4.5 7
by Stephen Spignesi

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In this electrifying debut, Stephen Spignesi reinvents the psychological thriller with a chilling tale of mounting intensity. Ingeniously crafted and crackling with suspense, here is a puzzle within a puzzle, at the center of which stands a hauntingly enigmatic young woman whose story will challenge everything you think you know....

Six people have been


In this electrifying debut, Stephen Spignesi reinvents the psychological thriller with a chilling tale of mounting intensity. Ingeniously crafted and crackling with suspense, here is a puzzle within a puzzle, at the center of which stands a hauntingly enigmatic young woman whose story will challenge everything you think you know....

Six people have been murdered in the animal shelter in which they worked. One unlikely woman stands accused of the crimes. Her name is Victoria Troy, and she is the most improbable of cold-blooded killers. A lover of animals, petite, brainy, and gifted with a sharp sense of humor, she too worked in the shelter, in an anguishingly difficult job. What could possibly have provoked her to murder six of her own coworkers–some of whom were her friends.

Who is Tory Troy? It is up to Dr. Baraku Bexley to find out. An astute psychiatrist hired by the court to determine whether Tory is mentally competent to stand trial, Bexley must explore her complicated background and her unusual convictions as he interviews her in the Connecticut psychiatric hospital in which she is confined–and also talks to others who have known her.

What Bexley learns about this gifted young woman comes almost solely from these interviews…but is that enough to explain the divide between the person Tory seems to be and the terrible crimes she’s accused of committing? Others find her difficult to fathom too: her lawyer, her nurse at the hospital, her mother, one of her former teachers; but all seek the same objective, to learn the truth no matter where it leads–or what secrets it may reveal about Tory, about the nature of evil, about us all.

Fiercely engaging and morally provocative, DIALOGUES is a rush of adrenaline that will keep you riveted from the first page to the last, a novel that will leave readers deeply shaken–and deeply moved.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Veteran anthologist Spignesi (Catastrophe! the 100 Greatest Disasters of All Time; The Essential Stephen King; etc.) makes his novel debut with this engrossing yet ultimately unsatisfying examination of a woman's transformation from sanctioned killer to murderer. Victoria "Tory" Troy is a euthanasia technician at a shelter in Connecticut whose primary job is to kill unclaimed animals every Friday in the facility's gas chamber. One Friday, instead of killing lost and unwanted pets, she contrives to inject her six co-workers with a paralyzing drug, then gases them to death. What follows is an often fascinating narrative carried out in dialogue form as Tory's case progresses through the judicial system. The first half of the book consists largely of interview sessions where a state-appointed psychiatrist assesses Tory's mental state at the time of the murders. Glimpses of Tory's writings and flashbacks to her troubled childhood heighten the tension. The prosecution's case, the trial and the jury's deliberations dominate the second half, also all in dialogue. Some of the exchanges that Spignesi includes do little to advance the plot, yet many are spellbindingly crafted. In the end, resolution-why did this woman do what she did?-is not forthcoming, and the finale falls back on one of the most shameless devices fiction writers can employ. Agent, John White. (May 3) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An ingenious debut, largely talk, follows a moral and spiritual light as it rises out of darkness in a mental hospital. For the past year, Tory Troy has worked in the Waterbridge Animal Shelter in Connecticut, euthanizing animals in its gas chamber every Friday afternoon. Fired from a pharmaceuticals company that replaced salespeople with the Internet, Tory stole some drugs as she left. One is a paralytic given by needle that leaves the recipient stiff but awake. Something goes wrong with Tory, who seems to have no personal life. Apparently overwhelmed by her moral revulsion for what she knows is a necessary job, she sneaks up on six fellow workers one by one, paralyzes them, hauls them (fully conscious) off to the gas chamber and kills them. The story takes place in the mental hospital where Tory's defense lawyer interviews her, as does a psychiatrist hired by the court to see whether she's mentally capable of standing trial. Other "dialogues" ensue with her mother and father, the district attorney, the presiding judge and later the jury. Also here: the trial transcript, as well as a strong short story and novella written by Tory, a high-IQ member of Mensa. But the main dialogue takes place between Tory and psychiatrist Dr. Baraku Bexley, who looks into her past with her. The central question for the reader is what went wrong in Tory's mind to have her kill six innocent fellow workers. The killer herself doesn't know-but at least in the death house she finally has time to read Ulysses. Sucks you in, then delivers a wildly weird and unforeseeable ending.

