Kin is one of those novels that works for many reasons. It’s first triumph is that its descriptions are incredibly vivid, the author’s words serving as a Hi-Def video camera that records the imagery in stunning, crisp and gory detail. In some ways, Burke wears his influences on his sleeves, as Kin is an obvious love letter to films like Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Tourist Trap, and The Hills Have Eyes. This is not to say that the author slips into imitation. Rather than tell the same story of teens breaking down in the south to be tortured and killed by rednecks, the novel answers the question that almost none of those films did: what happens to the survivor, the people around them, the maniacal killers who she has escaped? Burke explores these ideas and weaves them into a novel that is at times visceral, touching and complex (far more complex, dare I say, than some of the films that have inspired it).
The plot concerns Claire, who is beaten, wounded, and scared when we meet her. Her friends are dead and their killers are in hot pursuit. These killers are not one-dimensional masked murderers either; they are a family who live by a twisted ideology. They have complex relationships with each other. One of the son’s, Luke, has a backstory that is so tragic, you long for him to be redeemed by the end.
The book has several elements that really stand out. In particular, the scene where Claire lies in the hospital remembering the atrocities committed against her was very well-described. She drifts in and out of memories, dreams, and reality. The prose here is very fluid, making the transitions natural.
Again, credit goes to the author for the character of Luke who belongs to the murderous family. His story is dark and moving, and adds several layers to the already deep story. He is sympathetic because he was raised among violence by a maniacal father who uses fear and corrupted religion to control his offspring.
Kin is a dark novel, and I wouldn’t recommend it to people who don’t like horror. Despite the damn good writing, it is not a crossover book. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the author intended it to be. Kin is a horror novel written for the fans by someone who clearly understands and loves the genre.