Adult books for teens: “The Burn Palace”

The Burn Palace by Stephen Dobyns    burn palace

A nurse in the obstetrics ward of the Morgan Memorial Hospital comes back to her post after a quick tryst with Dr. Balfour. In sleepy Brewster, Rhode Island there hasn’t been much to worry about in the many long years since the town’s founder, Wrestling Brewster, was eaten by wolves. So, Nurse Spandex isn’t too worried about deserting her post. If anyone noticed that she had left, she will just say she had to use the restroom or lie down for a bit because of her cramps. But then she sees that one of the babies is wiggling in a weird way under its blanket. Struggling. So she jumps to help. And finds the baby is gone. A huge red and yellow-striped snake is in its place.

The appearance of the snake quickly wakes up the sleepy town. The baby’s mother—an unwed teen—says she didn’t want the baby anyway, that is it like “Rosemary’s baby.” That is, the baby is the devil’s child, conceived in a satanic ritual.

A town under the spell of witchcraft is creepy enough. As people whisper about strange incidents out in the woods, a man is murdered and scalped. Is the strange teacher with the snake necklace from the yoga center involved? What about Carl? He appears simply to be small-town quirky, but as his stepson, Hercel, knows, a darker side is always peeking through a crack in the door. Carl, who has a hard time keeping a job, is now working at the ‘Burn Place.’ The Burn Palace—the crematorium—is often smoking, and the other men who work there are collecting jewelry from the corpses before incinerating them, employing some dark comedy and some light drugs to get them through their rituals, and thinking of ways to scare the creepy Carl. Even the local coyotes, animals that are usually skittish, have become vicious prowlers, ready to tear up the local dogs and children.

To detective Woody Potter, it seems the only normal creatures around are the local Wiccan witches who are receiving terror threats from neighbors who blame them for all the horror. If only Woody could make the connection between them and the strange coin the murdered man had been carrying. But no, that can’t be enough. With evidence of psychically powerful children, cunning and narcissistic adults, webs of deceit, underground schemes for making money off the dead, and at least one sociopath on the loose, it will take some work to figure out what is going on in Brewster.

There’s so much to love in The Burn Palace, It’s a murder mystery, a sometimes fast-paced thriller, and a super creepy horror novel with lots of deep, dark humor. A special treat is the top-quality writing. There are plenty of poetic descriptions of rural New England just in case you wondered if a book could have everything. Quite possibly, The Burn Palace does.

High school housekeeping: This is a great read for mature teens. There is adult content. And an adult reading level, too—so this is a good chance to really enjoy a book while kicking your reading up a notch.

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About Victoria Waddle

I'm a high school librarian, formerly an English teacher. I love to read and my mission is to connect people with the right books. To that end, I read widely--from the hi-lo for reluctant high school readers to the literary adult novel for the bibliophile.
This entry was posted in Family Problems, Fiction, Horror/Mystery/Suspense, Mature Readers, Over 375 pages, Supernatural and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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