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The Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z Brite

This was the first book where I had to stop reading it because the story actually terrified me!

I am not really a horror reader though I do appreciate the odd gothic tale or dark undertones in sci-fi. I have read a few of the classic thrillers, and enjoyed them, but I tend to be attracted to fantasy and science fiction. I had enjoyed some pretty dark works by Stephen King but nothing had me prepared for this book. Indeed, no book made me react this way before. I was suggested the book by a great creative friend and was eager to see why they had raved about the book.

After a few chapters of gruesome murder and cannibalism I was a little shaken. I had to take a break and read something lighthearted before I even managed to complete the story. I’ve yet to find a book that managed to be as frightful or disturbing then The Exquisite Corpse. Honestly, I am not sure I will try to.

The story follows two gay serial killers who by chance meet up in New Orleans. A demented relationship blooms.

I had initially hated the bleak narrative regarding the homosexual life of the character’s. Most of the plot seems to lend a bad portrayal of LGBTQ+ communities relying on cliches or bad tropes; i.e. the avid drug abuse, the fact every character appeared to have AIDS, and by association the sexual perversion/ addition . However, to the defence of the writer all of these things, in the context of this story, seem more acceptable.

There is no lack of gruesome killings in this book! If you enjoy gore and blood then this is the book for you. Poppy Z. Brite plunges into so many disturbing topics that I cannot even list them all. The main two that come to my mind are cannibalism, and the necrophiliac. However, having been given the book by a great literature enthusiast I decided to persist at times feeling my stomach turn.

One might assume under all these facts I hated the book but in truth I enjoyed it. So why did I enjoy a book that made me feel sick?

Well it took me completing the book to come to terms with the fact this book was intended to shock and frighten the reader. Poppy Z Brite has a way of describing murder and death so eloquently. Each chapter is a masterpiece of literature. The writer’s use of prose leads the reader to become physiologically scared. In fact, throughout the book I wondered how the writer could delve so deep into the macabre world. I may have even googled the writer just to check they were not now in jail for mass murder, it turns out they are not.

The fact they are able to scare me and yet entice me to read on is what really stood out. To me this is a sign of a great artist.

The anti hero Andrew Compton manages to create a repertoire that leads you to be intrigued by him. Not unlike Hannibal Lecter, from The Silence of the Lambs, there is a peculiar charm to him.

Would I read it again? The quick answer is NO. Yet, I would strongly recommend this book to creative types and obviously to anyone who enjoys horror and gore.

Andrew Compton
Published inBook Reviews

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