Short, sharp, brutal, bloody, uncompromisingly dark noir storytelling. If you can handle it, you’ll love it, not for the faint of heart though.
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Cosy crime, this is not. Be warned up front, Red Hands is a pitch black descent into madness. This isn’t easy reading, despite what its short length may suggest, don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise. Okay, warnings over, if you’re still here you’re in for a noir treat Ariana’s work is what indie presses exist for, there is no chance at all of this ever being published in the mainstream and if that were true, noir fans would be the poorer for it.
Our story is told mostly from the point of view of Garrison, a character we get to know deeply, and to start to understand what drives him. His cold brutality, his violent urges, his lack of self control, his lack of guilt. Garrison is the definition of a psychopath. In a similar vein to the classic Drive by James Sallis, the narrative is not structured chronologically and there are no chapter titles to guide you. I get the feeling this is a deliberate move, for me it enhances the feeling of chaos that Garrison is experiencing throughout. You certainly need to be paying attention to follow the plot, Ariana’s style demands that you engage with the story that’s being told if you want to keep up.
I’ve already mentioned that this is a brutal story, the depictions of violence are graphic but with a cold detachment, reflective of Garrisons state of mind throughout. Ariana plays on the most primal of our fears to create tension, not feeling safe at home, fearing for your life, feeling out of control. This tension runs throughout the story, sometimes in the interplay between characters and sometimes in the more ‘horror movie’ sense of the word.
All in this is an excellent novella, written with a clear flair for and love of the noir genre and with a satisfying sting in the tail as we crescendo to a dramatic ending.