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.