John Saul has been giving readers the jitters since the publication of Suffer the Children
in 1977. His 22nd twisted tale, The Right Hand of Evil
is another nerve shaker.
The Conway family is in deep financial trouble. Ted Conway would rather knock back bourbon than support his family, and Janet Conway's career as an artist is going nowhere. Happily, the three Conway children--toddler Molly and 15-year-old twins Jared and Kimberley--seem well adjusted. Of course happy children to not make for good horror material, so dark times are just around the corner.
Ted receives an unexpected call from a Louisiana sanatorium, where his aged Aunt Cora is dying. Cora wants to convey a final message to her only surviving family members. She rasps out the ominous words, "I can see it. Stay away! Stay away from here!" Her words are futile--the financially strapped Ted moves his family into Cora's old house, a house deeded to them in a family trust.
Young Kimberley instantly feels a dark presence in the dilapidated Victorian house: "Suddenly her skin was crawling, as if a large insect were creeping across her neck." Tragedy upon tragedy strikes the family. Kim's beloved cat disappears and is sacrificed in a black-magic ceremony; an evil presence takes over Jared's mind--transforming him into the most rotten of bad seeds; the wails of a dead infant fill Kim's head, driving her to the edge of insanity. The family has fallen victim to a centuries-old curse--a curse that threatens to wipe out the Conway name.
Although there is nothing particularly original or earth shattering about this haunted-house story, The Right Hand of Evil is still a welcome piece of escapism. Read it at your peril. --Naomi Gesinger
From Publishers Weekly
Saul has trawled the trenches of the Gothic many times before (The Blackstone Chronicles, etc.), but this whopper of a nightmare tale has been fished from the region's purplest depths. Infanticide, insanity, miscegenation and black magic are in the mulch that nurtures the Conway family tree by the time Ted Conway moves his family to the small Louisiana town of St. Albans and into the house bequeathed him by his weird Aunt Cora, who was institutionalized for 40 years following the suicide of her husband and the disappearance of her newborn child. An alcoholic who can barely hold a job, Ted blossoms under the cursed house's influence and begins restoring it with a plan to turn it into a hotel. By contrast, Ted's teenage son Jared absorbs the taint that has infected generations of his ancestors and spits it back out in acts of juvenile delinquency and ritual animal sacrifice. Among the folks convinced that the transformation of both father and son are due to the same malignant presence are the parish priest, determined to drive the Conways out of town, and a voodoo practicing next-door neighbor, whose father was lynched by one of Ted's forebears. The spooky moments, which culminate (not surprisingly) on Halloween weekend, never quite add up. But Saul juggles clich?s at truly dazzling speed, and almost persuades readers that the holes in the plot are for catching one's breath while trying to keep pace with his dizzying twists. Doubleday Book Club main selection; Literary Guild selection.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.