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Read an Excerpt


Tory Troy
Dr. Baraku Bexley

"I've been thinking about suicide lately. A lot."
"How often is 'a lot'?"
"At least once a day, although sometimes I may go a couple of days without thinking about it."
"When you say you've been thinking about it, what does that mean? Are you imagining ways of doing it? Are you thinking about where you would do it?"
"No, I know how I'll do it."
"What kind of pills?"
"Painkillers. I've got hidden away on the outside eighty-seven hydrocodone tablets. You know: the generic of Vicodin. I got them from a friend who had a prescription for a hundred and only used thirteen. She had some kind of really bad disk problem in her back, but they fixed it and she didn't need the pills anymore. So she gave them to me. I figure I could take the whole batch in three or four swallows and within a few hours I'd be dead."
"What if you don't die?"
"Oh, I'll die."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I did my homework."
"What does that mean?"
"I looked up hydrocodone on the Internet. The lethal dose, depending on tolerance, could be anywhere from around fifty or sixty milligrams up. If I take all eighty-seven, I'll be getting over six hundred fifty milligrams, which should be plenty for someone my size. I'm only a hundred nine pounds. Some kid who weighed eighty-nine pounds died from taking only ten pills. I'd say eighty-seven ought to do the trick."
"Yes, I suppose it would."
"Plus I forgot to tell you-I'm going to down them with tequila."
"You're talking like this is a done deal."
"No, of course not. I'd have to get out of here first, right? And in all probability, that's somewhat unlikely. It's just that you asked how I would do it, so I told you."
"Could you tell me why you think about killing yourself so much?"
"Not really."
"Are you depressed?"
"What does that mean?"
"Are you filled with a sense of the utter meaninglessness of life? Do the routine activities of life like eating, working, reading, watching movies, having sex, and other normal events hold no interest for you? Do you spend a lot of time sleeping?"
"No to all of the above. I don't think life is meaningless. I love to eat, I don't normally mind going to work, I read constantly, I'm at Blockbuster at least twice a week, and if I'm not in a relationship in which I'm having regular sex, I masturbate a lot. As for sleeping all the time, I wish. My life is-was-so busy I can barely squeeze in six hours a night."
"Suicide is usually looked to as a last resort solution-what someone will consider when their life becomes unbearable, unlivable. You sound like you're engaged with your own life and relatively content."
"I am. At least I was . . . until I got locked up, that is."
"So I'll ask again. Why have you been thinking about taking your own life?"
"Don't you want to know where I would do it?"
"Excuse me?"
"You asked me if I've been thinking about where I would do it."
"Yes, you're right. I did. So, have you?"
"And where would that be?"
"I don't know."
"Are you toying with me?"
"No, not at all. I'm telling you the truth when I say that I have been thinking about where to do it. I just haven't decided yet."
"What's holding up your decision?"
"Lots of things. Like who will find me. What kind of mess I'll make. I know I'll . . . make a mess when I die, and I don't want whoever finds me to have to clean it up. For a while, I was thinking about walking into the ocean. Maybe down at Fort Hale Park. But then I risk the chance of no one finding my body. And I want to be cremated, so they'll need that."
"This conversation is leading me to a conclusion I do not want to make."
"Oh? And what's that?"
"I think you have already decided to kill yourself and that all these assurances to me that you're not going to do it are your way of deflecting me from further inquiry or action. I think you know that I am obligated to act if I feel that you are a serious danger to yourself, and you are thus trying to convince me that this is all just an intellectual exercise rather than your true plan."
"I'm not going to kill myself. But I do think about it. What are you going to do? Ha-ha, have me committed? Last time I looked this was still America and I was free to say and think anything I fucking want to."
