The Church of Dead Girls by Stephen Doboyns

This week we read The Church of Dead Girls by Stephen Doboyns. It starts off with an in-depth description of what the three murdered girls looked like. It was such a horrific scene to start with, and I was immediately pulled into the story. I wanted to know more about the girls and what lead the murder to do what he did. I thought the story was going to follow the murderer, but it did not. After that chapter ends the story shifts and goes into great detail about the town and its people. I felt completely bored as I was reading through this section but I figured there was a reason for this.

If this weren’t for class, I probably would have put the book down before finishing part one. I was not interested at all in the townspeople and who dates who and slept with who. It became confusing who was who with all the people in the story. It made me wonder if this was done on purpose. I felt like I was in a Stephen King novel with all the setting and details about everyone. But, as the story progressed, I started to see the trail of breadcrumbs forming. Everyone was connected in some way with what they
did or said, and I liked that about the story.

What really interested me the most where Chinhani’s teachings. He was one very intriguing character. I liked how he rocked the boat and made the people think even though they didn’t want to. It was neat to see how uncomfortable he made everyone. He was very imposing in the way he made the younger students think.

Another aspect I thought was different about this story was the fact that everyone’s dirty laundry was aired. If a character had a skeleton in his/her closet, it was spread through the town like wildfire. This happens in any city large or small. Nothing was safe no matter what the character did to hide the truth from everyone. Sometimes its easier to hide what you are and what you did in a much larger place.

Something I felt the author did well was keeping everyone guessing till the very last moment who the murderer was. The narrator was so distant and removed from the story that for a moment I thought he could be the suspect, but I quickly dismissed him as a suspect once he and Sadie found the umbrella while he was walking her home. With that being said the narrator was something else. He was quiet and reserved and kept to himself. What makes me raise eyebrows at him is how he goes and cuts off the left
hand of Donald Malloy. I still don’t wholly trust the narrator. Something seems fishy about him after he decides to sneak into the mortuary to cut off the hand. He gives the impression that in a way he idolized Donald in some way. He goes so far as to say that it teaches him. What could the hand of a murderer teach him? That part gave me chills.

Overall the beginning of the story did not hold my attention. I felt lost and confused as to who was who. But, with that being said at the end of the story the characters became clearer, and there was more focus on the main characters and the rest fell into the shadows. Everyone has tendencies good and bad it’s just a matter if they act on them and this story showed us both sides of human nature.

6 thoughts on “The Church of Dead Girls by Stephen Doboyns

  1. I also liked how everyone connected to each other in some way, something very real in a small town. It’s also easier to have dirty laundry aired in a small town. I agree that the book was confusing to read because there were so many characters and so much detail thrown at the reader. I would’ve fallen asleep reading this book if it hadn’t been a requirement for class.

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  2. I wasn’t crazy about the part when the narrator steals the hand, although I do like the fact that it’s foreshadowed by the fact that he’s a biology teacher and knows how to preserve specimens in formaldehyde. That’s mostly because I thought the narrator was more of a literary device than a real character, and the author’s attempts at shoehorning him into the story didn’t work for me.

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  3. I think the narrator is more of a literary device than an actual character. In genre fiction, we’re primarily character/plot driven, but in literary fiction, the rules change and softer endings with less resolution are not only allowed but are valued. So sneaking in and collecting the hand, making it a prize and reminder instead of a missing piece that’s been cut off because it’s the source of evil is a thematic arc that has to come to fruition.

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  4. I lost track of who was who at the beginning of the novel as well. So much so that I gave up trying to figure out who was the murderer, which is most of the fun of a mystery, because I kept confusing characters for others. I probably wouldn’t have finished this novel either if I didn’t have to review it. I like the idea that George and Anna are bringing up about how the narrator is truly just a literary device, which ultimately didn’t work for me either.

    Liked by 1 person

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