On an insufferably hot day in secluded Elkwood, Claire Lambert stumbles half-blind, battered and severely bloodied towards the road in search of help. She is the sole survivor of a vicious attack by a family of backwoods cannibal lunatics who have claimed the lives of her friends and boyfriend. Luke - a member of the cannibal Merrill clan - witnesses Claire’s roadside rescue, and now he has to answer to his menacing parents: murderous and mad Papa-in-Grey and stinking, repulsive Momma-in-Bed - his failure to recapture their prey holds tremendous consequences. Claire, back home and on the mend but gravely traumatised, cannot rest until she returns to Elkwood to exact grisly vengeance on the family who murdered those close to her.
Kin is not your average cannibal story; it begins after all of the grisly events have transpired, and instead focuses on the aftermath of trauma: the haunting memories, the guilt of survival, and the intense hunger for revenge which inevitably leads Claire down a dark and dangerous path.
A further aspect of Kin that breathes life into the cannibal story is the rotation of perspectives. We have Claire’s perspective and that of other characters such as her rescuers, but most interestingly, those of her tormenters. Burke allows us inside the heads of the villains, and we realise they are not all they seem. Luke, in particular, is not inherently evil and has been moulded into the role of hunter by his grotesque parents; I almost felt sorry for him as it becomes clear that he and his siblings are as much subject to the terrifying whims of his father as the holidaymakers whom they track and hunt.
Despite Burke’s original take on the somewhat stale cannibal genre and the positives I have outlined, for me something was lacking from Kin and I was left feeling underwhelmed after I’d finished reading. It didn’t excite me; the side characters are a little dull and whilst I found the parts focused on the Merrill family to be the most interesting and insightful, these sections are not as regular as I’d have liked. Nonetheless Burke’s innovative twist on the red-neck cannibal story is refreshing and clever, and the novel has plenty of sick, twisted and disturbing moments for me to comfortably recommend Kin to any horror fan.