The Church of Dead Girls: A Novel
One by one, three young girls vanish in a small town in upstate New York. With the first disappearance, the towns-people begin to mistrust outsiders. When the second girl goes missing, neighbors and childhood friends start to eye each other warily. And with the third disappearance, the sleepy little town awakens to a full-blown nightmare.
In The Church of Dead Girls, Stephen Dobyns probes the ruinous effects of suspicion. As panic mounts and citizens take the law into their own hands, no one is immune as old rumors, old angers, and old hungers come to the surface to reveal the secret history of this seemingly genteel town and the dark impulses of its inhabitants.
Despite its superficial resemblance to a whodunit, The Church of Dead Girls is not a conventional thriller. Don’t expect it to be suspenseful. This is a literary horror tale—slow paced, contemplative, meticulous in its descriptions—about a formerly sleepy small town in which the crucial distinction between public and private life is dissolving as suspicion spreads like a toxin. The reader’s guide to this process of corruption is a high school biology teacher—reserved, somewhat snotty, but a thoughtful man, and reliable in spite of his cynicism. He says, “It is dreadful not to be allowed to have secrets. Years ago I happened to uncover a nest of baby moles in the backyard and I watched them writhe miserably in the sunlight. We were like that.” Ultimately you realize that the killer’s identity, even the deaths of three girls, are small matters compared to the collapse of the town’s very soul.