Review: “Red Hands” by Christopher Golden

Red Hands by Christopher Golden book cover
Original background cover photo credit: Photo by Simone Dalmeri on Unsplash

Later, Maeve Sinclair will think of the girl with the pink balloon, and her heart will ache with a sting unlike anything she’s felt before.

Red Hands, Chapter 1 opening

Author: Christopher Golden
Publication Date: December 8th 2020 
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Thriller / Horror
Format: Hardcover
Find it on: Goodreads

Synopsis

In bestselling author Christopher Golden’s supernatural thriller Red Hands, sometimes a story is a warning. Sometimes the warning comes too late

When a mysterious and devastating bioweapon causes its victims to develop Red Hands, the touch of death, weird science expert Ben Walker is called to investigate.

A car plows through the crowd at a July 4th parade. The driver climbs out, sick and stumbling, reaching out…and everyone he touches drops dead within seconds. Maeve Sinclair watches in horror as people she loves begin to die and she knows she must take action. But in the aftermath of this terror, it’s Maeve who possesses that killing touch. Fleeing into the mountains, struggling with her own grief and confusion, Maeve faces the dawning realization that she will never be able to touch another human being again.

“Weird s**t expert” Ben Walker is surprised to get a call from Alena Boudreau, director of the newly restructured Global Science Research Coalition. There’s an upheaval in the organization and she needs to send someone she can trust to Jericho Falls. Whoever finds Maeve Sinclair first will unravel the mystery of her death touch, and many are willing to kill her for that secret.

Walker’s assignment is to get her off the mountain alive. But as Maeve searches for a hiding place, hunted and growing sicker by the moment, she begins to hear an insidious voice in her head, and the yearning, the need… the hunger to touch another human being continues to grow. When Walker and Maeve meet at last, they will unravel a stunning legacy of death and betrayal, and a malignant secret as old as history.

From Goodreads

Review

Book Content Warnings: alcoholism, drug addiction, mass killing event

This book was a personal reminder that I should always check Goodreads before getting a book, even if I *think* I know what it’s about 😅

I waltzed into this book excited after seeing my library’s summary page, thinking it’d be primarily a thriller with a dash of horror elements thrown in here or there, which would fit perfectly within my reading interests. Reader, I was mistaken. Instead of being a nice blend of genres, I found this book was a little more distributed. Content started out leaning thriller, threw in some science fiction elements, then to my dismay morphed into a terrifying horror the last quarter of the story. Maeve’s infection begins creepy albeit manageable but over time transforms into completely unexpected nightmare fuel. I’m not into horror so this book wasn’t really for me, but I did finish it and rate it 5 stars. Why?

Red Hands has all the elements of a great story, including…

  1. Great writing – Christopher’s writing is expressive and effective, conjuring vivid mental imagery – which…again made the horror bit more poignant but was enjoyable during the other parts.
  2. Good pacing – everything is all set up for contending character goals early in the book. Maeve is running for her life and trying not to kill others, her dad and sister set out desperate to find her safely, White Oak security personnel hired by the bioweapon lab want to capture and study her, and Ben Walker lies somewhere between them all beholden to his government team. There’s the tension of those hunting versus being hunted, and the drama of trying to save someone dangerous who may no longer be in full control of themselves.
  3. Cool concept – a bioweapon / contagion on the loose isn’t anything new, but the way this illness manifests was something I haven’t seen before. It was fascinating to watch the symptoms and progression as Maeve valiantly fought to stave off the disease. The source of the contagion also overlaid a mix of dystopian vibes and government conspiracy.
    1. Note: Since the disease’s progression upon contact was so fast (~40 seconds) it actually didn’t even mentally register on the ‘pandemic’ level, so I personally didn’t have any problem reading this during COVID-19 2021.

Overall Red Hands had stellar execution and I’d happily recommend it to horror fans, or readers who don’t mind a dash of horror in their thriller books. Since I’m not a horror reader I wouldn’t read this again, but I’m still happy I picked this up. This book will stick with me for a while!

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