The Hides by Kealan Patrick Burke
The Hides is the second book in an unnamed series about a boy called Timmy Quinn. Timmy can see the dead. Immediately, everyone’s thinking this is a copycat of The Sixth Sense, but things are a little different in this tale. These dead are not angry spirits calling out for a living boy to avenge them; they are actual physical manifestations, right down to the smell of their rotting flesh. And they don’t need Timmy Quinn for anything. They are able to execute their revenge solo. Timmy is nothing more than a conduit; when he’s around, the dead are able to pass through something called The Curtain, a thing separating their world from ours. And Timmy is left with the terrifying task of stopping them.
Book two sees Timmy Quinn as a teenager, moving from his home in Ohio, America, to the small town of Dungarvan, Ireland (where the author himself grew up). It’s a chance to start again. But Timmy’s stateside girlfriend suggests, “Is there a rule over there that says the dead have to stay quiet?” Of course not. Timmy can never escape what he is. And the dead will always come knocking – or rather, crashing through. This is a story about dark family secrets, revenge, and a hideous monster. In comparison to the first novel in the series, The Turtle Boy, I have to say that I feel The Hides is the weaker of the two. It does contain a very startling and original creature in the closing chapters, but the story does unfortunately go into a bit of a lull halfway through. The Turtle Boy told the story of Timmy’s early boyhood, filling me with a sense of kinship and nostalgia, which was hard to beat. Sequels are always in the unenviable position of having to go one better than the first story, and unfortunately The Hides falls short of that ambition. I finished the book only mildly satisfied, with no real zeal for volume three.
The book is published in the USA by small press publisher Cemetery Dance, as a signed and numbered hardcover, limited to 750 copies. The Turtle Boy was similarly published by Necessary Evil Press, but with 450 copies. It’s a bit odd having a situation where 300 unlucky people have the opportunity to read volume two but not volume one. However, The Hides is marketed as a stand-alone novel, and the story does make sense independently. But it also makes numerous references to the first story, so there is definitely more enjoyment to be had if you are able to start at the very beginning.
On the matter of style, Kealan Burke is a bit of an enigma to me. His vocabulary is often rich, sometimes startlingly so, and yet his punctuation suffers on the most basic level of correct use of the comma. For example, a simple phrase like, “Hi Sandra” (on line 5 of the first page, no less) omits the necessary comma after “hi.” This kind of mistake is all over the place, and it has slipped through unnoticed by the publisher. This, as I have stated in the past, is what I call The Curse of the Small Publisher. Kealan, if you are reading this, get reading Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, because you are making yourself look like an amateur, and in every other respect you are not.