He pries open the soul with each sweep of his calipers. For in the land of the Well-Built City, study of the bodys shape is a most exacting science. It can determine a persons character, uncover his deepest secrets, even foretell the future. And in the hands of an expert like Physiognomist Cley, this solemn intelligence delivers perfect justice form which fortunes are claimed or lost, careers are shaped or shattered, lives are continued or cut away. A man who commands such titanic forces may ignore the dark pools of arrogance and corruption which lie closer at hand--but only for a time. Very soon, Cley will discover the truth about himself and his profession, as his world of privilege dissolves into a nightmarish odyssey, careening toward a fate not even the great physiognomist can predict.
On New York's Long Island, in the unpredictable decade of the 1960s, a young boy spends much of his free time in the basement of his family's modest home, where he and his brother, Jim, have created Botch Town, a detailed cardboard replica of their community, complete with figurines representing friends and neighbors. Their little sister, Mary, smokes cigarettes, speaks in other voices, inhabits alternate personas . . . and, unbeknownst to her siblings, moves around the inanimate clay residents.
There is a strangeness in the air as disappearances, deaths, spectral sightings, and the arrival of a sinister man in a long white car mark this unforgettable shadow year. But strangest of all is the inescapable fact that all these troubling occurrences directly cor-respond to the changes little Mary has made to the miniature town in their basement.