I’ve been obsessed with Abigail Thomas’s work, and I've been reading everything she’s written one after the other. I decided I wanted to read something else, not only to cleanse my palate, but so I would have a book I already know I’ll love waiting for me at some time in the future when I really, really need a good book to read. So I compromised and read an author whom Thomas had thanked in her acknowledgments. It worked out beautifully. Stephen Dobyns is a poet with a large body of work, but the only title readily available was The Burn Palace. I’m not typically drawn to police procedurals, making it a perfect book to bust me out of my rut. Best of all? It’s really good.
It’s set in Brewster, Rhode Island where something strange is happening and the police are scrambling to solve a series of unusual crimes, while also calming the fears of the townspeople. First, a snake is found in a baby’s hospital crib. Then, an out-of-towner is stabbed and scalped. Coyotes are become braver and more aggressive. And a local veteran goes off the deep end. The town, it appears, is under siege. But by whom ... or what?
As we follow Detectives Potter, Anderson, and LaJoie on their interviews and hear their conversations we get to know not only the detectives, but the whole town. The Burn Palace is a perfect combination of creepy atmosphere, genuine and likable characters, and police chasing after a nebulous perpetrator.