Mr. Hands by Gary Braunbeck

While I’m already behind on my promise to write something about each book I received in my suhweet Dorchester Publishing order, I have been more-or-less been making good on my word that I’ll read the books from that order before I jumped on anything else. More because I’ve read two more since my last update. Less because I had to read a book for review for HorrorTalk and after I finished that, I wanted to read something I knew I liked, so went right to Legacies by F. Paul Wilson (you can never go wrong with a Repairman Jack).

With that said — since I’m now out of excuses — the next book I read in that package was Mr. Hands by by Gary Braunbeck.

Fuck if Braunbeck isn’t quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I’ve been impressed with everything I’ve read from him (including Prodigal Blues, Safe and The Ballad of Road Mama and Daddy Bliss). The man is currently batting 1,000 with me and I don’t see that changing in anytime soon. His writing is that good, and Mr. Hands is no exception.

The interesting thing about Mr. Hands is the title character does not appear until about midway through the novel. Instead, the first part opens with a stranger arriving at “The Hangman’s Tavern” and telling his story of Uncle Ronnie, the town’s local serial killer from years prior. But Ronnie isn’t your typical serial killer. He’s more of a Dexter than a Dahlmer, and there is a supernatural element involved for the reasoning behind his killings.

At the halfway point,  Uncle Ronnie’s story goes away for a bit and Lucy and Mr. Hands are introduced. Mr. Hands was once the toy of Lucy Thompson’s daughter before the girl was kidnapped and murdered, completely destroying Lucy and her marriage. On a fateful evening, Lucy discovers Mr. Hands is more than just a toy, but rather a golem of sorts and he is at her command. Once she sets him loose, things start hopping.

One thing that constantly amazes me about Braunbeck’s writing is how he is the master at the run-on sentence. He can make one sentence a page long (I shit you not) and you don’t notice. It’s almost as if he’s writing the train of thought as it’s coming to him, and these long passages of words without a break are some of the best in this book.

Contrary to the cover image, Mr. Hands isn’t about a monster. Certainly the monster is heavily involved in the novel, but it’s really about revenge and payback and how the two are not as black-and-white as you’d like them to be. I’m a huge proponent of an eye-for-an-eye justice, but Braunbeck creates a pretty compelling argument using the characters in Mr. Hands on how things just always what they seem.

I have a few more of Braunbeck’s work in that box o’ goodies from Dorchester, but I think I’m going hold off on reading them. I’ve really, really dug his library so far, and I don’t want to blow through it too quickly. It’s hard, as I desperately want to jump into one of the others, since I know I’ll enjoy them, but I also know that I’ll be pissed when I have nothing of his left to read. I’ll save them because they’ve been worth the wait thus far.