"If you're a fan of Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon, or movies like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and DELIVERANCE, don't miss KIN. Burke's novel not only re-imagines the classic slasher tropes, but it invents new ones. This is a modern classic, and I cannot recommend it highly enough." - FEARNET
"If you took the moral quandaries about revenge, justice and violence against evil from Dennis Lehane's Patrick Kenzie novels, spread it over the sprawling cast of a Stephen King thriller, and mixed it with the Southern Gothic grotesques of Eudora Welty, you might end up with something like Kealan Patrick Burke's new novel, KIN." - LITSTACK
"From the first chapter I found myself comparing KIN to the absolute best work of Jack Ketchum, James White Wrath, and Richard Laymon. You might be thinking that I've listed an awful lot of great authors here and mentioned more than a few classics in this review and that there's no way this book could live up to that hype. You'd be wrong. KIN is not only the best novel I've read all year, it is one of the most horrifying ones I've ever read. I hope you give it a shot." - HORROR WORLD
"It's odd that an Irish transplant to the Northern US has written one of the best Southern Gothic novels in recent memory. I'll look forward to Burke's next work just as much as I hated to see this one end. I would highly recommend KIN to lovers of old fashioned horror fiction with a twist. If you're going to read just one noir cannibal revenge novel this year, KIN should fit the bill." - DARK DISCOVERIES
"THIS is serious horror fiction that has set a high standard for future stories in this subgenre. Don't miss it." - THE CROW'S CAW
From the Author
July 15th, 2004
Everything is dead.
Naked, bloodied and stunned, the sun highin the cloudless sky and scalding her sweat-slicked skin, Claire Lambertnevertheless managed to note that the stunted, bone-white tree in the field toher right was the same one she'd commented on a few days, months, or yearsearlier, though what she might have said about it was a mystery now. Shestopped walking--if indeed she'd been walking at all, for the sensation thus farwas one of being still, spine bent, the road moving like a granite-studdedconveyor belt beneath her torn and filthy feet--and squinted at the gnarledtrunk, which looked like an emaciated mother with an elaborate wind-wrackedheaddress, twisted limbs curled protectively around its womb, knees bent, feetsplayed and poking out from beneath the hem of a skirt that had been washed andworn a few times too often.
It fascinated Claire, and though she swayedas if she might fall on legs that had many miles ago ceased registering asanything but independent creatures burdened with her weight, she couldn't lookaway. Fire licked with cold tongues at her groin; the blood in her hairhardened, and whatever vile substance now lay in a gelid, solidifying lump inthe hole which had once contained her right eye, ticked as if someone hadreplaced it with a watch to measure the time she had left. But still she looked,still she stared, as the merciless sun turned her scalp pink and cooked theflesh on her back. Sweat, cooler in the scant shade beneath her breasts, felllike tears. At length, she twitched, and her legs shuffled her toward thebarbed wire fence that separated the field from the road. Cotton whispered inthe breeze as her stomach met the wire, the barbs pressing deep into the skin;she felt nothing but an involuntary shiver.
A startled bird exploded from thecotton with a cry that dragged her attention to its whickering form as itsoared high, then lost itself in the blinding blanket of the sun. Clairelowered her head, licked dry, cracked lips with a sandpaper tongue and pushedagain against the fence, unable to understand why her progress was beinghalted. Surely no one would begrudge her a conference with that tree, a tasteof the maternal comfort she felt it might offer. Again she pushed, and againshe was withheld. This time the barbs pierced her skin. Troubled, she took ahalf-step back, the black wire thrumming like a guitar string strummed by the breeze.A single drop of her blood welled from the iron tip of a barb and hung,suspended in time, refusing the sun, before it plummeted and colored crimson afinger of grass. Frowning, she looked slowly from the wire to the tree, as ifthe blame might lay with that withered woman, and tried to speak, to beg. Athin whistle was all that emerged from her parched throat--Help me--and she swallowed what felt like a handful of hot stones.
She turned, reluctant to look away from thetree, but drawn by the only other noise she had heard thus far not immediatelyattributable to nature, or that soft voice inside her chanting incessantly andwith tireless determination that everything was dead. A strand of her hairsnagged on her lower lip, and stayed there, held in a fissure where the skinhad split.
