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Mr. Hands by Gary A. Braunbeck

Mr. Hands (edition 2007)

by Gary A. Braunbeck

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1205143,760 (3.98)6
Title:Mr. Hands
Authors:Gary A. Braunbeck
Info:Leisure (2007), Mass Market Paperback, 354 pages
Collections:Your library

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Mr. Hands by Gary A. Braunbeck



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Showing 5 of 5
It’s a quiet night at The Hangman’s Tavern just outside Cedar Hill, Ohio — that is until a disheveled stranger shows up and begins to tell the patrons a story, one that begins: “His full name was Ronald James Williamson, and he killed his first child when he was still a child himself …”

The stranger’s tale includes a little girl named Sarah Thompson, her mother Lucy, and how a tragedy would, in a way, bring all three of them together and result in the birth of a creature of myth, a Golem of vengeance, called Mr. Hands.

Here for the first time is the author’s preferred text of the third novel in the Cedar Hill Series, including new and expanded scenes. Also included is Braunbeck’s International Horror Guild Award-winning novella, Kiss of the Mudman. ( )
  JournalStone | Aug 6, 2016 |
I've owned this one years; finally read during a buddy/group read with Horror Aficiandos group.

It's been years since I've dived into a world weaved by Braunbeck - I remember him as serious, sobering, and depressing. I also remember him as creative with his plot structure, hard to put down, and good with blending dark-fantasy horror. This book fits my memory of his others - a complex story that isn't merely about a killer figurine as I figured. In fact, the back cover is so vague based on what the story is really about (who writes these lazy blurbs?)

I won't fill review space laying out all the plot here, I'll let you find out yourself if you read this one, but let's just say there are different structures that tie together about midway through. Not really a straight protagonist to follow, this one has grey characters who are bordering on black most of the way through. Tragedy forms their motivations and and downfall, for they're tainted by cruelties of the world that aren't fun to read about. Child abuse, child neglect and abandonment, isolation in grief, all sobering stuff. Mr. Hands makes the point of getting a sort of vigilante justice that goes upside down on the misled crusaders.

Pacing stays focused and the story never grows boring. I especially liked the bar where certain characters gather - the shelf with the objects that all hold stories was a nice touch. I got a small fairy tale vibe from this story, from Mr Hands and the man at the carnival, to childlike wishes for very adult situations, to mystical ways of solving things. Bleak but interesting. Braunbeck writes well and spends plenty of time in the characters heads with effective inner monologue, even if sometimes the characters can seem a little straight-forward and simple in their thought processes.

It's certainly not a tale that exists to use shock value, violence for violence sake, and senseless gore. It's an emotional punch wrapped around an intriguing story, not a simple horror tale, but a sobering one of the sad realities of the world of which there is no right or wrong solution. ( )
  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
I grabbed this book merely because I found the cover to be deliciously schlocky and silly looking. The back description didn't alter that impression much. But since it was fairly inexpensive and I have an inexplicable taste for schlock and silliness on occasion, I figured "Ah, what the hell," and snagged it.

Best decision of the year, methinks.

Mr. Hands is a fairly basic story at heart; A young man named Ronnie is able to sense the pain and suffering of others and takes it upon himself to prevent that pain... generally by snuffing the life out of the person. Often children. Along the course of his "mission of mercy," he comes across a young woman named Lucy. Though the two don't know it at the time, their fates are going to be intimately intertwined. When, years later, Lucy looses a daughter, her grief allows her to call up "Mr. Hands," a vengeance-minded golem made of mud, blood, bone and the spirits of numerous children... as well as their killer. Drunk on the power she now wields, to punish the monsters who would hurt or kill children, Lucy gets herself into quite a bit of trouble...

I know. Still sounds schlocky and silly, doesn't it? And it kind of is. The technical aspect of the writing isn't anything to shout about either; one memorable run-on sentence continues for nearly 4 pages. Why, then, do I give it such a high score?

Because Braunbeck knows his stuff. He knows how to shove his fist in your guts and twist about, finding just the right things to squeeze. He can make you squirm, he can make you want to gag, he can make you laugh, cry, or anything else he wants, when he wants. Best of all, he can make you care. Braunbeck manages to take "Uncle Ronnie" - an individual who believes he's on a mission from God to take the lives of children in pain, who occasionally murders the parents and caretakers who inflicted that pain (in properly gruesome fashion), who often pictures his victims surrounding him in angelic garb, singing his praises - and make him understandable, sympathetic and even heroic, in his way. Ronnie is almost a likable person, his motives are actually pure and his logic is presented in such a way that the reader can't help but feel sorry for him... and perhaps even understand what drives him to behave as he does.

In contrast, while the reader is made to care about Lucy at the start, to share in her triumphs and feel the crushing weight of her grief when it all comes tumbling down, he paints her descent into madness and vengeance so believably that many readers will likely be calling for her head - or at the very least want to check her into the nearest mental ward. Once things start going really wrong, it becomes a case of who to root for... Mr. Hands or Lucy. The monster, or the monster-maker.

As an extra added bonus, we are also treated to Kiss of the Mudman a novella that I've heard a lot of people compare to Stephen King's You Know They've Got a Hell of a Band..., but which I honestly think has more in common with N. The unreal sneaking up on the real, held at bay - or aided in their insane endeavors by - simple, normal, everyday coincidences that add up in just the right - or wrong - way.

What starts as a normal night of "Popsicle Patrol" for the local homeless shelter employees quickly takes a turn for the odd when everyone they're picking up turns out to be dead rock stars. It gets weirder from there. While I wouldn't rank it as highly as Mr. Hands proper in terms of content, it's at least a solid 3.5 stars, and comes as additional icing on the cake of an already superb book.

All in all, I'd give it 4.5 (since GoodReads doesn't let me do fractions.) The only reason I can't give it a 5 is the technical aspects... normally I would likely dock it more for that - I'm somewhat of a stickler for such things - but I really do believe the content is just that good. ( )
  KaineAndrews | Apr 15, 2013 |
Rating: 4 of 5

Mr. Hands was my first experience with Braunbeck, and I wasn't disappointed.

My favorite aspect was the old-fashioned feel of a mysterious stranger spinnin' his yarn 'round the fire (or, in this case, a bar) whilst the "normal" folks listen and figure out whether he's dangerous, in trouble, or just full of it. The novel's structure was integral to its success; had the story been told in a linear style, I'm not sure it would've been quite as exciting or suspenseful.

While neither the premise nor the delivery were original, I enjoyed both very much and never thought, "I've heard this one before." When I arrived at page 269, I didn't want the story to end.

More than entertainment, this one will make you think if you let it.

Side note: I did not read the novella, "Kiss of the Mudman," included in this edition.

Disclaimer: One aspect that may disturb some readers: the entire story involved the pain and suffering of children at the hands of their parents or other adults. So there's graphic violence, but most was implied. ( )
  flying_monkeys | Apr 14, 2013 |
Interesting yet far fetched book. Enjoyable read. ( )
  Kendall08 | Dec 31, 2007 |
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The doll is odd, carved out of wood, with long arms and huge hands. Little Sarah named it Mr. Hands and loved the doll until the day she was murdered. Now her mother, Lucy, discovers something amazing about Sarah’s doll—it allows her to control another Mr. Hands. This Mr. Hands is a living, terrifying being with horrendous power. At Lucy’s command he will do whatever she tells him—even kill. This is Lucy’s chance to see justice is done. She decides who will live and who will suffer a horrible death, and Mr. Hands carries out the sentences without mercy. But once Mr. Hands is unleashed, will anyone be able to stop him?
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