Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite

Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite

Scribner Paperback/Simon & Schuster Inc. 1996

I finally picked up this book after remembering what a big splash the author made back in the mid-90s. I have to say that the splash was well deserved. If you know anything about the author’s books, you know that I mean that in the ways you’re probably thinking. But I also mean it in others.

The quality of the writing here is very strong. The characters are all generally drawn quite well, with the exception of

Andrew’s voice is compelling, and as he drives a majority of the events, having him take the lead in the first chapter is an excellent choice. And, despite the fact that he is a serial killer who revels in all the usual cruelty and unique bloodiness his obsession entails, he is a compelling character whenever his scenes queue up. A bad guy readers love to hate and love at the same time.

It is a particular testament to the author’s skill to note that the method by which Andrew escapes from prison is drawn quite believably in the novel…even skeptical readers will agree to suspend their disbelief.

Jay is a budding killer who has the discipline to avoid fouling the city where he lives with his own kills…until Tran, a particularly beautiful Vietnamese hustler throws his considerable charms at Jay’s feet.

Tran’s sections are very well drawn, and allow readers to walk in yet a third lifestyle and mindset that is very different than the first two offered up in this book.

Lucas is the one that is the least compelling. Perhaps this is because his illness keeps him quiet in terms of activity, or perhaps it’s because he has the most common, almost suburban, existence of all the characters. Still, his portrait, when added to the other three, rounds out this work and creates a richness that otherwise would be lacking.

The four are pulled ever more tightly together. The two killers begin to work together, and there is that bloody finale that had so many people squawking when the work came out. (The author was rejected by the publisher of all his previous books because of the gruesome climactic orgy.) Which certainly is shocking but really isn’t any more horrible or ugly to read than many of the sections the killer recalls and enacts in preceding scenes. Which leads you to wonder why this was rejected at all.

If you’re a gory fiction fan, this one is for you!

4 stars

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