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THE RIGHT HAND OF EVIL by John Saul

THE RIGHT HAND OF EVIL

By John Saul

Pub Date: June 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-345-43316-5
Publisher: Ballantine

Saul’s twentysomethingth horror novel begins with vacuous overwriting that improves only slightly as he settles into a banality far less fresh than his better stuff (The Presence, 1997; Shadows,1992, etc.). In the prologue, a woman fearing that she’s given birth to a creature of pure evil suffocates her newborn, while her husband eviscerates and hangs himself from a nearby tree. Next we meet Janet Conway, her three children (Jared, Kimberly, and baby Molly), and her alcoholic husband Ted, from whom she wants to split. But Ted, an assistant hotel manager just fired for drinking, has inherited a hulking old Victorian house in St. Albans, Louisiana, from his Aunt Cora, the crazy woman in the prologue. When the Conways go to St. Albans to look at the house, they find that a clause in the inheritance insists that their children must attend parochial school or else Ted, a lapsed Catholic, can’t claim ownership. Ted’s decision is to turn the hulk into a hotel, living in it during the transition—and so it is that young Kimberly starts hearing her great-aunt’s suffocated baby wailing through the night. DÇjÖ vu? Stephen King’s The Shining, anyone? As the house is gradually repaired room by room, the town seeks to withhold permits for Ted’s hotel because rumors abound of Satanism and devil worship taking place inside it. Meantime, when Kim’s new friend Sandy sleeps over, she too begins to be drawn into the weird haze (as well as voices) that has swamped the house. Menaces seen and unseen float everywhere; reptilian demons arise; and Kim finds herself lost in a pagan cathedral. Are these events only her nightmares? On Halloween does Jared actually eviscerate their dog Scout? When Janet opens a door to find an abyss, is it real? Willing suspension of disbelief is one thing, but asking a reader to go along with immeasurably overfamiliar storytelling effects is another. (Literary Guild/Doubleday Main Selection)