Book Review: The Hand That Feeds You by AJ Rich
“Morgan's life seems settled - she is completing her thesis on victim psychology and newly engaged to Bennett, a man more possessive than those she has dated in the past, but also more chivalrous and passionate.
But she returns from class one day to find Bennett savagely killed, and her dogs - a Great Pyrenees, and two pit bulls she was fostering - circling the body, covered in blood. Everything she holds dear in life is taken away from her in an instant.
Devastated and traumatised, Morgan tries to locate Bennett's parents to tell them about their son's death. Only then does she begin to discover layer after layer of deceit. Bennett is not the man she thought he was. And she is not the only woman now in immense danger ... “
This is one of those books that landed on my doorstep and unassumingly made its way into my house – until I read the blurb. It was with trepidation though that I started reading due to my extreme love for our four-legged friends and the fact that I'm well aware of the reputation that Pit Bulls have been stereo-typed into worldwide.
Imagine walking into your apartment to find your fiancé laying on the floor in a pool of blood with your dogs circling around him. Imagine those same dogs you have loved unconditionally being given a life sentence. Then, imagine that everything you thought you knew about your fiancé was a lie!
This is that story – a story revolving around the grisly murder of Morgan’s fiancé, Bennet, and her personal quest to find out exactly what happened while at the same time trying to prove the innocence of her beloved pets who have been confiscated as evidence in Bennet's demise.
As we shadow Morgan in her quest to uncover the lies that she has come to believe as truth, we are thrust into a darker world of betrayal, obsession, murder and animal welfare with a smart villain at its heart. While I did guess quite early on who it was, this didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the book because along with the likeable character of Morgan, AJ Rich created a compelling mystery – one which kept me turning the pages to discover the why and, of course, how it was all going to end. By the time I got to the climax, I was horrified as to how it was all unfolding … although, I think Morgan may have been even more shocked to realise that what she’d been trying to prove through her thesis turned everything she believed on its head!
To be quite honest, I thought I had read everything that the crime fiction genre had to offer me and then, along comes AJ Rich, the writing duo of Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment, a collaboration which began when friend and fellow writer Katherine Russell Rich passed away from breast cancer leaving behind an unfinished manuscript, the story of which was based on circumstances surrounding a man she had met online – one who it seems had deceived her too!
A sucker for a good psychological thriller, I especially enjoy those with a well plotted story, refreshing premise, creepy undertones, emotional torment and more than one suspect. This one satisfied those elements in spades.
Aptly titled because of the observations made in respect of domestic animals, it’s also the underlying theory of pathological altruism that make for a disturbing albeit timely read that raises questions regarding our online interactions - do you really know the people you are conversing with?
I wish to thank Simon & Schuster for providing me with a hard copy for review.
About the Author
Jill Ciment is the author of Small Claims, a collection of short stories and novellas; The Law of Falling Bodies, Teeth of the Dog, The Tattoo Artist, Heroic Measures, and Act of God, novels; and Half a Life, a memoir. She lives in Gainesville, Florida, and Brooklyn, New York.