I was lying in bed this morning wishing that the book I was reading was a little closer to hand (really couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed and get it…). I reached out and grabbed the first thing that came to hand and (no pun intended) it was Gary Braunbeck’s ‘Mr Hands’. I figured I’d give it a go and I’m glad I did as I reckon this could be the best horror book I read this year.
The spirit of a well meaning serial killer (sounds weird I know but read the book) comes into contact with the grief stricken madness of a woman, whose daughter was murdered, and the murderous power of ‘Mr Hands’ is born. Mr Hands is the instrument of the woman’s quest for justice but a mistake is made and she must now fight to save an innocent life…
The deliberately ambiguous opening draws you in without realising it, before I knew what was happening I was well engrossed in the story of Ronnie Williamson, Lucy Thompson and Randy Patterson. You don’t actually see a lot of Mr Hands and this only serves to make his presence all the more powerful when he finally hits the page. Braunbeck shows the reader that the real horror comes from what lies behind the everyday occurrences in the story (and what could lie behind the houses on your street). A murderous doll is scary on the page but when you realise that other things in the book actually happen in real life (child abuse and people fighting insanity), these actions take on more significance and strike a chord with the reader. Redemption is always within reach but Braunbeck makes it clear that there is a real price to pay and that price will inevitably be high. It is through making this point that the ending is somehow emotionally hard hitting yet anti-climactic at the same time. It turns out that a huge unstoppable killing machine can be killed far too easily… However, this was just a minor issue in a book that had me solidly gripped, for a couple of hours, until I finished it. I particularly liked the shelf, in Grant’s bar, where everything on it had a different story behind it. The novella ‘Kiss of the Mudman’ (included in the book) tells the story of the broken guitar, hopefully more of these stories will follow.
There’s a lot more to intelligent, character driven horror these days than just the usual suspects. Gary Braunbeck is a little gem that any horror fan should search out.
Thanks again to Erin Galloway for sending me a copy of this book.
Nine and a Half out of Ten