We meet young Ren in St. Anthony's Orphanage in 19th Century New England. His left hand had been cut off before he was left at the orphanage and Ren doesn't know why. One day, a man named Benjamin Nab visits Ren at the orphanage and tells him that he is his long-lost brother and that he has been searching for Ren for many years. He tells Ren that his family was attacked by Indians and his mother accidentally cut off his hand in trying to defend her family. Benjamin tells Ren that he saved him from the Indians and left him with strangers while he went to seek revenge for their parents. Ren is thrilled by the news, but of course, Nab's story turns out to be a complete fabrication, and just one of several versions that Ren will hear.
Nab adopts Ren out of the orphanage and tells him that he has to forget the rules he was taught in order to survive in the world. Together, they travel from town to town playing various con games on unsuspecting victims who glance away when Ren shows his missing hand. Eventually, the start robbing graves - first for the treasures they hold and later to sell the bodies for medical experiments.
Yes, its very Oliver Twist-like, but with a very dark underpinning of murders and graveyards. Through it all, and despite the wicked tricks he pulls, we keep finding some goodness in Nab. And Ren is always there to keep on the trail of his parents, and to discover where he fits in the world. It's a rich tale of dark times when the fight for survival was always a challenge for those without means.
Rainbo Electronic Reviews published this review in our September, 2008 issue.
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