Book review: The Hand That Feeds You by AJ Rich

Monday, July 13, 2015 Permalink

AJ Rich is the pseudonym of Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment. Both have books under their belts but this is their first published collaboration*.

The blurb

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.

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My thoughts

I enjoyed this first novel by the Hempel / Ciment collaboration. It’s got a strong psychological thriller bent and if I was less lazy I’d do some research into the authors’ backgrounds as I wonder if either have a background in psychology (or just a penchant for the underlying theory).

Given Morgan’s studies she’s mortified she’s been ‘played’ as she’s supposed to be able to recognise the players. But she fails… more than once. As well as her thesis topic, we’re privy to Morgan’s discussions with her therapist: their analysis of Bennett’s behaviour; Morgan’s own risk-taking behaviour; and the other women who’ve been / are involved with the man Morgan knew as Bennett and who—incidentally—are dropping like flies.

I did kinda guess the ‘whodunnit’ fairly early on in this novel but the why and how were a nice surprise. And even when we know the ‘who’ readers are kept on our toes because the villain in question is smarter than Morgan expects them to be.

Morgan’s a well-developed, likeable and complex character and there’s a strong support cast.

Overall the novel wasn’t entirely what I was expecting and I’m not sure why other than a sense that perhaps there were a few untapped moments which could have transformed this from a good book into a great book.

My only tangible criticism is that the very last part of the book was wrapped up a little too quickly. The pace was off and we were offered a summary of sorts. We’d journeyed alongside Morgan for 266 pages and for things to be wrapped up in less than two (2) pages was a tad frustrating and huge anticlimax for me.

Nevertheless this was a book I enjoyed and I look forward to more from these collaborators.

The Hand That Feeds You by AJ Rich was published by Simon & Schuster in Australia and available from 2 July 2015.

I received a copy from the publisher for review purposes.

Buy now from Booktopia (Australia) or Amazon (International)

*I should note there’s mention of a 2014 novel by ‘AJ Rich’ but I’m not entirely sure if it was published.

Update - the publisher brought this article to my attention. I'd wondered about the dedication! 
8 Comments
  • Stormi D Johnson
    July 13, 2015

    Sounds like another interesting read. 🙂

    • Debbish
      July 13, 2015

      It is / was Stormi. So many books. So much reading!!!!

  • Jess
    July 13, 2015

    Just saw this at the bookstore and thought I would check your review before I bought it. End sounds a little disappointing!

    • Debbish
      July 13, 2015

      Mostly it’s good but just wraps up too quickly for me. I hadn’t realised when I read it that the authors did it for a friend of theirs who went through this kind of experience.

  • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard
    July 14, 2015

    I’m not generally a reader of psychological thrillers (or of books where the MC’s significant other turns out to be horrible) but this sounds well done – except that too-quick ending, which would annoy the heck out of me.

    • Debbish
      July 14, 2015

      Yes it was problematic but – in retrospect – I like that the two authors wrote this book in honour of their friend.

  • kimbacaffeinate
    July 15, 2015

    You have me curious, and I would probably solve this first. I know you said it wrapped up too quickly, but did it sound plausible?

    • Debbish
      July 15, 2015

      Yes it was plausible. I did suspect who it was but didn’t get the clues as to why though in retrospect there is something obvious. (But perhaps not at the time cos I wasn’t expecting it!)

I'd love to hear your thoughts