The Burn Palace: A Novel

The Burn Palace: A Novel

by Stephen Dobyns


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"One of the best of the best...You can't ask for more than this book gives. I loved it." – Stephen King

“An exquisitely unexpected, delightfully believable exploration of what normal looks like when it goes through the (evil) looking glass.” —

The sleepy community of Brewster, Rhode Island, is just like any other small American town. It’s a place where most of its inhabitants will die blocks from where they were born; where gossip spreads like wildfire, and the big weekend entertainment is the inevitable fight at the local bar. But recently, something out of the ordinary—perhaps even supernatural—has been stirring. While packs of coyotes gather and a baby is stolen and replaced with a snake, a series of inexplicably violent acts confounds Detective Woody Potter—and inspires terror in the locals.

A Richard Russo small-town tableau crossed with a Stephen King thriller, The Burn Palace is a darkly funny, twisted portrait of chaos and paranoia that keeps readers guessing until the final pages.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142180440
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/28/2014
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 676,935
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Stephen Dobyns is the author of more than thirty novels and poetry collections. He teaches writing at Warren Wilson College and lives in New England.

Read an Excerpt

Hercel had seen coyotes before, and a week earlier he had seen two in the tall grass down by the beach. And he knew they took people’s pets; kids talked about it in school. They got in people’s trash and skulked around at night. But he had never heard of them chasing anybody. The coyotes’ yapping was almost like singing. Moments later, Hercel saw a light ahead of him through the trees. The coyotes were right behind him. In the bits of silence within their yapping, he heard the click of their nails against the road’s hard surface. Hercel stood up and pedaled harder, slipped off the road but kept his balance. The muscles in his thighs ached, and his fingers hurt from clutching the grips. The light was brighter. Ahead, to the left, he saw a stone wall and then a gate. It had to be the farm. He heard the coyotes panting.  Trying to quiet his terror, he aimed at the wall.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“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 Nathaniel 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, but this book is authentically great. The characters are vivid originals, not a stereotype among them, and the story pulled this reader in so completely that I didn't want the book to end, and actually did go back to re-read the first chapter. One of the characters, Bingo Schwartz, loves opera, and there's something operatic about this book. All the disparate plot-threads draw together in a smashing, full-volume climax. This one is the full meal, by turns terrifying, sweet, and crazily funny. By God, there's even a sex scene so hot it makes those 50 Shades books look like Little Women. I've written some 'secrets of a small New England town' books, and in The Burn Palace, it's as if Stephen Dobyns is saying—very gently—'Hey Steve…this is how you really do it.'
"One more thing. If ever there was a novel that demonstrates why this mode of entertainment remains healthy and vital more that 150 years after Charles Dickens did his thing, The Burn Palace is that book. It is, simply put, the embodiment of why we read stories, and why the novel will always be a better bang for the entertainment buck than movies or TV. Great story, great prose. Musical prose. You can't ask for more than this book gives. I loved it.”
Stephen King
“The latest from the prolific Dobyns is by turns an affectionate portrait of small town life, a terrifying supernatural thriller, and a sly horror comedy…despite the novel’s complexity, Dobyns gives his many characters space to come alive and allows each of the spooky subplots time to build maximum suspense…Dobyns’ tone, shifting from amused to sinister and back again, elevates the material by buttressing the horror with pitch black humor. A tour de force genre buster that could be a breakout.”—Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“An utterly believable tale, and Dobyns isn’t above scaring the reader silly with surprise twists and turns… Nicely done—and you may never look at doctors the same way again.”—Kirkus Reviews

 “A huge, seamless tapestry of narrative… You can't wait to turn the page to see what happens next, to what might be hiding right around the next corner, or living quietly in that sleepy house next door to yours.”—Shelf Awareness
With nods to Nathaniel Hawthorne and Stephen King, two other writers who know something about terrorizing small New England towns, Dobyns has created a riveting work of the imagination.”—San Antonio Express-News
“A story that rocks along without a word wasted… Dobyns writes a straight thriller, but his mastery of language puts the reader into empty streets swirling with bits of paper and dead leaves, makes us feel at one moment hurried along and at the next expansive and thoughtful…Read slowly (if you can!) to enjoy his craftsmanship.”—Charlotte Observer
“Veteran novelist Stephen Dobyns reveals how easily people can get worked up into hysterics about evil they can only imagine, even as they miss the evil right in front of their eyes. Buy it.”—New York Magazine
The Burn Palace is a big, meaty book that is by turns a police procedural, a horror novel and a dark, dark comedy. It’s also a spellbinding argument for the novel as a uniquely entertaining genre. This isn’t an empty-calorie slasher-flick-in-print. Dobyns has written an unhurried, old-fashioned novel, built out of well-rounded characters who find themselves in horrific, barely believable situations.”—Richmond Times Dispatch
“A hard-hitting literary mystery-thriller…  Fear drives this novel, but cleverly placed red herrings keep readers guessing as to the mystery's outcome… Dobyns delivers an engrossing story with a satisfying spine-chilling mystery.”—Winnipeg Free Press
“Though Stephen Dobyns’s new work of fiction may move primarily as a thriller, it punches and thrusts and bangs its shoulders hard against the confines of the genre in ways as entertaining as any new work of fiction you’ll read this winter. However, the best part of the book isn’t the range of characters or the’s the unfolding of a complex plot that moves all of the characters about in such fashion as to produce that frisson of American despair and horror.”—The Boston Globe

"An exquisitely unexpected, delightfully believable exploration of what normal looks like when it goes through the (evil) looking glass.”

Customer Reviews

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The Burn Palace 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because I saw a blurb from Stephen King praising it. While the story was good, and I liked the main characters, I saw the conclusion coming long before the end of the book and it wasn't as well-written as I would have liked. I'm not sure where the comparisons to Stephen King's work are coming from, this novel wasn't nearly as inventive, well-written, or compelling as one of King's. I did enjoy reading "The Burn Palace" but it wasn't great.
cstmoi9322 More than 1 year ago
This book was really disappointing to me. I struggled through it but really did not enjoy it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Over rated
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Andrew_of_Dunedin More than 1 year ago
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 because found I never actually grew attached to the characters of Brewster – I neither hated nor loved them; they just “were”.  In addition, I was disappointed in the resolution (again, I cannot detail without major spoilers).   As such, the only thing I can say is that out of all of the books I read in 2014 – this was one of them. RATING: 3 stars,. DISCLOSURE: This book was provided free of charge by the publisher without obligation.  I'm sure they will appreciate an unbiased posted review, but probably wish I was more enthralled with it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Any that come here are toon in it and never come out...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago