Monday, April 25, 2011

IN BRIEF: The Haunting Hand - W. Adolphe Roberts

A weird menace story that promises great things but delivers little. Similar in style to a poor juvenile mystery complete with spunky heroine and tag-along boyfriend. The only really interesting thing is the background on the silent film industry in Astoria, Queens.  All of the characters are involved in making a movie called “Toreador of Love.”

A lot of the story hinges on a very brief incident – a spectral hand that appears from beneath the heroine’s bed and just as strangely vanishes.  I was astonished that the writer could get so much mileage out of a mere incident that takes up about three paragraphs.  There is a subplot with two feuding actresses vying for the attentions of the handsome young man.  Their bitchy verbal cat fights are worth a few laughs.  But the mystery and the crime story?  Weak and forgettable.

Later in the book a mummified arm is found beneath the floorboards of the room and a maid with one arm surfaces. The arm presumably was hers. Why was it buried? Who was playing puppet show with the mummified limb? Why? There are several other mysterious questions the reader may ask as well.  None of the answers are worth discovering.

Alfred Dorrington’s The Radium Terrors has the same basic storyline.  And without the hand manifestation and the amputated housemaid it is a far better book.

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