slaughter...

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
The successive disappearances of three young girls rip a small town in New York's Hudson Valley from its Currier & Ives tranquillity and turn it into a hotbed of paranoia and suspicion. Think Thornton Wilder if he'd written Our Town with Richard Speck.

—Rick Koster

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
In a gripping prologue to this masterful psychological thriller, Dobyns creates an unforgettable scene: in an attic shrine, the bodies of three dead girls are tied to chairs; all have had their left hands cut off. Aurelius, the town in upstate New York where this bizarre discovery is made, is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else. As the narrative gains momentum, Dobyns brilliantly chronicles the gradual ripping away of all trust and familiarity within the community. Everyone seems guilty, even the fussy high-school science teacher who relates the events leading up to the disappearances of the three girls. Paramount in everyone's mind is the recent return to Aurelius of Aaron McNeal, a young troublemaker whose mother, Janice, was murdered years earlier. The belated revelation that Janice's left hand had been severed, too, signals that her murderer is still at large. The citizens of Aurelius begin to see each other by the dark light of potential guilt. In a story full of brilliant touches, Dobyns, who writes the Saratoga Mystery series, shows how the support group for the family of the first victim metamorphoses into a vigilante patrol that witch-hunts Aurelius into a state of paranoid terror. In the end, this chiller is about the awful power of fear. When the people of Aurelius go looking for a monster, monsters are all they can see.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a gripping prologue to this masterful psychological thriller, Dobyns creates an unforgettable scene: in an attic shrine, the bodies of three dead girls are tied to chairs; all have had their left hands cut off. Aurelius, the town in upstate New York where this bizarre discovery is made, is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else. As the narrative gains momentum, Dobyns brilliantly chronicles the gradual ripping away of all trust and familiarity within the community. Everyone seems guilty, even the fussy high-school science teacher who relates the events leading up to the disappearances of the three girls. Paramount in everyone's mind is the recent return to Aurelius of Aaron McNeal, a young troublemaker whose mother, Janice, was murdered years earlier. The belated revelation that Janice's left hand had been severed, too, signals that her murderer is still at large. The citizens of Aurelius begin to see each other by the dark light of potential guilt. In a story full of brilliant touches, Dobyns, who writes the Saratoga Mystery series, shows how the support group for the family of the first victim metamorphoses into a vigilante patrol that witch-hunts Aurelius into a state of paranoid terror. In the end, this chiller is about the awful power of fear. When the people of Aurelius go looking for a monster, monsters are all they can see. 60,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/ promo; BOMC, QPB alternates; film rights to HBO; foreign rights sold to Fischer in Germany and Penguin UK. (June) FYI: The publishers are circulating a letter from Stephen King praising the novel and connecting it to one of Dobyns's poems, "The Town," collected in the volume Cemetery Nights.
Library Journal
Despite the lurid title, Dobyns's latest novel (he is a poet and author of the "Saratoga" mystery series) is a compelling mystery that shows how the people in a small town change because of a series of murders. First, a promiscuous woman is murdered. Then three girls disappear in succession. The narrator reports how the symptoms of fear escalate into a raging disease consuming the community. Cloaking prejudice and fear with righteousness, certain citizens target individuals who are on the community's fringe. By the story's end, no one escapes suspicion. Many characters and the complexities of human interactions receive well-rounded treatment. This absorbing tale, fit for any general collection, is highly recommended.Michelle Foyt, Fairfield P.L., Ct.
Kirkus Reviews
A brisk dip into the ice-cold waters of schizophrenia, nymphomania, and serial murder, by the author of Saratoga Fleshpot (1995), etc.

Aurelia, New York, is one of those pleasant little towns that you need a good reason to visit and none at all to leave. Situated somewhere in the vicinity of Utica, it has been losing jobs and people for most of the last 50 years. But of late these disappearances have become increasingly macabre. People are horrified to discover Janice McNeal, the town floozy, murdered in her own home, while the amputation of her left hand—presumably as a souvenir—adds an especially grisly touch to an already-repugnant tableau. Janice's son Aaron is naturally disturbed by these events, but he himself begins to arouse more suspicion than sympathy when he chews off a classmate's ear during a lunchroom argument that gets out of hand. And, in rapid succession, three young girls vanish inexplicably, with no trace save the bundles of their clothing that mysteriously appear soon after their disappearance. Just what is going on? Much of the suspicion is directed toward a Marxist study group at the local college, although a vigilante bunch comprised of local rednecks also come to be suspect. Aaron, meanwhile, with his brooding fury and strange charisma, is not the weirdest guy in town by a long shot. The unnamed narrator, a high- school biology teacher, also secretly keeps a collection of nasty objects submerged in formaldehyde to impress his favorite pupils. The solution to the mystery comes at the end of a long trail of blood and perversity that might well have been worked out in a collaboration between John Webster and Grace Metalious.

