I can’t remember where I first heard of this book, nor exactly when I picked up a copy… several years ago, perhaps. But, having read Joel Townsley Rogers’ 1945 novel The Red Right Hand, I can’t think why it took me so long to start.
A twisted psychological tale disguises itself in a straightforward narrative and a fairly conventional murder story. A doctor, Harry Riddle, is caught up in the murder of a well-off man who has eloped with his lovely young bride. It seems as though the story should be straightforward, but the reader is repeatedly left wondering what? What did I just read?
But it is the writing which most distinguishes this story. It has been described as hallucinatory, even ghostly, and that is an accurate assessment. There is a dreaminess to the landscape that Rogers wrote, a disconnectedness from time and space. At the same time, there are certain hard, immutable facts. It is like a waking dream, one which confuses perception with hallucination, without pharmacological intervention.
And the result: a tale that is by turns confusing, obscure, and horrific, but remains gripping and suspenseful to the end. There is a twist at the ending, and it is unexpected and terrifying. This is a fantastic short book, and deserves a wider readership.
Originally reviewed 13 November 2012.
Find your copy of The Red Right Hand at AbeBooks.com (title links directly to search results).