"That may be true in most situations. But this is not a typical situation. If it was, you would not be sitting there, would you? I would not have voluntarily come to you to discuss these things, right? So the normal rules do not apply, and if I think you're on the verge of suicide, I have to put it in my report and act."
"Court-ordered bullshit. I'm already on a suicide watch, for Christ's sake."
"Perhaps. Shall we move on?"
"Okay with me."
"Tell me why you're here."
"You know why I'm here. I'm incarcerated . . . is institutionalized a better word? . . . and the court is making me talk to you."
"I want you to tell me what you did and why you did it."
"You know what I did. As for why I did it, you'll have to figure that out yourself. Isn't that what they're paying you for?"
"In a sense."
"Well, then . . ."
"Let's put aside the reason you are here and talk about some other things that are-were-going on in your life."
"Fine with me."
"Can you tell me about your job?"
"Sure. But isn't all that in my records?"
"Yes, but I'd like to hear it from you. What is it you do?"
"I'm a certified animal euthanasia technician. I make $451.92 a week. That's a whopping twenty-three five a year."
"And what is a certified animal euthanasia technician?"
"Every Friday afternoon, I euthanize all the cats and dogs in the animal shelter that have not been adopted by then."
"How do you euthanize these animals?"
"We use a gas chamber."
"What is your role in this process?"
"Process. You guys are funny. Only shrinks would describe mass execution as a process. Did you all get that from Auschwitz? I understand the Nazis were big fans of euphemisms."
"Please do not trivialize or make fun of the Holocaust. I lost my grandfather at Auschwitz."
"So, what is your role in this process, please?"
"I take the animals from their cages and place them in the gas chamber."
"Don't they try and run away?"
"They all have choke chains around their necks, even the cats, and the room has steel rings embedded in the floor every three feet in a grid. We start in the far left corner and hook one animal to each ring. We can do around a dozen animals at a time, although usually it's only five or six."
"What happens after they're all hooked to the floor?"
"I close the door and bolt it with a sliding bar. The room is airtight once the door is closed. Ironically, the animals would probably all suffocate to death if we just left them in there. The air would run out after a while. But that would be traumatic and painful. And take a long time. So we try to get it over with as quickly as possible."
"What happens after you bolt the door?"
"I sign a form."
"What kind of form?"
"It's a form that lists the animals I put inside the gas chamber-you know, one brown terrier, one black-and-white cat . . ."
"And then what happens?"
"I hand the clipboard to my supervisor, Jake. He double-checks everything and then he signs it. A copy of this form has to go to the state every week."
"What does Jake do after he signs the form?"
"Well, usually, he goes back to his office and finishes eating his lunch. He likes a late lunch."
"You know what I'm asking."
"We both walk over to a computer panel on the wall outside the gas chamber. We then go through a specific procedure that I had to learn cold before I could get my certification."
"Go on."
"Jake does all the talking. 'Nine animals confirmed for euthanasia. Door seal confirmed. Quantity of lethal agent confirmed for nine animals. Initiating.' Then I push a button. But I forgot something."
"And what is that?"
"Before we start the procedure, he puts on a CD."
"He plays music? For the animals?"
"No, they can't hear it. He plays it for us, although he really plays it for himself."
"What does he play?"
"The White Album."
"The Beatles?"
"What track?"
"'Helter Skelter.'"
"I see. What happens after you push the button?"
"A thermometer lights up."
"Excuse me?"
"A gauge that looks like a thermometer lights up on the main panel and a red light starts to rise to the top of the tube."
"I understand."
"On the side of this tube are numbers from one to ten. Supposedly, once the red hits the two, all the animals are asleep. I've never looked to see if that was true, though. There's no window in the door. Once it hits five, they're not supposed to be breathing anymore, and when it gets to ten, their hearts have stopped. That's about a six percent CO concentration. Fatal."
"What happens after it gets to ten?"
"Nothing. Jake goes back to his desk and I go do whatever else I have to do."
"What about the animals?"
