The story: An old man named Ludlow encounters three bored teenage boys while on a fishing trip with his longtime canine companion Red. One of the teens kills Red with a shotgun for no reason, sparking Ludlow to seek justice at any cost.
Opening line: ‘The old man looked at the dog looking at him, watching his hands as they threaded the hook through the brown plastic worm to its bright orange tail, the old dog lying on the riverbank in a patch of late afternoon sunlight filtering through the trees.’
The review: ‘Red’ is a horror novel about a man’s quest for redemption after his dog is senselessly murdered by a rich teen named Daniel who has no respect for the law.
Ludlow is a reclusive widower from a time and place when life and justice were simpler. The generation gap between Ludlow and Daniel – and even the teen’s father – is a major theme. They’re from different worlds with different senses of right and wrong.
When Daniel shoots Red, the tragedy of the dog’s death is only matched by Ludlow’s sense of helplessness in the face of random violence. The old man just watched his best friend die, and it breaks his heart.
Ludlow, like many of his generation, takes the decent, honorable route by going to Daniel’s father first to talk man-to-man. When that doesn’t succeed, he appeals to the law, which isn’t interested in the case.
The stubborn Ludlow then tells his story on the local television news, a decision that ignites a blood feud of escalating violence.
A key scene in the book describes the first meeting between Ludlow and Daniel’s father, a businessman named McCormack. By the end of the conversation, Ludlow realizes that McCormack has an ulterior motive for meeting with him.
‘You had to have some reason,’ Ludlow tells McCormack. ‘I guess you’re different from your boy that way. Danny doesn’t need one.’
‘Red’ is not only riveting, it’s relevant today amid media reports of innocent bystanders killed in cold blood by teens who, like Daniel, didn’t need a reason.