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Kinfolk Matt Kurtz Main

"Kinfolk" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Grindhouse Press

Kinfolk Matt Kurtz Large

Written by Matt Kurtz
2018, 167 pages, Fiction
Released on December 12th, 2018


There is absolutely no point reading a book by a publisher called “Grindhouse Press” and then moan about it being too bloodthirsty. Let’s just say when it comes to Matt Kurt’s Kinfolk, the reader truly gets what is on the label of the tin, in large gore-filled quantities. Yes, this is an extremely violent book, however, it is also very skilfully written and I never truly got the feeling it is overtly gratuitous. Having said that, it will certainly be too much for some palates, so you have been warned. If you fancy some genuine cannibalistic hillbilly horror, keep reading; otherwise find something a tad gentler.

The opening chapter features an unbelievably nasty male rape and murder; should you be able to get past this opening sequence, you might be able to last the course as this is probably the grossest section in this bruising novel.  I am undecided whether opening with a scene so unsettling is a good idea, but it certainly had me on edge for what other unpleasantness lay ahead. Strangely, but surely unintentional, it is written in such a way that a reader can skip this first chapter and not have the overall flow of the book ruined.

Thankfully I stuck with it and survived what is an entertaining and fast-moving white-knuckle ride featuring few characters (none, actually) with any redeeming qualities. There are bad guys and then there are the really evil bunch who make the bad guys look like choir boys. The main pair are semi-feuding criminal brothers Ray and Eric Kuttner, who find themselves seriously down on their luck in a remote part of Texas. This is the first time they have seen each other in several years and haven’t spoken since the brutal murder of Ray’s wife Rachel, which was payback for their own dirty-dealing. Ray in turn killed the man who murdered Rachel; however, at the opening of Kinfolk, he realises he may have offed the wrong guy.

After some trouble with the local cops, they take the back roads, heading for Oklahoma, and stumble upon a family of inbred cannibals, and this is where the fun begins. There is not much more to say about the plot, as it quickly heads into very familiar horror territory. However, Matt Kurtz turns this very simple story, which could have been lifted from any number of horror films, into a trashy, pulp, battle for survival. Neither Ray or Eric are shrinking violets and so the cannibals, who are probably used to easier pickings, are soon wishing they looked for a simpler meal or opened their wallets and went to McDonalds where at least the food isn’t armed and dangerous!

Hillbilly horror fiction usually feature plots more likely seen in films than books, the most obvious reverences being The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Wrong Turn or if you want inspiration for the male rape, then look no further than the John Boorman classic Deliverance.  However, what makes Kinfolk slightly different to those films is that the main characters are not your traditional victims, they are serious bad-asses in their own right, and even if the cannibal family are on home-turf and have a family member so nasty they use an electrified cattle prod to keep him under control, the Kuttner brothers are serious players.

Particularly sordid situations are delivered with high levels of tension, and cringe-worthy moments come thick and fast in a succession of adrenalin-fuelled sequences. It’s unrelenting bone-crunching stuff, which is well paced, hurtling towards a blood-thirsty conclusion after a few initial skirmishes. Even though it is not a long book, I still wonder whether it could have been shorter? Considering the slight nature of the plot, it could have been a stunning novella if some of the excess flab was cut. But that’s a minor quibble, as it kept me hanging in to the bitter killer end. It is very difficult to give a story as familiar as this any new angle, but the sheer levels of brutality on show in Kinfolk, from the cutting of flesh, torture, and murder, is sure to turn a few heads or have readers who have picked up the book in error grabbing for a sick-bag.


Overall: 3.5 Star Rating Cover
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About The Author
Tony Jones
Author: Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer - UK
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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