2 out of 4 stars
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The Hand That Feeds You begins with two murders, a man and his wife killed in their home by an assassin sent by a shadowy organisation called The Network. Away from home,eighteen-year-old son survives the massacre. Several years later, Gabriel, now a college football star, decides he can no longer live without knowing who ordered his parents killed, and why.
The book follows two parallel stories, that of Gabriel as he returns to his street roots and reconnects with loyal friends and that of Marquis, The Network’s principal assassin. Marquis’s terrifying slide off the rails into sociopathy draws him into inevitable conflict with The Director of The Network, even as Gabriel’s investigation leads him in the same direction. When both stories collide, the book comes to an exciting climax not everyone will survive.
The two main characters in the book, Gabriel and Marquis, were such a contrast to each other. Gabriel was young and talented, the world at his feet and a bright future ahead. Taking steps to investigate his parents’ murders leads him into situations where everything is put in jeopardy, but he can’t leave it alone. He reaches out to his old friend Riley, a former footballing team-mate from his school days and now a gang leader dealing drugs. The loyalty shown by Riley to his friend was both surprising and inspiring, and humanised a young black man who many might assume was merely a street thug with no care for anything but money and his next fix.
On the other hand, Marquis was an absolutely terrifying sociopath. It was very apparent that he’d long since crossed the line from assassin to serial killer, getting a kick out of killing whether sanctioned by his bosses or otherwise.
The underlying principles of this story are solid and the characters well-drawn. Events build up logically to an exciting climax and the big reveal of the shadowy mastermind was cleverly foreshadowed without giving anything away until the right moment.
However, this book has some major issues. As a female reader, I was disappointed that the only female character in the book who has any speaking lines, Gabriel’s girlfriend Tia, was treated by him as a sex object who he prized because she had learned good housekeeping from her Filipina mother and liked to clean and cook. This plays into any number of harmful tropes about Asian women, not to mention the way literally every single other woman in the book is treated, most if not all of them appearing only to have sex with one of the ‘bad guys’ and then be killed off gruesomely. I can’t imagine any woman reading this and not finding the way women are portrayed to be degrading at best, especially since Tia is ‘fridged’ halfway through the book and used only as a motivation for Gabriel’s actions thereafter.
Amos Cartell is a black author writing about black characters in a book which definitely fits within the #OwnVoices movement. As such, maybe it’s not a book a white person like me would remotely ‘get’, but it still needs to be well edited with realistic dialogue. Beginning or ending nearly every piece of dialogue with ‘my nig’ doesn’t fit within these parameters, and I found any number of grammatical and punctuation errors which distracted from the story. It needs a solid round of editing to clean up all the issues.
I’m deducting one star for the editing problems, and another for the degrading way all the women in this book are portrayed. It’s a shame, because this really does have a solid plot and an intriguing premise, but I’m afraid I can only award it two out of four stars.
The Hand That Feeds You
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