Double act author A J Rich (Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment) build on themes introduced in the classic 18th-century French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, also known as Dangerous Liaisons. I’ve seen the 1988 film version and the play – both are fascinating – so I had high hopes for The Hand That Feeds You. Here’s 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 …
A story of manipulation, The Hand that Feeds You is an interesting take on victim behaviour, sociopathy and psychopathy. Sound disturbing? The opening chapters certainly are – the murder scene is grisly and there’s more of that to come. Add in the psychological chill factor of a sociopath – or is he a psychopath? – looking for particular women to manipulate and it gets even more disturbing. Morgan soon finds that while she’s studying the behaviour of victims, some of her own behaviour has victim traits, making her a candidate for ruthless people to exploit. Ultimately, it all comes down to the question of whether Bennett is a sociopath or psychopath … and if he’s not the latter, who is? Is there another hand feeding him, so to speak?
There’s a lot of interesting content here, particularly for those interested in psychology. It does come across as a little dry and academic at times, however. While I found the content interesting, what I didn’t get was a “feeling” about what I was reading. It came across as removed, or distant. I’d have liked more emotion, particularly as Morgan’s situation changes from that of student-observer to a student of life through her traumatic experiences. As a thriller, the elements are mostly there, with plenty of twists (although I figured out the big secret fairly early – the clues were there). It just left me feeling a bit cold.
Available from good bookstores (RRP $19.99). My copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.