A first novel.
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."
SOurce: Fiona Webster, Amazon.com.