Skip to main content

Red Hands


Red Hands

According to author Sarah Lotz, Christopher Golden’s latest book “[r]eads like a Stephen King novel on speed.” I’m not sure that I completely agree as King and Golden are very different writers. But there is a scene in the first chapter of RED HANDS that King fans will instantly recognize due to its similarity with an infamous scene from MR. MERCEDES.

This is the third book featuring weird s**t expert Ben Walker and is definitely the closest to being a pure horror novel. It is the Fourth of July in Jericho Falls, New Hampshire, and the entire town seems to be at the annual parade celebrating independence. This year, it will be remembered far more for what it represents as the tragic events will be indelibly etched in the minds of every resident. As the parade nears its end, a screech of tires is heard. In surreal fashion, a BMW comes careening seemingly out of nowhere, running over town residents young and old in its wake.

When the blood-soaked driver steps out of the car, wearing a t-shirt and pajama bottoms, he is instantly confronted by a handful of people. As he touches each person around him, they begin to convulse, spit blood and die on the ground in extreme pain. People back away from him until one town resident, Maeve Sinclair, grabs a bat from the Little League Baseball float and bashes a dent into his forehead. As he appears to be lying dead on the ground, Maeve touches him to see if there is any reaction for the heinous and then otherworldly things he just did. She gets no response, but when her mother and brother try to pull her away, they fall dead on the spot after a few moments of the same excruciating pain that the other victims experienced.

"RED HANDS is a high-adrenaline read that in the hands of Christopher Golden is able to rise above B-movie horror traps and ends up becoming an epic thrill-ride of a story with a few nice surprises thrown in for good measure."

Horrified not only by the events that just occurred but more so by the deaths of her family members, Maeve flees into the forest. Almost simultaneously, a pair of black helicopters appear in the sky and descend on the street where the parade just took place. A hazmat team surrounds the dead driver as the shocked and screaming townspeople gaze slack-jawed. One resident steps forward to meet the woman who appears to be the team leader. It turns out that Rue Crooker is not only a close lady friend of Maeve's father, Ted, but is also an accomplished doctor and biologist. The hazmat team is led by a very stern-looking woman, Vargas, who informs all the residents that they are immediately in a state of quarantine.

Mere hours after these events, Ben Walker is called away from a much-needed vacation with his son before it can even start. He is not happy about the disruption, but after viewing a video of what went down in Jericho Falls, he fully understands the need for his services. Having recently had a falling-out with General Henry Wagner of DARPA, Ben is now a free agent and the ideal person to be utilized in this scenario. His assignment is to go into the wilderness around Jericho Falls and bring back Maeve alive.

Before heading off, Ben has a meeting with the scientists at the secretive Garland Mountain and learns that the driver of the BMW was one of their employees, Oscar Hecht, who had injected himself with a serum called “Red Hands.” To date, only animals had been injected with this tactile bacterial infection that can bring about instant death in any living thing touched by someone with it. Red Hands took its name from Edgar Allan Poe's famous story "The Masque of the Red Death." As more is learned about this deadly toxin throughout the novel, we find out that it is partly man-made and partly based in ancient legend and folklore whereby the carrier becomes the God of Death itself.

Ben is an expert climber and tracker, but he soon learns that he is not the only person hunting for Maeve, who has no idea what is inside her. All she knows is that she is now dealing with a mix of terrible grief at being the cause of some of her family members' deaths, but also wracked by horrible visions of death and dismemberment where she is the central character in each scene. She attempts to hide out first at her grandfather's old cabin in the woods and later at an abandoned inn, but is found out by various people hunting her. Meanwhile, Ben is soon joined by Maeve's sister, Rose, and her girlfriend Priya, who know these woods better than Ben. The only problem is that they may no longer know Maeve as the Red Death is beginning to consume her.

During all of this, Dr. Crooker gets access to Garland Mountain labs, courtesy of a meeting with someone on the inside who also knows Ben. She is quickly overwhelmed by what they created and realizes that there may be no way to save Maeve, even if Ben can get her safely out of the mountains.

Eventually, Ben, Rose and Priya locate Maeve, who has been shot by one of the people hunting her --- one of the few who actually lived to talk about confronting her. Once she lays her head in Rose's lap, the fireworks really start.

RED HANDS is a high-adrenaline read that in the hands of Christopher Golden is able to rise above B-movie horror traps and ends up becoming an epic thrill-ride of a story with a few nice surprises thrown in for good measure.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on December 18, 2020

Red Hands
by Christopher Golden