"A timer starts as soon as the gauge hits ten. A bell rings after fifteen minutes. Then we can get them out."
"Who opens the door?"
"Me. I'm the tech."
"Could you talk about that, please?"
"Why not?"
"Because I don't want to."
"I think it would help your situation if I wrote in my report that you were cooperative. Plus I do believe it will also help you personally to talk about it."
"What do you want to know?"
"Take me through what happens after the timer bell rings."
"The first thing I do is go into the rear storeroom and get the disposal cart."
"And what is that?"
"It's a big folding cart on wheels. It holds a thick rubber bag that is stretched open. The bag has a heavy zipper running across its top."
"The animals go in this bag?"
"Their bodies do. Yeah."
"Do they all fit?"
"The bag holds the equivalent in weight of about a dozen cats or six dogs. Sometimes we need two bags."
"Go on."
"I wheel the cart over to the gas chamber and place it on the right side of the door. Then I put on thick rubber gloves and a mask and then I unbolt the door and open it." "Doesn't gas get out into the room?" "There's a reverse exhaust system that sucks out all the gas and then runs it through an afterburner that renders it nontoxic. It's an OSHA thing. By the time I open the door, the air inside the room is perfectly safe. In fact, I'm pretty sure the door won't open until the gas is completely cleared. And there are CO detectors throughout the building too."
"Why the gloves and mask, then?"
"It's a mess inside the room. The animals' bowels and bladders let go when they die."
"I see. What about the smell?"
"The exhaust system gets rid of some of it, but it's still pretty rank."
"What do you do next?"
"I start with the animal closest to the door. I unhook the choke chain, pick it up, and carry it outside to the disposal cart. Everything goes in the bag. The collar, the choke chain. Everything. They're all made of copper or tin, so they melt in the crematorium."
"What do you think about as you're emptying out the gas chamber?"
"Anything but the animals."
"How so?"
"I don't think about the animals and I don't look at their faces."
"Could you talk about that?"
"I knew these animals. Even though we only had them for a week or so, I got to know every one of them. They each had a personality too. And they were all so trusting. They were always happy to see me. And they were incredibly grateful for any attention I gave them."
"This is difficult for you to talk about."
"You bet your ass it's difficult. These animals were my friends. And I had to kill them. What bothered me the most was that they came with me willingly, just happy to be with me. And then I locked them in a room and fucking killed them. I completely betrayed their trust in me."
"Why did you take this job in the first place?"
"I thought I could do some good."
"How so?"
"You know . . . helping find homes for animals . . . helping kids pick out a pet . . . that kind of stuff." "But you knew you'd be involved in euthanizing them too, didn't you?"
"By the end of the job interview I did, yes . . . but that's not why I applied at the shelter."
"Why don't you tell me about that?"
"I applied at the shelter for an office job. I wanted to man the front desk and take in the animals people found or couldn't take care of anymore. Like I said-to help. A lot of animals came from elderly people."
"What do you mean?"
"A lot of elderly people have pets, and when the old person dies, no one in the family wants to take their animal. So they bring it to us."
"What do they tell you when they bring in these animals?"
"Usually that there's no one to take care of it and they want us to find it a good home."
"What do you tell them?"
"That we'll try."
"And do you?"
"Absolutely. People come to the shelter every day looking for a cat or dog. And we always take our time with them and make sure that they are comfortable with the animal they pick out. We don't like anyone to walk out without a pet."
"So why all the killing . . . euthanizing?"
"Because we don't have the money or the space to keep animals longer than a week. They come in all the time and there's just no way we could keep them all until they were placed with families."
"You keep them a week?"
"Yeah, but it's not a calendar week. It's seven whole days. We start counting on the day after they arrive, and they are euthanized on the first Friday after the seven days are up."

