According to legend, the sineater is a dark and mysterious figure of the night, condemned to live alone in the woods, who devours food from the chests of the dead to allow them to ascend to heaven. To look upon the sineater is to see the face of all the evil he has eaten, and to become insane with the overwhelming presence of sin. But now the order has been broken, the tradition violated; the sineater has a family of his own, although even his wife and children must avert their gazes on the rare occasions he visits them. When Joel, the youngest child, tries to lead a normal life, strange occurrences affect the community. Before long, no one is safe from the dark forces set loose, and Joel must discover if the havoc emanates from the sineater, the community itself, or some other mysterious force....
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This grim, claustral story is about the consequences of a primitive form of Christianity practiced in the mountains of Virginia, the author's home state. The sineater is a man shunned by all, a man whose face should never be seen. He performs the valuable service of absorbing all the sins of each person who dies, by eating ritual food laid out on their corpses. When the sineater's son, Joel, is allowed to attend school, a series of violent omens convinces the fanatic locals that God is punishing them and that Judgment Day is nigh. As Joel searches for the real perpetrator of the crimes, along with other adolescents who reluctantly listen to him, the plot (the weakest part of the book) begins to resemble a wandering sort of whodunit. The focus of the novel, though, is on the well-evoked mood of fear and despair. Elizabeth Massie works her horror effects with an intimate approach, closing in on her characters as if she's trapping them. And her descriptions do justice to the rustic setting, where people live in four-room cabins and honeysuckle winds around the knotty rails of the fences.
Sineater won a Bram Stoker Award for First Novel in 1993. Massie also won a Stoker for her novella "Stephen," published in the first Borderlands anthology. As Tom Monteleone writes in Borderlands 3, Massie wields "a subtle power that rips at your emotions with velvet claws." --Fiona WebsterFrom Publishers Weekly:
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.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Descripción I Books, 2004. Mass Market Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. book. Nº de ref. de la librería 074349783X