Kealan Patrick Burke

Crime, horror, thrillers, drama, anything that takes my fancy!


Nyctophobia - Christopher Fowler Reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE in the best possible way, with a touch of John Fowles' THE MAGUS for good measure, this story of a woman fighting to keep her family and her sanity in a house of light and dark, easily earns its place in my top five favorite haunted house novels. Highly recommended.

The Silent Land

The Silent Land - Graham Joyce A beautiful love story and meditation on life and death, made all the more heartbreaking and poignant by the passing of the author last year. A wonderful novel from a talent that will be sorely missed.

The Martian

The Martian - Andy Weir It's a cliche to label a survival story "a triumph of the human spirit", but in this case, it's absolutely appropriate. And while some may find the mass (MASS) quantities of science-speak and occasional instances of clunky dialogue off-putting, it's offset by the humor and likability of the narrator. Highly entertaining indeed, even if it did leave me wishing I had paid more attention in psychics class. But what the hey, now I know how to make hydrogen.


Headstone  - Ken Bruen I was thrown a little by the supernatural ambiguity of DEVIL, but there's none of that here, and HEADSTONE is a return to the sleek, balls-to-the-wall staccato noir Bruen does so well. This is one of my favorites in the series.

Revival: A Novel

Revival: A Novel - Stephen King Far from my favorite King. While it was (typically with his work) well-told, I felt it was a novella length story drawn out to 400+ pages, and as such I found it a bit of a slog to get through. The core of the story is interesting and alive with possibilities, but the payoff felt a little cliched and (also typical of most King novels) hurried. Not sorry I read it, but it won't be one that lingers long. Always nice to see King flex his Lovecraftian muscles though.

Bird Box

Bird Box - Josh Malerman Exceptional. Shades of THE ROAD meets BLINDNESS by way of Lovecraft.

We Are All Completely Fine

We Are All Completely Fine - Daryl Gregory Lovecraftian horror with a wry sense of humor but plenty of eldritch mayhem to satisfy even the most jaded of fans. A rare treat.


Dystopia - Richard Christian Matheson A huge compendium of stories by one of the more underrated writers in the genre, Richard Christian Matheson's DYS&TOPIA is a real treat. His penchant for staccato storytelling and preference for sentence fragments is a deceptively simple approach, as he somehow manages to tell whole stories in fewer words than most, and imbue them with chilling implications that linger long after the tale ends. And while, like all collections, not every story is a gem, there are more than enough incredible stories here to justify owning and savoring it.

The Troop

The Troop - Nick Cutter Well-written, hideously repulsive, and more than a little reminiscent of THE RUINS by Scott Smith, I wanted to like this more than I did. A quick read, fun in a vile way, and certainly a solid example of horror, it's nevertheless a difficult one to fully recommend. I'd be interested in seeing what Cutter/Davidson could do with a more original and less gruesome subject matter, as at times I felt he got a little too gleefully over the top with certain scenes. But then I'm a believer that gore and violence should compliment the story and not be the reason for it. I also wasn't completely convinced by the behavior of some of the younger characters, particularly when it dealt with an adult level of madness.

Oh, and if you're an animal lover, avoid this one like the plague. There are several scenes of explicitly detailed animal-torture.


Competently written, and well-structured.
Impressively tense set-pieces.
Relentless pace.
Interesting "antagonist(s)".
Solid science.
Good ending.


Setup and some scenes oddly (and at times, blatantly) reminiscent of THE RUINS.
Some cliched characters.
Gore too over the top, too-often, and too lovingly (almost salaciously) described.
Character developments did not ring true in certain scenes.

3.5 stars out of 5.


Galveston - Nic Pizzolatto Shades of Lehane and McCarthy, and as with some of McCarthy's work, GALVESTON, at times, requires a modicum of patience from the reader.

Still, this is an impeccably written, almost poetic tale about the destruction of self, and how an inherently corrupt nature can be a black hole for those you wish to protect. It's a smart mediation on the inescapability of human frailty, and the consequences of our actions, however small, on our lives and the lives of those we love.

I applaud Pizzolato's decision to circumvent noir convention and reader expectation, even while playing by its rules, something also in evidence on the superb (and equally grim) HBO series, TRUE DETECTIVE, which he created. And like that show, GALVESTON will hold greater appeal for those who like their noir to live up to its name.

