Simon and Schuster (240 pages) Copyright 1996
Blood-soaked sheets, cannibalism, rotting, half-dissected corpses: this gruesome psychological horror novel has all the grue a reader might -- or might not -- want. Brite (DRAWING BLOOD, 1993), the reigning queen of Generation-X splatterpunks, pulls out the stops in this ghastly tale of two serial killers who find true love over the body of a murdered and mutilated boy in the historic French Quarter of New Orleans. Londoner Andrew Compton, imprisoned for the necrophiliac slayings of 23 young men, escapes from prison by (rather unbelievably) faking his own death and killing the coroners gathered to autopsy his body. Fleeing to Louisiana, he hooks up with Jay Byrne, slacker scion of a wealthy old family, whose murders are even more fiendish than Compton's own.
I was first recommended Exquisite Corpse when I went into my favorite bookstore and asked one of the girls (they all know me by name) whether there were any good fictional books that focused on homosexuals.
So naturally, the first thing she said was that I should check out Poppy Z. Brite. "Her stuff's a little dark, but Exquisite Corpse is really good."
"Sure, okay," I said, and ordered it, because the store didn't have a copy on hand. While I was at it, I also ordered Lost Souls (same author).
Exquisite Corpse is brillant. I absolutely loved it. All the characters are very vivid and creepily real. It is easy to see the characters as if they were right in front of you. The setting was also very vivid, and the gay scene in New Orleans is presented very realistically and grittily. The book is a quick read, and the reader is kept on a fine tightrope of tension the whole time.
As someone who always enjoyed reading about serial killers, this sort of thing was right up my alley. A WARNING: this book is violent, and VERY graphic (do not read if you can't hand torture, cannabalism, and necrophilia). It also cannot be sad to have a "happy" ending, though it does have a satisfying one. You also shouldn't read it if the idea of homosexual sex acts is repugnant to you. This book was so dark that I still haven't started on Lost Souls. For me, the book was emotionally draining and utterly captivating.
The story was also beautifully written. The author showcases a brillant command of language that makes murder look like poetry. Despite the poetic quality of the text, it doesn't come off as flowery or contrived.