"Burner" Book Review

Written by Steve Pattee

Independently Published

burner robert ford poster large

Written by Robert Ford
2020, 284 pages, Fiction
Released on November 18th, 2020



That’s the word that would perfectly sum up my feelings of Robert Ford’s Burner.


Because everything about Burner is deliberate. The pacing, the structure, the emotional pain you feel reading it, the multiple punches to the gut delivered throughout the book: Ford slowly and methodically takes you through a brutal tale of revenge with every single word and phrase calculated to get you to a devastating ending.

But let’s back up a second.

Burner is the tale of two women, Iris and Audrey, who at the start of the novel are separately talking to a psychiatrist (Iris) and a police officer (Audrey). Something bad happened to each of them, and it’s not clear at first how their stories are related. But as the book goes on, their lives intersect in a way that damns them both.

Told in chapters that happen both in the past and the present, Ford takes his sweet time in dishing out what, exactly, is going on in Burner. And what a time it is. Each chapter is quick and dirty, telling the story from either Iris or Audrey’s point of view in either the past or the present. Normally, I’m not much of a fan of this type of storytelling, but here not only does it work, but it’s also critical to the development. There’s simply no other way to tell this tale. And in lesser hands it would be an absolute train wreck, but Ford deftly guides you to exactly where he wants you and, more importantly, where you need to be.

Revenge is one of my favorite subgenres of horror. Hell, of any genre, really. I just love when someone gets their comeuppance. But I love/hate films and books that actually make me think about the cost of revenge and if there are times that it’s really worth it. I just want the bad guy to suffer. But the most notable films and books about the subject show that it’s not so simple. One of the best vengeance films out there is I Saw the Devil. What makes that movie so great is not only does the bad guy get what’s coming to him, but it forces you to deal with the lengths the protagonist goes to fully destroy him. And it also makes you ponder if the end result is worth it. That’s how you do it. That’s how you make an impression. Throw some gray in with the black-and-white. And that’s what Robert Ford does with Burner. He throws so much gray in, you reel from the repercussions.

Jesus, this book is something.

I know I’ve been incredibly vague with the plot. And that’s simply because anything can be a potential spoiler, and you need to go in blind here. There’s so much I want…no, need to say; to talk about; to contemplate; to scream about, but that’s a disservice to you. At its core, it’s a book about revenge, choices, and pain. So much pain.

I’ve not read nearly enough of Ford’s work that I want or should. But I can say two things: First, while he knows how to rip out your heartstrings and show them to you while he laughs at your pain, nothing I’ve encountered from his work has been so unapologetically damning. Second, I no longer need to read a synopsis of any of his work; I’m all in. While we’re still four months from the end of 2021, I can’t see Burner not being one of my favorites of the year. Its mental, physical and emotional brutality is unapologetically calculated from beginning to end. Go get it.


Overall: 5 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
Buy from Amazon UK.

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Steve Pattee
US Editor, Admin
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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