A Book of Horrors

A Book of Horrors - Stephen Jones I'm a big fan of Stephen Jones' anthologies. In fact, I was weaned on them, and discovered many of the authors I still read today through his BEST NEW HORROR series. This one, however, was curiously uneven. For a collection whose sole purpose (according to the intro by Jones) is to make horror horror again, there's a distinct absence of scares, or indeed, much horror at all. Standouts include "Ghosts With Teeth" by Peter Crowther, which, while not particularly original, manages under Crowther's always capable hand to be extremely well-developed and frightening, "Roots and All" by the always reliable Brian Hodge, "Getting it Wrong" by Ramsey Campbell, "The Man in the Ditch" by Lisa Tuttle, "Sad, Dark Thing" by Michael Marshall Smith", and "Last Words" by Richard Christian Matheson. Entries by some of the biggest names fall flat, especially King's "The Little Green God of Agony", which reads like a Tales from the Crypt story, which would have been more acceptable back in the Night Shift era, but just seems weak here. Dennis Etchison, perhaps one of the finest practitioners of the short form, delivers an uncharacteristically disappointing entry too with "Tell Me I'll See You Again", which aims to be poignant, but ultimately fails to be anything but confusing.

Overall, not a bad anthology, but far from the stellar volume I've come to expect from one of the best editors in the genre.

Live by Night

Live by Night - Dennis Lehane After the disappointing MOONLIGHT MILE, I approached LIVE BY NIGHT with managed expectations(still need to read THE GIVEN DAY), but was delighted to find it a return to form for Lehane, who has, over the past few years, become one of my favorite writers. Reading NIGHT, it's easy to see why Lehane served as a consultant on HBO's BOARDWALK EMPIRE; the book fairly drips with history and attention to detail, the meat of the story occurring during the Prohibition years. It's well-written, well-paced, thrilling, and moving all at once. He also manages to avoid most of the cliches that tend to arise in gangster stories, and when unavoidably they do appear, they seem appropriate rather than stale. Rather than glorifying a gangster's rise from petty thief to crimelord, he shows us the dangers, moral conflicts, and the unbearable costs of choosing to eschew the ordinary grind in favor of "living by night". When Lehane is on, he's on, and with LIVE BY NIGHT, he's at the top of his game.

The Devil

The Devil - Ken Bruen I adore the Jack Taylor series, and Ken's staccato style in general, but this one was a little too hokey for me. Introducing the supernatural tends to go either way in a primarily straight noir series (John Connolly does it well), but it was just jarring here.

The Collector

The Collector - John Fowles Dark, tragic, disturbing, and impeccably written.

The Returned

The Returned - Jason Mott Anyone who goes into Jason Mott's THE RETURNED expecting zombies, or a story typical of that subgenre, will be sorely disappointed. Nor would I call it a horror novel. What's here instead, is a beautifully told drama which just so happens to feature as characters people who've come back from the dead. There are no dodgy sci-fi explanations for this, no peculiarly colored comets or spilled barrels of mysterious chemicals--the dead just come back, and they do so looking exactly the same as the day they died. For the most part they are happy, although not oblivious to the strangeness of their return. But rather than focus entirely on The Returned (though I loved the short chapters which singled some of them out), Mott (rather wisely) chooses to focus on us instead, and how we might react should the ones we've loved and lost suddenly return willing to pick up as if no time has passed at all. And considering the vagaries of human emotion, it isn't long before conflict arises.

The RETURNED is a beautiful and tragic novel, a mediation on grief and loss and love. Well-plotted, exceptionally well-written, and moving to the point where I'm writing this through misty eyes, I can't recommend Mott's debut highly enough. A powerful and important piece of work.

House of Leaves

House of Leaves - Mark Z. Danielewski At times HOUSE OF LEAVES made my head (and my wrists) hurt, but I admit to enjoying the former sensation. The confusion and disorientation experienced by the reader (and paralleled by the characters) seems essential in successfully traversing Danielewski's semiotic Rubic's Cube of a novel.

It's an interesting, quirky experiment in ergodic literature, and while I admit I did not find it completely successful as a story, there is plenty of meat to satisfy genre readers, assuming one can identify the genre at all. Is it (Lovecraftian/cosmic)horror? A love story? A satire? Or all three? Whatever the case, I'm glad I read it and for the most part enjoyed the experience, but it is not one I'm in any hurry to repeat. When you find yourself for the tenth time spinning the book around like a DJ at a rave in order to read the upside down or sideways text, it's easy to get distracted by the gimmick, even when the crazy layout serves a very obvious purpose.

And yet, despite my problems with the book, when the story worked, it did so fabulously. Danielewski is a remarkable (and remarkably intelligent - which might go some way toward explaining his compulsion for non-traditional narrative) writer, and the story, when indeed it works, is astonishing.

It's a tough book to recommend, and I doubt there will be much middle ground here among readers. You'll either laud it as a masterpiece, or loathe it as an overhyped, gimmicky, and frustrating exercise in self-indulgence. With this book, it's hard to argue against both verdicts, which only adds to its mystery. I would at least recommend giving it a try. As a reading experience, it's certainly an unusual one, and that in itself warrants a look.




Currently reading

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce
The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow