Red – Jack Ketchum

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Avery is a 67 year old veteran of the Korean War and a widow. Red is his dog and faithful companion. His wife bought him when he was a puppy for Avery and is one of the last links to his deceased wife. While fishing in a rural Maine stream one afternoon, he’s confronted by three spoiled punk teenagers with a shotgun. In an attempt to rob Avery, they are enraged to learn he only has a few dollars in his wallet all the way back in his parked truck. They then turn the shotgun on the dog instead. As they walk away laughing for murdering his dog, Avery is distraught at this senseless act of violence. He seeks out redemption. What he finds is that no one is able to help him. Not the police. Not his lawyer. Not the press. A dog is considered property, not a life, and Avery is on his own. In a story of revenge that pits the good old boy with good old fashioned values against a rich, shameless father that protects his spoiled punk kids with his bank account and connections in high places, you really feel for Avery. His losses from the past and present provide a very sympathetic underdog that is only trying to get the family to own up to what they’ve done and make things right. Your heart bleeds as you see how the deck is continually stacked against him.

This was my first Ketchum story and it’s hard not to think of Stephen King’s work when you’re reading a macabre story set in rural Maine. Ketchum, however, has his own style of delivery that is descriptive while not attempting to be a carbon copy of Maine’s more famous horror author. There were a couple of instances in the story where descriptions were muddled, but it wasn’t enough to make the tale less enjoyable. Anyone that has soft heart for a loyal canine will have their blood pressure rise 40 points after the first chapter.

4 out of 5 stars

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