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Kealan Patrick Burke ‘Kin’ Review


Written by James Keen

“You’ll thank me later. We’re going to see things no tourist ever sees.”

‘Kin’ begins with a outstandingly horrific daytime-set scene involving a battered, naked teenage girl staggering down a deserted road near the town of Elkwood, Alabama. Covered in blood and wounds including a gouged out eye and multiple body punctures and out of her mind with pain, she’s being tracked by a shadowy and menacing figure. Much to her stalker’s chagrin a truck happens by and the occupants, understandably appalled at the state the girl is in, they wrap her in a blanket, bundle her into their vehicle and set off for the nearest source of medical aid.

Kealan Patrick Burke’s novel is one part impressively effective storytelling to two parts interesting/ ridiculous. Broken up into three sections and set in 2004, it’s a frustrating read overall since the first third is genre fiction at its most engaging – subsequently followed by a narrative that wobbles on its literary feet, often pulling the reader out of an otherwise intriguing tale by jarring lapses in the credibility of its plot.

Burke’s concise and engaging descriptive abilities are expertly displayed here and it’s a testament to his storytelling talent that he manages to retain interest in his narrative despite the increasingly ridiculous manipulation of the plot seemingly in service to an enlarged page count. Character motivations become overly transparent as Burke indulges in developments that serve only to pad out this tale that starts out as a harrowing and plausible conceit before he allows textual bloat to usurp the tremendous unnerving energy of his initially terrifying narrative. The belabouring of one particular character’s quest for resolution becomes the novel’s ultimately unsatisfactory focus; there’s a great deal of war-type rhetoric involved in this character’s motivation that drags the book down to the point where the narrative becomes bogged down by the author’s emphasis on using this character to draw parallels with such things as the war in Iraq and the perceived impotence of government in resolving disparate types of conflict in the world. In this type of narrative scenario Burke’s argument is severely encumbered by clumsily arranged epithets from the characters involved.

This is – in this reviewer’s opinion- a case of a devilishly engaging and terrifying opening short novella woefully married to a decidedly ‘fattier’ literary novel with an entirely different and generally inconsistent set of values. It certainly loses its way in terms of being an outright horror novel as Burke fills the rest of the books run with narrative tenets that are perhaps more at home in the thriller genre. It’s one third genuinely terrifying fiction married to the lesser second and third sections with their David Morrell-styled action-themed dynamics.

‘Kin’ makes for an infuriating read for those looking for a new ‘fix’ of horror fiction; it’s the work of an evidently talented writer whose overall intention is somewhat ham-strung by an investment in the tropes of operatic ‘padding’ that is sadly prevalent in a great deal of current horror fiction today.

Sometimes, shorter is better.

Rating: 3/5

About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

2 Comments on Kealan Patrick Burke ‘Kin’ Review

  1. Quick and to that point James…as usual…thank you for that . Not necessarily something I would want to read right away after having read a convoluted one just awhile ago. Have to definitely agree that sometimes shorter is better…as always…just me….vitina


    • jameskeen89450 // May 14, 2013 at 7:48 pm // Reply

      Thank you. It was a tough book to critique. I really admired the first third of the book. Still looking forward to reading more of Mr Burke’s stuff.


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