The Right Hand of Evil

John Saul, Author Ballantine Books $25 (344p) ISBN 978-0-345-43316-9
Saul has trawled the trenches of the Gothic many times before (The Blackstone Chronicles, etc.), but this whopper of a nightmare tale has been fished from the region's purplest depths. Infanticide, insanity, miscegenation and black magic are in the mulch that nurtures the Conway family tree by the time Ted Conway moves his family to the small Louisiana town of St. Albans and into the house bequeathed him by his weird Aunt Cora, who was institutionalized for 40 years following the suicide of her husband and the disappearance of her newborn child. An alcoholic who can barely hold a job, Ted blossoms under the cursed house's influence and begins restoring it with a plan to turn it into a hotel. By contrast, Ted's teenage son Jared absorbs the taint that has infected generations of his ancestors and spits it back out in acts of juvenile delinquency and ritual animal sacrifice. Among the folks convinced that the transformation of both father and son are due to the same malignant presence are the parish priest, determined to drive the Conways out of town, and a voodoo practicing next-door neighbor, whose father was lynched by one of Ted's forebears. The spooky moments, which culminate (not surprisingly) on Halloween weekend, never quite add up. But Saul juggles clich s at truly dazzling speed, and almost persuades readers that the holes in the plot are for catching one's breath while trying to keep pace with his dizzying twists. Doubleday Book Club main selection; Literary Guild selection. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/31/1999
Release date: 06/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
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