A vivid and deeply scary tale, then, that ultimately becomes too relentless: Dobyns needs to follow Poe's lead rather than Stephen King's and save the scariest bits for the end.

San Francisco Chronicle
“A chilling evocation of small-town life turned upside down. Dobyns delivers the goods.”
The New York Times Book Review
“A complex parable of social disintegration…Dobyns’sad a disquieting novel carries a contemporary moral, true in even the smallest American towns.”
Stephen King
“Long after most other tales of murder and insanity have panted to their foregone conclusions, the suspense in this tale continues to build.The Church of Dead Girlsis a meditation on hysteria, immensely ambitious, but Dobyns tells the tale with thte calm—and the fearful inevitability—of a man walking down a long hotel corridor to a room where some awful thing is waiting. Best of all? He never pulls up or turns aside—I kept reading, riveted by the plot and rooting with all my heart for Dobyns to pull it off. And he did, in a terrifying climax. I don’t expect to read a more frightening novel this year. Very rich, very scary, very satisfying.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805051032
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
06/01/1997
Edition description:
First American Edition
Pages:
388
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.29(d)

What People are saying about this

Stephen King
If ever there was a tale for a moonless night, a high wind, and a creaking floor, this is it…Very rich, very scary, very satisfying.

Meet the Author

Stephen Dobyns is the author of more than thirty novels and poetry collections, including The Church of Dead Girls, Cold Dog Soup, and Cemetery Nights. Among his many honors are a Melville Cane Award, Pushcart prizes, a National Poetry Series prize, and three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. His novels have been translated into twenty languages, and his poetry has appeared in the Best American Poetry anthology. Dobyns, who has taught at the University of Iowa and Sarah Lawrence College, teaches creative writing at Warren Wilson College.

Actor George Newbern has appeared in Father of the Bride, Father of the Bride II, Evening Star, Adventures in Babysitting, and many other films. On television, he has had roles on Scandal, Friends, Nip/Tuck, Hot in Cleveland, CSI, and more. George is also known for providing the voice of Superman in Justice League.

