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Another fine mess

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Currently reading

Ottessa Moshfegh
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The Burn Palace - Stephen Dobyns Full review up at

Stephen Dobyns has an impressive back catalog of well-regarded poetry collections, a long-running detective series set in Saratoga Springs, and a handful of genre-jumping novels that invariably draw rounds of applause from jaded reviewers and mash notes from Stephen King.

So when the buzz escalates into a roar upon this novel’s publication — and it should — you may, like me, wonder how the hell you’ve failed to read a writer so richly, weirdly compelling. THE BURN PALACE is a fat blast, a sly, character-driven exploration of a town unraveling over the course of a few fall weeks, wracked by an escalating series of strange and often horrifying events.

The cold open follows Alice Alessio (known with a leer as “Nurse Spandex”), fresh from a(nother) naughty dalliance with a(nother) doctor, returning to the infant ward to find one child gone, replaced under the blankets by a snake. The plot — kicked into gear by a confused, terrified scream — has its own promiscuous fun with an array of horror conventions: rumors about devil worshippers, vampires, shape-shifters; a scalping; an increasingly-unhinged stepfather; a sidebar on wormholes; shady goings-on at a new age health club and an old folks’ home; Halloween.