THE TURTLE BOY
By Kealan Patrick Burke
Background: This novella (a snappy 20,000 words or so) is currently available free for a limited time as a downloadable e-book, so I’d get on that while it lasts. It’s the first in a series by Burke following our protagonist, Timmy Quinn, who is 11 in this first installment, getting into the kind of trouble many 11-year-old boys encounter, and quite a bit more. I look forward to reading the next installments.
What it’s about: Timmy and his friend Pete meet a peculiar kid by the lake one day: he is utterly grotesque in appearance and has a bloody chunk missing from his ankle, which he dips into the water, saying he is “feeding the turtles.” Scared by the Turtle Boy, as they dub him, the boys run back home but get in trouble with their respective parents—especially Pete, whose father is an abusive drunk.
Pete disappears to summer camp as punishment, leaving Timmy alone. After disobeying his parents by snooping around the lake again, he is caught by Mr. Marshall, and arguments ensue. A storm rolls in that night, and Timmy’s father decides to go have a word with Mr. Marshall… but he doesn’t return. Timmy rushes back to the lake, and the Turtle Boy appears and shows him a disturbing recreation of a murder that happened there, and the mystery of the lake begins to unravel.
The story ends with some questions in the reader’s mind, and anticipation for what might happen next for Timmy as he wades through a world filled with ghosts.
Why it will keep you up at night: A boyhood romp through the wilderness turned deadly, this story keeps the pages turning at a solid pace. The descriptions of the Turtle Boy himself are wonderfully gruesome, as is the scene where the murder is revealed. There is enough tension and danger to keep you glued to the page (or, as it were, your Kindle) while you root for the boy to solve the mystery with his life intact. Unfortunately, it gets a little bogged down at the end in trying to tie up loose ends, but by the last sentence, it leaves just the right amount of questions in the readers’ heads to keep them satisfied but wondering.
*I couldn’t decide whether to review this novella, or Burke’s other story I recently read, “Empathy.” That’s a cool read about PTSD and the possibility of psychological trauma manifesting physically (in wonderful bloody fashion), so if you zip through “The Turtle Boy,” be sure to grab that one as well!