Kealan Patrick Burke

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

Gone Girl

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn I suspected, going into this, that the hype would ruin it for me, that my expectations would be so high it would inevitably fall flat. That was not the case. Flynn slyly (and often comically) disseminates the "institution" of marriage, cuts to pieces men and women and how one gender perceives the other, all under the banner of a twisted thriller. On the surface it seems like a missing persons case, a did-he-or-didn't-he? whodunnit, but that's merely the surface tension atop a deliciously toxic love story. Wonderfully wrought, funny, disturbing, impeccably written, and with a superbly (and appropriately) messed up ending, Gillian Flynn deserves all the praise that has been levied upon her.

Westlake Soul

Westlake Soul - Rio Youers An amazing, heartbreaking, inspirational, and incredibly well-written novel. Like a cross between Richard Matheson's WHAT DREAMS MAY COME and Walton Trumbo's JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN, WESTLAKE SOUL is nothing short of a masterpiece. Nothing more I could say would achieve anything other than ruining the impact. A wonderful piece of work by an author who has shot up to the top of my reading list by virtue of this singular triumph.

Streets of Laredo

Streets of Laredo - Larry McMurtry While not nearly as good as LONESOME DOVE (without Gus, how could it be?), STREETS OF LAREDO is nevertheless a great conclusion to the series.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon While it's a stretch to call this a mystery and while I didn't find it to be quite the literary masterpiece it was heralded as, I still very much enjoyed the unique perspective of the book's antagonist. Also very funny and moving in parts. Well worth a read.

Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West - Cormac McCarthy By no means an easy read, but a magnificent one, McCarthy's epic western is like a madman's cocktail of McMurtry's LONESOME DOVE and Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS. De-romanticizes the Old West and with a merciless, horrifically brutal and existential eye, allows the reader a glimpse into an unspeakable Hell populated by savages on both sides of the plain. It also features a character--The Judge--who to my mind, deserves to be ranked among the greatest literary villains of all time. Other than some sections in which the proceedings are bogged down by laborious, extended passages of poetic description (beautiful as they are, they're too frequent and often too long), this is a masterpiece.

The Ignored

The Ignored - Bentley Little A very original story about what it means to be so unremarkable that you literally fade out of everyday existence. Little brings his trademark strangeness to the story by introducing an organization of The Ignored who, after inducting the main character, set out to do everything in their power to be noticed...including hideous acts of terrorism. An interesting novel, a little too drawn out perhaps, but enjoyable, and although Little's weakness tends to be his endings, this one was fine and appropriate. Not my favorite of Little's work though. That title still goes to THE POLICY.

Wool

Wool - Hugh Howey Short, dark, and sweet. The praise being heaped upon it is well-deserved.

Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town

Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town - Nick Reding Using Oelwein, Iowa as the petri dish, though one could easily substitute any rural farming town in the US that has been hit by economical disaster, METHLAND is a confidently written, well-researched, accessible, and illuminating look into the methamphetamine "epidemic" and it's many probable causes. A riveting read.

Killing Floor

Killing Floor - Lee Child Mindless and improbable popcorn fare. Entertaining to a degree, but forgettable.

Lisey's Story

Lisey's Story - Stephen King While I struggled a bit to get into and enjoy this one, it ended up being a lot better than I expected, or had been led to believe by the legion of King fans who have little good to say about it. I found it, in the end, to be an interesting exploration of love and particularly marriage, an appealing love story, seasoned with King's typical darkness. It won't rank highly on my King favorites list, but I liked it well enough to recommend it, particularly to those who consider King's work too brutal for them. This one is 90% love story, and a good one.

The Ritual

The Ritual - Adam Nevill An old-fashioned tale told in an old-fashioned voice, there is no denying the talent behind this book. An intriguing setup finds four college friends reunited for a trek through a dense forest in Norway. All goes well until their leader decides to take a shortcut through "virgin" territory, and soon they find themselves stalked by something monstrous and ancient. All the ingredients are here for an excellent horror novel, but while more than competently told, instances of long-windedness, repetition, and exhausting detail, reduce the impact to a noticeable, if not significant degree.