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The Church of Dead Girls 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought the book was really good. I read it while i was in high school and i always think about it and couldn't remember the title until now. It was a great read and i liked how it kept me thinking till in the end where you figured out what was actually going on and who was behind all of it. Im into those kind of stories so there ya go.
Caroles_Random_Life 14 days ago
The best part of this book was finishing it. Seriously, I was absolutely thrilled to finally be done with this one so that I could move on to something else. I actually almost stopped listening pretty early on in the book because it just wasn't working for me but I made myself continue because I didn't feel like I had given it a chance. The last part of the book was a bit better for me but only a bit. I was ready for an exciting mystery and hoped that it would be creepy and a bit gruesome. Just look at the title - I expected a equally amazing story. This book did start strong and I really enjoyed the opening scene. I wanted to know what happened to those girls. Unfortunately, the book went back to a time before the crimes and was really more of a character study than anything else. I couldn't believe how many characters were brought in the spotlight. We would learn one community members backstory and then move on to the next person's story. It was too many character to keep up with for me. Once the girls had disappeared and the mystery moved into the spotlight, I did enjoy the story a bit more. I think one of my main issues was that all of the characters bored me in this book. I didn't feel anything for any of them - not even the girls. Even when the plot sped up, I didn't really have anything invested in the story. I actually think that this book could easily be made much shorter and the result would be a much more enjoyable story. I didn't realize that I had read anything by Stephen Dobyns before I started this book. I guess I really haven't but I did read about a quarter of Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? before I gave up on it. I think that I had many of the same issues with that book in that I had a really hard time connecting with any of the characters. I did learn that this book was actually first published in the 1990's even though the audiobook was just released. I did enjoy George Newbern's narration. This is the first time that I have listened to this narrator and I was really impressed. He had a very pleasant voice and was able to handle a very large cast of characters quite well. I thought that he did a nice job with both the male and female voices and enjoyed the overall flow of his narration. I will definitely look for this narrator in the future. I wouldn't recommend this book. I was disappointed on so many levels with this story and really regret not following my initial instinct of putting this one on the dnf pile early on. I received a review copy of this audiobook from Dreamscape Media, LLC via Audiobook Jukebox for the purpose of providing an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One at a time, three young girls disappear without a trace in a sleepy, seemingly safe community. Each time, their clothes are returned anonymously--neatly cleaned and ironed and placed in a box along with a mannaquin's left hand and a list of "severed" dirty words. The only thing that is fairly certain is that the person responsible is someone in their midst. But who? Although the narrator leads the reader through a frustrating experience trying to determine who could have done such a hideous crime, this is much more an inquiry into the human condition as it is a whodunit. There were many, many characters, and each one is suspect, including the narrator. I became at times extremely frustrated reading this story, and began to realize that this is exactly what the author, Stephen Dobyns wanted to have happen. In reading the book, you become a member of this community, and can begin to understand the level of fear and frustration that these people were living under. Those emotions led some people to turn on their neighbors and friends and to do things they might not normally do. Unlike some of the other readers who have posted their reviews here, I had no idea who was responsible until very near the end. And then the final little commentary at the very end, left me feeling chilled. I gobbled this book up and look forward to reading more of this fine author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a great book, I just couldn't stop thinking about all the people in the book, nor could I figure out who 'did it'. I actually don't read mysteries - I love real-life dramas, like in the Oprah club books. This one combined the dramas yet I was always intrigued with who was killing the girls. And the author has an amazing way of getting into people's heads and communicating their secret motives and reasons why people do what they do...why they act as they act, etc. I love studying human behavior and this was a GREAT and realistic avenue to learn more about it, while being totally entertained. Can't wait to read his next book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Read this back when it first came out. I had difficulty putting it down. The descriptions are so vivid, you can picture the sleepy town where the horror takes place in your mind. It is a place you can picture having been to before. The characters are people you have met. Great for those long days when you are home from work with the flu!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book cover to cover at work while on my lunch break, and I got some strange looks from my co-workers... But, it was SO good that I hated to put it down at the end of lunch!! Slow in spots, but kept me guessing until the very end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is great -- it is chilling in a realistic manner. It was very hard to put down, and I couldn't wait till the end of the day so that I could curl up in bed and read. Dobyns, in my opinion, is without a doubt one of the finest authors I've had the pleasure of reading. His works are so detailed and they come to life; he is a true artist. I also strongly recommend 'Boy in the Water' for another suspenseful and creepy tale.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i read this book a while ago. i remember when i first started to read it, i was like 'oh man, there's a lot of characters i need to stay up with'. i thought i was gonna die if i didn't catch every detail. well when i got towards the end of the book i realized i didn't need to fret, it wasn't as shocking as i thought. but it was still a very good read and one of these days i'll read it again without worrying about all the details.
Guest More than 1 year ago
once I started reading this book, I couldn't stop! the narrator seemed so real, I could picture his entire cluttered house with teapot, glass jars, and all.. I worried about the young girls who were stalked.. I couldn't figure out who the killer was until I was 3/4 through the book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It seriously made me have panic attacks while lying in bed. I think that if any book can make you feel that strong is worth reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Incredible book. Everytime I put it down I had to pick it right back up. Shows the true horrors a person fears to see or show. Wonderfully put together, from the first to the very last page. A must read book, it will pull you in, and you'll wont want to get out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book asks a basic question- what is the source of hysteria and who is safe once it's shown it's ugly face. A remarkable work that probes deeply into the idealization of rural American life and exposes the not so nice side of living in a small contained place.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was obsessed with this book from the first page. During the next 3 days I would not let it go, everywhere I went the book went too. It was like if the book was surgically implanted to my hand. What makes this book so creepy is that its subject matter is a sickening reality that we hear about far too often. It is frightening to imagine that so many people can use normality as a mask for madness. You start to wonder what others REALLY do behind closed doors. The paranoia is highly contagious..READ IT!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent read that I hard time putting the book down. The characters are so true to life. It's a suspenseful thriller that delves into the human psyche and it speaks volumes about the power of assumptions. It's a great book!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was awesome. it really makes you think, and you may come to realize how true the actions of the people in the book compare to those of real life. i highly reccomend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the church of deads girls was an excellent book that kept you in suspense until the very end. you never know what to expect. dobyns is constantly coming out with new surprising twists to keep the reader enthralled!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I hated this book. It was garbage. Too many characters and it took a while to get to te good part and the ending wsnt even a a shocker , i saw it coming form miles away.