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Stephen Spignesi has written widely on history and popular culture; this is his first novel. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Dialogues 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
sanken211 More than 1 year ago
The book was an interesting quick read. I was waiting to see how it ended. And then the end came and it really irked me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a terrific book, especially from a first-time novelist. I read the book in one sitting. It's that good. I just couldn't tear myself away from it. Prior to writing this novel Mr. Spignesi wrote several enlightening books about Stephen King, who is one of my favorite authors. But let me say this, Stephen King hasn't written anything as powerful as Spignesi's DIALOGUES in a good long time. This book is definitely recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this story held my interest from the very first page. It was a book I could not put down for long. The ending surprised me because I kept wondering why Tory was going to be excuted so fast after her conviction. I loved the ending. The name Tory Troy is almost a tonque twister and the mothers name Viviana is so different I was wondering why the author choose these names. It is truly a dialogue story which I thought would be boring but it is very much the opposite. Fron the begining I pictured Dr. Bexley as a women in her late forties and then had to change my thought process when I realized it was a man. I picture Tory as a slight dark haired girl and the only reason she killed her co-workers is she snapped. I would recommend this book to all who love reading suspense/drama novels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The biggest disappointment with Dialogues is that it is only 354 pages long. I could have read so much more. This novel moves so gracefully and draws its reader so completely into a world vividly painted mostly by dialogue that it is hard to put the down when the last word is read. There are subtle revelations on almost every page about the main character, Tori Troy, and her job as the euthanasia technician at an animal shelter. Early on in this marvelous novel, Tori admits to murdering six co-workers. Answers to the questions of 'why?' and 'how?' are delivered in highly-crafted, vivid dialogues with and about Tori and her crimes. Two thought-provoking short stories accredited to her add insight that ultimately pays off in a very satisfying conclusion. I applaud the author and the skill with which he leads his readers through Tori's complicated and sad world of love and neglect, caring and abuse, hopelessness and redemption.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After laboring in the bean fields for far too long -- Spignesi carved out a fulltime writing career as a non- fiction writer, which is onerous work -- he has decided to seed new ground and harvest the fictional fruits of his labor. The result is a compelling, captivating, can't-put- down first novel that bodes well for this writer who has amply paid his dues. As most fiction writers know, writing dialogue is tough. It's not simply a matter of turning on a tape recorder and picking up whatever is said, and putting that down on paper. Good dialogue means having a well-tuned ear, sensitive to the cadences of language, of words, which is the mark of a fictioneer, a teller of tales. Spignesi, I'm happy to say, nails this down cold: He knows how people speak -- its rhythms, its tics and tropes -- and fuses it with a storytelling voice that is confident. For a first novel, this is an impressive debut. The book marks him as a Writer to Watch -- or, more accurately, a writer to read. Here's a guy who has steeped himself in popular culture, who feasts on movies, and as a result has painted a backdrop that is completely, utterly convincing and thoroughly American. I eagerly await his next novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
First of all, let me just say if I could give this novel ten stars, I would. However, five is the highest option here, so five it is! Dialogues is a captivating story about a young girl named Victoria (Tory) Troy. She's vibrant, intelligent, exceptionally bright, and though her actions in the beginning are quite violent, she's a sweet natured, personable character whom I think many readers will be able to relate. The story takes place in Connecticut. The crime scene is a local Animal Shelter... and what a crime it is! She's caught, red handed, and is now held 'prisoner' in a psychiatric hospital, awaiting trial, where she confesses her sins to Dr. Bexley. Bexley, assigned to her case, holds the power to declare her sane/insane. Through numerous discussions with Tory, and various others, Tory's gripping story unfolds. What did she do? How could she do it? Was she insane? What was she thinking? Is she competent enough to stand trial? Will she get the death penalty? Will the Jury let her walk? All the questions are answered, some in ways that will surprise you. From Prologue to Epilogue, Stephen Spignesi's first novel takes the reader on an unforgettable journey. If you're a fan of suspense, drama, horror, mystery, this book is a MUST read! On April 26th, RUN, don't walk, to a book store near you, and pick up a copy of Dialogues. You will not be disappointed.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Since the police arrested her for six murders, several people have conversed with Tory Troy including her lawyer in a guarded mental hospital. However, the most persistent psychiatrist Dr. Baraku Bexley has interviewed Tory several times to ascertain whether the genius can delineate right from wrong enough to stand trial in a Connecticut court. Over a year ago, Tory lost her job at a pharmaceutical firm that felt the Internet was a better way to sell drugs. Before she left, Tory stole a paralytic drug that leaves victims conscious but paralyzed. Tory obtained worked as a euthanasia technician at the Waterbridge Animal Shelter in Connecticut, where every Friday she kills animals in a gas chamber. --- Tory detests her job, but needs the income as she has no other prospects. As she turns into a loner, her loathing for her work converts towards her peers until she decides to take action. Using the paralytic she stole, Tory begins injecting fellow shelter employees and while they remain awake kills them in the gas chamber. --- Through the dialogues with Tory at the mental hospital readers get a picture of what happened that drove the woman into killing her peers. Additionally, the audience obtains several other dialogues besides the central figure as her distraught parents, the judge, the prosecution team, the jurors, and others discuss Tory. Interestingly fans also get a different side to the indicted murderer through a strong short story and novella she wrote that adds to the feel that we are looking at a real person wondering why. By the uncanny climax, Stephen Spignesi will have readers exchanging dialogues on this insightful uniquely rendered thriller.--- Harriet Klausner