Elizabeth Massie, Author Carroll & Graf Publishers $21 (337p) ISBN 978-0-7867-0061-5
Winner of England's Bram Stoker Award, Massie's first novel works better as a convincing and original story about the potential horrors of backwoods religious fervor than as a traditional supernatural thriller. Young Joel Barker lives with a special stigma: his father, Avery, is the ``sineater,'' chosen by their Blue Ridge Mountain religious sect to live alone in the woods and bear the sins of the community's dead. Though Joel is universally ostracized, Burke Campbell, the nephew of the sect's leader, Missy Campbell, befriends him in defiance of his aunt, whose mumbo jumbo he despises. When death and mutilation begin to be visited on anyone who has dealings with Joel's family, Missy blames the sineater and mounts a crusade against him and his kin. The two boys set out to stop the sineater and to end the religious madness that is sweeping the town, only to discover that they may be seeking the wrong enemy. Massie's sharp observations and eye for detail bring her characters to life and lend credence to the unfamiliar setting and bizarre plot. But so much is invested in setting the stage that the story line fails to gain momentum; though it's well-organized and the pivotal scenes are gripping, it never takes off in the same way as some other horror novels about rural religious terror, such as Thomas Tryon's Harvest Home or Robert R. McCammon's Mystery Walk . Massie's evident talent puts this well ahead of many other would-be literary debuts but, ironically, horror fans may find that it packs less terror than the average thriller. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
Mass Market Paperbound - 400 pages - 978-0-8439-4407-5
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