Behrg Reviews “Kin” by Kealan Patrick Burke

I’m a huge fan of horror, but the regurgitation of material within similar sub-genres is one of the biggest challenges within the industry, whether it be print or film. We’ve all seen the end-of-the-world zombie epidemic or the college kids going out into the woods and then chased by back-woods cannibals to the point that the set-ups themselves become cliche. It’s one of the reasons I typically steer clear of creature features as too often they’re derivative and offer very little I might consider “new” or original.

KinAnd then you have those artists – writers, directors, etc – who take the familiar but tilt the concept on its head, offering a fresh perspective on what you’ve come to know so well. The movie “Cabin in the Woods” is a brilliant example of this, subverting your expectations while still delivering the horror and fun you might expect from the genre. In my opinion, Kin, by Kealan Patrick Burke, is right up there with it.

First, Burke chooses a brilliant starting point for this story, one I’ve never seen done before: the book begins with the only survivor (as if often the case) making their way out of the forest AFTER having been caught and tortured and having barely escaped with her life. This is where every other story might end, but this is our beginning. What follows is the aftermath of not only the survivor but the group of “kin” from whom she’s escaped. And the trail of bodies of those who help our survivor along her way.

Burke does a fantastic job of blurring the lines between protagonists and villains, of building believable character motivations and then dashing our expectations to pieces. Not only is this a character-driven exploration of pain and guilt and revenge, it’s also just a lot of fun and there are several moments that will be embedded deep into your subconscious from the moment you read them until either the moment you die or your mind wastes away into stormy clouds of dementia.

Seriously, these horrors will stay with you.

More proof that Kealan Patrick Burke stands on the shoulders of the many authors trying to make it in this genre. For those who aren’t afraid of exploring the darkness, put Kin on the top of your must-read-list.


Behrg Reviews “Hellbent” by Gregg Hurwitz

hellbent1500+ ratings at the time of this review with a 4.55 average. You don’t get a score like that by chance.

It’s no secret Gregg Hurwitz has long been one of my favorite authors. From his unique characters to the brilliant way he uses his settings to his carefully crafted prose, he’s truly a writer’s writer. This third installment in the Orphan X series is by far his best and there’s a comfort here as Hurwitz finds his groove, no longer trying to create his own Jason Bourne or Jack Reacher but letting his work shine on its own.

Evan Smoak and the Orphan program works best when the high tech thrills are brought close to home. Hellbent is Hurwitz’ most emotional exploration within the Smoak universe and yet he’s able to accomplish this with a book that never slows down. Some unforgettable character moments — one involving a candy cane which, trust me, if you read this you won’t be able to forget — and a set up for the series which guarantees there will be many more Orphan X books to come.

If you’re not yet familiar with Hurwitz’s work, there’s never been a better time to jump on board this train. And if I can make a suggestion, pick up the Audible versions of the series as Scott Brick is THE voice of Evan Smoak and delivers an amazing performance.

Behrg Reviews “Broken Shells” by Michael Patrick Hicks

broken shells
Broken Shells is on sale for just $0.99 for a limited time

First a disclaimer: I’m not a big fan of “creature horror novels.” I find most of them derivative and more of a paint-by-the-numbers wheelhouse with over the top gore meant to make up for a complete lack of story or character. Substitute X creature for Y monster and you’ve got yourself the same story you can pump out over and over again.

This isn’t to say creature horror can’t be done right, it just requires a lot more effort from an author who’s willing to invent something unique or tackle it from a new angle.

I went into Michael Patrick Hicks’ new novel, Broken Shells, without knowing much about it or that, in fact, it was a creature feature. That being said, and knowing my predisposition for these types of stories, I was pleasantly surprised by the approach he took. This is not your paint-by-numbers story. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve read a creature horror novel that tackles the story in a similar fashion.

A unique mythology, combining Native American lore, matched with a character you actually care about draws you in to a tale where the gore and horror are certainly on full display (but not carelessly thrown in). Hicks has a way of combining real world topics and concerns into his story without ever coming across as preaching, which adds a fantastic layer and relevancy to his tales. In short, this is one creature feature that’s worth the price of admission. Keep up these kind of stories and I may soon become a fan of a sub-genre I’ve tried to avoid.

