PUBLISHER: Hammer Books
RELEASE DATE: 6th Aug 2012
FORMAT: Paperback, 288 pages
A deeply unsettling tale of manipulation and terror. A new, modern-day novelisation of the classic Hammer film, Hands of the Ripper. He is raising the poker again and Anna bites her lower lip so hard she chokes a little in the blood that runs down her throat… On a cold, wet night recently widowed psychology lecturer John Pritchard visits spiritualist Aida Golding with his son. Although wary something has driven him here. And he is drawn to a troubled young woman who is trying to contact her child. Something about her intrigues him and despite his doubts he continues to attend meetings.
One night at an intimate séance in Aida’s house the lights go out and one of the group is brutally murdered. John has his suspicions but he can’t prove anything. He senses that Aida has some hold over the girl and he offers her a place of refuge in his home. But the past haunts Anna in the most chilling of ways. And all too soon John realises he’s made a terrible mistake. (Goodreads)
HANDS OF THE RIPPER by Guy Adams is a horror book based on a film from Hammer that features horrific memories of the past plaguing the present.
John Pritchard is a university lecturer in the subject of psychology whose wife passed away recently, and he is struggling to cope with his grief. He sometimes sees her around the house and is toying with the idea of visiting a medium, but has never really believed that it is possible to contact the other side.
Taking the plunge, he decides to visit renowned medium, Aida Golding, who claims to have received contact from John’s wife. The rest of the audience are enthralled by her act, but John merely goes along with it and believes that she is faking the information she reveals. However, there is still a part of him that hopes it is real and so he agrees to a private meeting with Aida for a more personal conversation with his wife.
It is at this more intimate meeting with the medium that John actually hears his wife’s voice for himself, along with hearing the voices of the other guests’ deceased contacts. Among the voices heard is that of Douglas Reece, the notorious East End Ripper who makes contact with the priest that knew him before the murders. When one of their number is then murdered, events take a darker turn as they question whether the ripper’s spirit could have killed again.
At both of these séances, John comes across Sandy, a woman who has supposedly lost her baby and receives messages from her dead child. All is not as it appears and it becomes clear that Aida has a hold over her that makes her keep returning to the medium’s side. Is there something more sinister in their relationship or is John reading too much into it?
We don’t learn much about John throughout this book, which I was a little disappointed about as there could have been a lot more character development. He is obviously still grieving for his wife, and some of his mixed feelings of grief are explored, particularly in relation to Sandy as it is clear that he is drawn to her. However, his role didn’t seem to be that effectual, as he offers his aid to the girl but isn’t really involved in discovering the cause of the murders and is told the culprit by someone else.
In terms of the plot, I did like how there was such a mix of characters present at the private séance, and it was like they all represented a different view of mediums – from the sceptics to the avid believers. When they each start to be picked off one by one the fear rises, and it becomes clear that they need to work together to find the murderer before it’s too late. I didn’t particularly like how the writer used multiple perspectives in this book, as the views of so many characters are given and I would have preferred just seeing through the eyes of a few so their characters could be developed more. I also felt that the title of the book was misleading, as there was very little information given about the ‘ripper’, and this was one of the elements I was most looking forward to reading about.
Overall I liked the premise of this book, and was intrigued as to how the murder could have happened and whether the spirit of the ripper was really involved. I was a little disappointed with the ending though, as I thought it had become a little too supernatural and there were still some unexplained elements. Having not seen the original Hammer film there were probably some elements of the book I couldn’t appreciate as much as someone who has, but as a new reader I didn’t connect with the characters even though I liked the horror that they are put through.
This book preys on the horror of the mind, questioning what people could be capable of if possessed by spirits. I was disappointed by the lack of character development, but liked how this book preys on the weaknesses of those who are suffering from grief, revealing the darker side of mediums. The connection to the ripper was a little tenuous, and I felt this could have been stronger, but overall it was an okay horror novel.
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