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Desert Places Hardcover – January 22, 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 501 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Debut novelist Crouch puts a nasty spin on the serial killer thriller in this gruesome tale that, alas, folds under the weight of its ambitions. The story starts at full throttle: narrator Andrew Thomas, a successful horror writer, finds a letter outside his secluded North Carolina home that begins, "Greetings. There is a body buried on your property, covered in your blood." Indeed there is, and further missives direct Andrew to a motel outside Denver, where he is drugged, kidnapped and brought to a house surrounded by desert; there he meets his captor - his long-lost twin brother, Orson. Orson, who walked out of Andrew's life years ago, has, it turns out, been quite busy in the interim as a serial killer. Hoping that Andrew will share his passion, Orson forces his brother to participate in mutilating and killing three victims; he then lets Andrew go. Back home, Andrew joins forces with his best friend to track Orson down, locating him at a New England college. However, their plan to kill Orson ends with the friend dead and Orson locked in the trunk of Andrew's car as Andrew drives cross-country to the desert house, where matters reach a grisly denouement. Crouch's smart, tight prose displays plenty of narrative energy. The novel is gory enough to turn off many, though, and such serial-killer statements as "We all want blood. We are war. That's the code. War and regression and more blood," as well as a flashback to childhood sexual abuse, drag the story line into a portentousness that undercuts its serious exploration of the psychology of the serial killer. Still, Crouch shows real talent here, and perhaps his promised sequel to this novel will be lighter on its feet.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Things seem to be going quite well for suspense writer Andrew Thomas until the May afternoon when he finds a letter in his mailbox informing him that there is a dead woman's body buried on his property, covered in his blood, and murdered by the paring knife that has gone missing from his kitchen. Thomas is instructed to call the number he will find in the dead woman's pocket or else the local police will receive an anonymous tip implicating him in the murder. This starts him on a journey into his own personal hell as he finds that his tormenter is actually someone from his own past--someone who has grand plans to develop Thomas' "potential." Freshman novelist Crouch, a Thomas Harris wanna-be, has created a villain who strives to be Hannibal Lector but more closely resembles one of the maniacs from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That film's popularity, however, should be indication enough that there is a ready audience for graphic gore, sadistic torture, and homicidal psychopaths. Michael Gannon
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (January 22, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312286449
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312286446
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (501 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #978,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have to admit that I saw this book jacket and it alone scared me, so after reading the reviews here I decided to spend the money on the hardcover and try it. I was some of the best money that I ever spent. I was blown away by the stoyline and really began to feel for Andy. His characters were believable, scary as that may be, and the plot was think with suspense. I found myself reading huge chunks of the book at a time and it was a very fast read. Was it gory - yes - is it for everyone - no - BUT this is a well written book that has the potential to capture a huge following of fan waiting for the sequel. This book did not contain anything new in terms of violence or blood. The violence was second to a plot that was explosive. Give it a try - I think you will be a fan of this debut as well.
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Format: Hardcover
Robert Frost's poem provides a title and an epigram to this engrossing first novel, the pulse pounding tale of an outwardly civilized man forced into acting in an uncivilized (to say the least) manner. That man is Andrew Thomas, best selling author of suspense novels with titles like Blue Murder and The Scorcher. Thomas lives the good life until the day he receives a letter in the mail, telling him that a woman's body has been buried on his property, a body soaked in the author';s blood. Confirming this sad fact, Thomas is forced to play his tormentor's twisted game, one which requires him to make a journey to Wyoming, where he ultimately must confront his own mortality, and question his morality and sanity. Thomas confronts a question most never have to face: just how far is he willing to go to survive? The answer is as disturbing to him as it will be to readers.

Desert Places is one of those books that you don't discuss in detail with those you recommend it to for fear of diminishing the impact the book will have on them. It's also the kind of book which induces those who have already read it to stand over the shoulder of current readers, asking, ""Did you get to the part where...?" Because of that, it is almost criminal to reveal further plot points. Suffice it to say that Crouch successfully manipulates plot elements previously explored in such classic thrillers as James Dickey's Deliverance and David Morrell's Long Lost, producing a novel whose intensity is sometimes almost too hard to take. Fast paced, surprising, at turns tragic and graphic, Desert Places will take readers to places that, given a choice, they'd probably avoid. Finding themselves in those places via Crouch's surprisingly accomplished prose, however, they can't help but linger a bit, looking over the grim landscape in morbid fascination.
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Format: Hardcover
I hated it, but I couldn't quit reading it! This book was one of the scariest things I've read since Kiss the Girls. I can't wait to get it out of my house so I don't have to look at the creepy guy on the cover anymore. It's a book you're even afraid to put next to your bedside table. It has a life of its own. Darn scary book. If you like terror and fright, this is the book for you!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read and greatly enjoyed the author's book "Run," so I decided to give this one a try. Oh boy was that a mistake. Books with that rare combination of unlikeable characters and nauseating events are thankfully few and far between. The supposed 'hero' guy was an annoying idiot, who seemed to do everything wrong and counter to what a normal person would do. The bad guy was such a monumental asshat that, when I was a quarter of the way into the book, I was dispairing at the thought of having to read about this guy for 3 times more pages. You know a book's in trouble if you're praying the antagonist will get killed shortly after being introduced to him. I've read my share of books with nasty, iredeamable villians, but they were used as antagonists to likeable heroes, and the fun was seeing how the heroes could overcome the villian. In this book I really wish a meteor would've fallen out of the sky and killed both of them. The only remotely sympathedic characters meet horrible ends early on, and the poor reader is left with no one but these two vile characters to read about for half the book. Unless you're really into lots and lots of graphic torture and you don't care about interesting (or at leas sympathedic) characters, give this a pass.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Blake Crouch, Desert Places (St. Martin's, 2003)
Is it me, or does the name "Blake Crouch" just scream nom de plume to you? One almost wonders if Mr. Crouch hasn't cooked up a little semi-autobiographical tale here. But that aside...
Desert Places, Blake Crouch's debut novel, shows us an author with a great grasp of character, pacing, and plot, and perhaps not enough of an editing team. The novel roars to a start when successful thriller novelist Andrew Thomas gets an anonymous piece of mail telling him a body's buried on his property, his blood is on the victim, his fingerprints are on the murder weapon, and he has twenty-four hours to verify all this and call the real killer. This done, said real killer leads him into a rather ingenious trap, from which Mr. Thomas must escape in the most interesting of ways.
And so far, so good. We've covered about half the novel. There's also another really strong section at the end. But, just like Saving Private Ryan, you get stuck with this middle portion that drags. It's the shortest part of the novel, but it's also the most interminable. To Crouch's credit, he does wait for long, tedious setup until after the reader is already hooked, but it's still there, and could probably have been compressed into fewer pages than it actually took.
That said, the stronger parts of this novel are well worth reading, and they go by extremely quickly. That it dips in quality halfway through can be gotten past, if you're expecting it. Definitely one to check out, and an author to keep an eye on. *** ½
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