The Church of Dead Girls
by Stephen Dobyns

Metropolitan: 1997
$23.00, 388 pp.

Review by Harriet Klausner

Aurelius is a small upstate New York town situated near Utica. It is a quiet town even though it has its incidents of minor crime. However, the serenity of the seven thousand residents is slightly spooked when Janice McNeal, a promiscuous divorcee is killed. Not too long after that grim incident, the peace of the town is nuked forever when three young girls disappear one by one over the course of a few days. When the first teenager vanishes, the townsfolk strongly feel a non-resident must have abducted the child. When the second teen turns up missing, the townsfolk begin to suspiciously eye each other. When the third girl is gone, the townsfolk become hysterical and turn ugly.

Paranoia sweeps through the town as nightmarish thoughts enter the townsfolk's mind. Very quickly, the trust and the goodwill within the town is lost as suspicion turns former friends against each other. Soon, the apprehension turns to criminal action as the individuals become an unthinking mobs that dishes out vigilante justice to anyone who get in their way. The people seek a killer, who could be any of them, and no one is safe from the nightmarish reactions of the townsfolk.

The Church of Dead Girls is a dark thriller that leaves readers to believe that, under certain circumstances, their town or neighborhood could be paralyzed by a mind crippling hysteria. This type of horror leaves every citizen in Aurelius succumbing to their mind's image of a deep gripping darkness. Stephen Dobyns creates one of the best psychological chillers of the year because he strips away the myth of hometown cohesiveness by proving that mob rule could happen anywhere.

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