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Monday, 18 April 2016

‘The Hand that Feeds You’ by A J Rich

Published by Simon & Schuster,
2 July 2015.
ISBN: 978 1 47114 856 9 (PB)

We’re all capable of being taken in by a con artist, especially one who specializes in romance; and of fooling ourselves that we’re the different one, the one who really means something.

But what if the person being taken in is a psychologist, and the con is the result of an experiment which the conman is supposed to be a subject of?

And what if the conman finishes up dead, apparently savaged by the psychologist’s own dogs – and only then turns out not to be who or what he claimed?

This is the premise of this convoluted psychological thriller, written by two established authors working in tandem, as a tribute to a friend who was similarly conned in real life.

Morgan Prager sets out to unearth the truth about the fiancé she knew as Bennett, when his death reveals that she didn’t know him at all. Not only does the address he gave her not exist; he was also engaged to at least three other women, and has been conducting a double, treble or even quadruple life – and could have been a murderer.

One of her beloved dogs is dead; the others are condemned to death or permanent incarceration, and Morgan herself is drawn deeper and deeper into a web of deceit. The only people she can trust are her brother Steven, his lawyer friend McKenzie and Billee, a volunteer at the dog sanctuary which houses Cloud and George, her two remaining dogs. Or can she trust even them?

Morgan is a classic unreliable narrator; her behaviour becomes more and more erratic, and eventually she doesn’t even trust herself – until the truth which has been staring her in the face can no longer be ignored. The book’s main strength is the underlying atmosphere: danger, menace and deception seem to lurk round every corner, and Morgan seems incapable of avoiding them.

There is a certain amount of inevitability about the ending. I spotted the villain of the piece quite a while before Morgan did, though to some extent that goes with the territory, since she is world-class at fooling herself. It’s a gripping read, if a little wordy in places, and the final take-down is satisfyingly tense.

And dog lovers will be glad to know that justice is done by the mutts.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Amy Hempel is the author of four collections of stories. She lives in New York.
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.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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