And while the third act shift which has alienated many readers didn't bother me at all (I found it made perfect sense in the context of the story), I did feel it could have come sooner to avoid incongruity.

Still, I have to recommend Adam Neville's novel. He's a good writer, the atmosphere is palpable (I found myself checking my fingers for pine sap and grass stains), the imagination on display is commendable, the horror truly bone-chilling. My proviso is that the book will clearly not be for everyone (it could have been cut by 80-100 pages and been twice the novel), and requires a great deal of patience. But for the patient, the payoff and indeed the many genuinely unsettling sequences along the way, make the journey well worth taking.

The Nightrunners

The Nightrunners - Joe R. Lansdale Far from my favorite Lansdale. An early novel that suffers from typical early novel problems and shows none of the lyricism with language or literal restraint that classifies the author's best work. An ugly story about ugly people told in a fairly unpleasant manner. Lansdale only got better from here.

The Wrath of Angels

The Wrath of Angels - John Connolly The most ambitious and overtly horror outing for Charlie Parker to date, delivered with Connelly's typical poetic skill, but undone somewhat by a cast too large for the length of the story, which dilutes the impact and leaves the book feeling more like a series of vignettes. Parker himself, largely the draw for fans of the series, is mostly relegated to bookend chapters and merely picks up crumbs long after the reader has discovered them. Structurally odd for this series, and not altogether satisfying by the time we reach the hurried ending, a less than fantastic Connolly novel is still better than most, and this one certainly has its moments, even if they don't ultimately combine to thrill like they have in previous entries.

The Hackman Blues (Bloodlines)

The Hackman Blues (Bloodlines) - Ken Bruen Not my favorite Bruen--that honor goes to his Jack Taylor series--but still a quick, and worthwhile read. I find Bruen's machine-gun prose style irresistible, and it works just as well here as it does in any of his other series, even if the plot of THE HACKMAN BLUES is a little trite. Not a place to start for newcomers to Bruen's work, but a worthwhile slice of British noir all the same.

Breed

Breed - Chase Novak, Scott Spencer Thank the marketing department for the intrigue generated by this one. It certainly has an excellent hook: "A couple struggling to have a child, undergo treatment to have one, but once their kids are born, the unlucky siblings begin to realize that there's something amiss with their parents." It seems like a nice twist on a familiar theme, but alas, it isn't. The writing is excellent, the pacing serviceable, and yet the whole novel feels broken somehow. Good ideas go unexplored, characters who spend a lot of time in the foreground still somehow never have time to fully develop. There's nary a sympathetic character in the bunch, so it was hard to really care what became of any of them. The descriptions are lavish and detailed, almost too much so. There are sections of the book that feel as though the author was transcribing straight from Architectural Digest.

As for the story, it fails to rise above cliche, reading more like a non-horror writer's idea of original, and seems a little self-congratulatory at times, when anyone familiar with the genre will know pretty much every beat pages before it happens.

Overall, the prose was excellent, the story intriguing enough to keep me from giving up on it (though more than once I felt tempted), but there's nothing here that hasn't been done before, and better. A disappointment.

The Pillowman

The Pillowman - Martin McDonagh I have yet to read every play McDonagh has written, but now I feel compelled to do so. THE PILLOWMAN is a brutal, vicious, and as always, darkly comic horror story about a writer being interrogated in some unnamed totalitarian state about the content of his stories, content that mirrors, and may have inspired, the recent murders of a number of children. THE PILLOWMAN ranks up there with some of the best horror I've read to date. The vignettes, told as grim fairy tales, are an excellent touch (something I loved in SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS too.) I'm officially a rabid fan.

Currently reading

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