Friday, February 1, 2013

8 Heart Review: The Cursed Man by Keith Rommel

The Cursed Man (Thanatology #1)
Keith Rommel

Page Count: 224
Release Date: 13 March 2011
Publisher: Sunbury Press
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author, via LibraryThing, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Once you enter this mind of madness, you will never be the same.

Alister Kunkle believes death is in love with him. A simple smile from friend or stranger is all it takes to encourage death to kill.

With his family deceased and a path of destruction behind him, Alister sits inside a mental institution, sworn to silence and separated from the rest of the world, haunted by his inability to escape death’s preferential treatment.

But when a beautiful psychologist arrives at the institution and starts offering him care, Alister braces himself for more killings. When none follow, he tries to figure out whether he truly is insane or if death has finally come to him in the form of a woman.


The Cursed Man left me breathless and I'll admit, a little frightened. This book reaches towards the deep, obscure trenches of the human mind and the indistinguishable haze of perception, and it's one that kept me on my toes throughout.

Alister Kunkle believes that death is in love with him, which explains the gruesome, opportune slaughters of anyone who speaks to him, as well as his present confinement at Sunnyside Capable Care Mental Institution. But when an alluring doctor enters his life and shows him how to open up his mind, even persuading him to doubt his own convictions, he leaves his mental ailment behind and enters reality—our curse-free, babble-less reality. Or so he thinks.

The plot absolutely stunned me. It's a r
ollercoaster of a story that skillfully blurs the thin line between reality, insanity, and the paranormal in the freakiest of ways. It portrays the frightening side of hallucinations expertly, as well as the mere possibility that the people we call "crazy" may not be so crazy after all.

What's explosive, is that readers know the truth about Alister's fate—we know the truth, whatever TRUTH really is—from the very beginning; it's just that as readers, we choose not to believe it because it's delusional—it's mad. We resist and juxtapose truth just as Alister does, and this hinders our knowledge of it, which is the mind-boggling, devastating reality The Cursed Man alarmingly reveals.

We regard Alister's claims as deranged, but in The Cursed Man, we learn the tragedy and terror inflicted upon society when beliefs turn out to be viciously, startlingly real. We learn reality is something one can have one moment, then lose grasp of, the next. We learn from the perspective of the mentally ill—the unfair, uncommunicable perspective of not being understood and being labeled as insane.

I was deeply affected by the book's highlighting of the brutal, disturbing consequences of malice and child abuse on conscience, self-esteem, and sanity, as well as its infectious rancor that never ends and forever consumes. I was also impressed with how well we get to know Alister through the book's limited third-person perspective. There's a detached elegance to Rommel's storytelling approach, and that's what makes the entire book so suspenseful.

Stylistically, the narrative isn't anything wonderful, but it does have great flow and never gets boring. It combines the past and present, which I found to be an intriguing technique on the story's procession's part, but also confusing at times. While Rommel's writing isn't particularly sharp or lyrical or insightful, it is well-composed; I finished it with great ease and enthusiasm.


Spine-tingling // Exceptionally gruesome // Fast-paced, smooth narration // Mind-blowing revelations of perception, psychiatric patients, and reality // Original, well-developed plot // Fantastic characterization and analysis on Alister // Marvelous heart-stopping moments


Some bumpy transition from past to present // Readable, but not particularly masterful in style


The Cursed Man hurls readers on a deceptive, single-minded, magnificently instable ride that'll strip readers of their mental security and make them question what reality is. Akin to the metaphysique found in Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, the deeply disturbing, unhinged elements of The Cursed Man make for a brilliantly complex, brilliantly structured story. Chilling, fresh, and horrific in all the right places, this psychological thriller is a psychiatric nightmare that's come to life; it will force you to question existence and perception like you never have before Americanflag

8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended (x)