Raging white light thundered toward her. Ofthis she was only dimly aware, for between that light and where she stoodswaying, was a man with no face or hands. No, that wasn't quite right. Danielstill had his hands, but they no longer had skin and looked impossibly dark andraw. This didn't concern her, for rarely had he held her anyway--a lapse inaffection of which she had once upon a time hoped to disabuse him.
Why won't you hold my hand?
Because we're not kids anymore,babe.
But at the sight of that flayed skull, atear, like the blood on the wire, defied the sun and spilled from her one goodeye.
"We can hitch a ride," he toldher, though his lips never moved. The raw ragged open wound of his face, toppedby a nest of unruly brown hair, turned to nod at the glaring light behind him,which had grown closer still. The mirrored sun floated above shimmering metal,the wheels grinding up thick mustard-colored clouds.
She opened her mouth to respond, to tellher boyfriend that they really should wait for the others, but even had shepossessed the voice to convey the words, a sudden bolt of dazzling pain triedto scissor her in half, forcing her to double over as she vomited into the dirtat her feet.
Everything is dead.
Her head swelled as she watched a dark redriver flow from her mouth, turning dust to rust and spattering her ankles. Theveins in her neck stuck out in thick cords, her ruined eye began to burn andthrob, making it feel as if her brain was trying to force its way out of her,to distance itself farther from this confusing reality than she had thus farmanaged on her own.
Weakened, she dropped to her knees, feltthe ground abrade the skin there. But there was no pain. Her flesh had become athick heavy coat, and the many tears in the lining affected her not at all. Herpalms slid into the dirt.
The sound of squealing might have been ofold hinges in the doors of the earth opening to accept her; it might have beenher own struggle to breathe against a torrent of vile regurgitated panic andgrief, or it might have been the brakes on the car she'd seen coming becausenow a new voice, a strange voice, drifted down to her sunburned ears as afigure eclipsed the sun and a cool shadow was thrown like a blanket over herbare back.
"Jesus, Mary'n Joseph'n all the holysaints," it said. "What happened, Miss?"
It's them, she thought feebly. One of them come to take me back. To hurt meagain. It was the same knowledge that had kept her going this far, theunmistakable feeling of being watched, stalked, hunted, meant to die butbreathing still.
She shook her head to deny him. Opened hermouth to speak but only blood emerged, the river of sickness forcing her throatto swell. Still she tried to struggle, but when she raised her hands to protectherself, it happened only in her mind. Her limbs would not respond. The pair ofdusty boots that had pressed into her field of vision moved away.
Good. Go. Leave me alone. You'vedone enough. Everything is dead. You killed them all.
"Christ, Pete, get me that 'ol dogblanket an' the flask. Move!"
At last the dizzying current ceased and shefound strength enough to raise her head. The man was a wiry knot of shadowunder a crooked hat, a scarecrow with a golden halo, trying to deceive her intothinking him salvation. Dread pounded at her chest, igniting further knots ofpain that seemed to radiate from the core of her.
Another shadow sprouted from the man'sshoulder, this one just as thin, but without a hat, just a fuzz of hair.
They're here to kill me.
"Oh God, lookit her eye."
"Shut your fool mouth, boy."
"What happ'ned to her? She ain't gotno clothes on." The voice was filled with nervous excitement.
The hatless shadow was elbowed aside. Thethin one flapped its arms until its chest became wings descending around Claire,swaddling her.
"Help me carry her."
She opened her mouth to moan at the sudden,terrible heat enveloping her and felt new warmth seep from between her legs.The dirt turned dark quickly.
"Pa she done wet hers--"
Before the arms could press their wingseven tighter around her, Claire took a series of quick, dry, painful swallows,then drew in a breath that sounded like nails on a blackboard, and screamed forDaniel. But even as that tortured, awful noise poured out of her, and thoughshe was surrounded by shadows that were lifting her up and carrying her back toHell, she knew for the first time in her life that she was well and truly alone,and that no help was coming now, or ever.
* * *