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BOOK REVIEW: The Hand That Feeds You by A. J. Rich

| 8 August 2015 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: The Hand That Feeds You by A. J. Rich

Simon & Schuster
July 2015
Paperback, $29.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

5/10

9781471148576

This book was an incredibly quick, engrossing read.

“I saw the pig hearts,” I said, as neutrally and calmly as one can say I saw the pig hearts.

It dealt with forensic psychology, specifically that of sociopaths, and was made all the more fascinating by the real world facts dropped in there.

Sociopaths make up 4 percent of the population, 12 million Americans. They are not necessarily raging criminals: most of them are charming, intelligent, and know how to mimic concern, and even love. But they lack conscience, do not feel empathy, and feel neither guilt nor shame for their behaviour. They are also expert manipulators. During childhood and adolescence, 9 percent of the sociopath population tortures or kills animals.

So why the low rating?

Well, while this is an easy book to lose yourself in, and while it appealed to this wannabe forensic investigator who’s fascinated by the psychology of serial killers, sociopaths and so on, it left a lot to be desired.

There was an awful lot of telling, which left the reader without any real emotional investment, the characters were one-dimensional and predictable, and the story came complete with a twist that wasn’t. At least not for this reader.

But the stupidity of the main character would have to be the biggest pitfall of this novel. Morgan, who is supposedly doing a PhD in the study of people, is so oblivious to the goings on around her, not to mention her own actions, that it’s almost laughable.

“Are you saying I’m the kind of woman I study?”
“At the risk of sounding like a Freudian, do you think you are?”
I felt snappish, but sat quietly for a moment. Then something occurred to me. The issue was not or, it was and. I was this way and that way. I was a woman who studied victimology, and I was a woman whose actions had contributed to being victimized. Didn’t this duality make us human? And wasn’t it less damning to think of myself as both, instead of just the one?

Now, either Morgan has just (approaching page 200 in this 273 page novel) realised that people are dynamic, after studying their psychology for years, or she thought herself above most people; more decisive, more in the know, and surely never a victim. Either way, this doesn’t endear her to her readers.

Further to the victim side of things, Morgan grew up with a manic depressive father, discovered her fiancée was a sociopath, was raped when she was younger, has multiple dating site accounts in the name of “research”, goes to the houses of strange men she meets online, and doesn’t for one second think that she’s putting herself in harm’s way… until someone else points it out to her.

 

Morgan fancies herself a hero of dogs, fostering two rescued pit bulls, and loving them alongside the Great Pyrenees she’s raised from a puppy. But, with the exception of her trips to the US Virgin Islands to save dogs who live off leftover food, she doesn’t seem like like she has much faith in dogs at all.

When she finds her fiancée dead on the bed, the rest of him separated from one of his legs, the skin removed from both hands, she locks herself in the bathroom and calls 911. She’s terrified of what her dogs have done, and the reader could forgive her for reacting in this way, when faced with that sight. The biggest problem with Morgan’s relationship with her dogs, however, comes after the fact, when she is standoffish toward the pit bulls. She never really blames Cloud (the Pyrenees), but she really doesn’t seem as stressed as this reviewer would be if her own dog were locked up and accused of murder. This harkens back to the lack of emotion throughout the novel, not just Morgan’s lack of connection to the dogs and the dogs’ lack of personality.

 

When Morgan finds a clue suggesting her dogs were not involved in Bennett’s murder, far too late in the book, her first thought is “how could the police miss that? Why didn’t they follow that lead?” The problem, here, is that it’s the kind of clue only someone who lived in that apartment would notice was out of place.

This is the last in a long line of stupid assumptions she makes about the police, while she switches from “Why won’t they listen to what I’m telling them and see the connection?” to “If the police say this is the case, it must be true.” and back again.

 

There were a lot of conveniences and contradictions in this book, a fair few instances of the main character being unable to see the signs due to shock or obliviousness, and a lot of flat characters.

But, for all that, it was a quick and easy read.

This story never suffered a dull moment, though it did grow more and more predictable as it went on. This reviewer did stay up late and forgo other entertainment in order to finish the novel, but it could have been better.

 

Read this if you like psychological facts, and if you’re looking for an easy thriller, one that won’t bend your brain.

Just don’t come at the character with too much common sense, or you might find the whole lot falling apart.

 

 

Stephanie O’Connell

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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