** I received an advanced review copy of this book through NetGalley. My thanks to the publisher and author. This in no way influenced my review.


Behrg reviews “Obscura” by Joe Hart

obscuraIf I had to resort to the old Hollywood 5-second pitch, I’d describe this book as “Shutter Island in space.” That being said, this one deserves much more than a quick cursory glance.

Obscura hits the ground running, forcing the reader to start jogging along if you don’t want to get left behind. A disease similar to dementia and Alzheimer’s is now affecting healthy young individuals, from adults to children. Due to circumstances which you’ll discover once you read the book — because this IS a book you’ll read — Dr. Gillian Ryan is asked to go up to a space shuttle where some of the crew on board are experiencing similar symptoms.

From there it’s one seriously messed up flight. Combining elements of horror, science fiction, and psychological suspense, Hart does an amazing job at keeping the reader constantly guessing. But take away the mind games, the exploration of drug addiction, or the tantalizing concept of teleportation; it’s really the depth of emotion and character that take this to another level.

While I’ve been a fan of the author’s work for some time and have watched his career with admiration, this is the novel that sets him apart from would-be writers. High concept, brilliant ideas, but flawlessly executed. Great to have a book on the contender’s list for top book of the year so early in the year. Can’t recommend this one enough.

** I received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley. This is no way influenced by review. Book will be hitting the streets May 8th.


Behrg Reviews “The Gunslinger” by Stephen King

gunslingerStart throwing your stones now, Constant Readers, but despite my immense love of King and his works I have never read the Dark Tower Series. The Gunslinger I’ve read a few times LONG ago, and I think I finished Drawing of the Three back then as well, but for whatever reason it didn’t take hold.

Well that was then, and this is now.

2018 will be the year of the Dark Tower for me, and I’m really excited to read through the entire series from start to finish without the delay of years between novels. I remember book one being more episodic in nature, but this time through I really dug the story and where King took it. For someone as prolific and popular as King is, he’s never been afraid of experimenting with his work, of challenging the status quo and the rules a novel should abide by. The Gunslinger hints at a much richer and darker world (or worlds) than is encapsulated in this single book, and being somewhat familiar with the mythos, it will be fun to fully dive in.

So wish me luck as I venture down this path with our fellow gunslinger on his journey towards the Dark Tower.


The Behrg Reviews “A Guide for Murdered Children” by Sarah Sparrow

guide.jpg“A Guide for Murdered Children” has all the ingredients needed for an amazing book – a unique concept, an inventive hook, troubled characters, and some phenomenal and edgy writing. Unfortunately just tossing all the ingredients into a big pan and hoping it comes out in the end doesn’t always work.

What this book is missing is a solid through-line. There’s no plot. Nothing that drives the story forward. Instead we have half a dozen subplots and tacked together character lines that never coalesce into something stronger.

I really wanted to love this book. Sparrow certainly has some chops and there were some great moments in this, but overall it just didn’t deliver an experience and felt as if it were three drafts short of a final product. Worth checking out, if nothing more than for Sparrow’s unique style. Hopefully others will enjoy what just didn’t work for me.

“Every monster dreams. Every monster imagines, aspires.”

* I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley. My thanks to the author and publisher.


The Behrg Reviews: “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde

Dorian GrayThere are two camps of “classic” books, those which you can appreciate for having been important in their time but that really don’t hold up, and those which somehow defy the passage of years much as Dorian Gray himself. This was shockingly relevant and literarily brilliant, and it’s hard to imagine this was originally published back in the 1890’s.

The beautiful thing about this novel is that it’s really a story about each of us. Hiding behind masks, creating a persona which we present to the public, while only ever allowing ourselves to glimpse the darker secrets of the soul when hidden in our personal attics. This is a novel that bears self reflection, that forces the reader to examine their own lives, something only truly great fiction can accomplish.

Far better than I had hoped for. Hope this is a trend that will continue for this year’s reads. And right now you can pick up the book for free on Amazon. If you haven’t yet checked this one out, no better time to do so.