Hands of Evil, Just Another Evil Sign of the Times – A Review

BOOK | FICTION | THRILLER
HANDS OF EVIL
by Melissa Barker-Simpson
RATING: ★ ★ ★

Hands of Evil by Ms Melissa Barker-SimpsonIt seems that in this supposed enlightened day and age in which we live that there wouldn’t be, at least there certainly shouldn’t be, so much preventable human tragedy happening as frequently as it does. On any given day at any given time you can turn on or click to any given news outlet and find tragedy in the form of human disregard toward other humans, a disregard which so frequently takes the form of hate and abuse and murder. It’s just so sad. In the States we are going through a horrible and tragic convulsion of unarmed black boys and men being gunned downed by our well-armed and very powerful and legally well-protected protectors of the state. Right alongside that, we’ve been having a steady stream of high-profile reporting of an equally egregious and tragic crime; a crime most often committed inexplicably by a husband or a boyfriend or a date; a crime seemingly endemic to society and without a cure in sight; a crime of abuse and sexual assault toward women.

And it this challenging and heartbreaking topic of abuse and sexual assault toward women that author Melissa Barker-Simpson takes on with her novel, Hands of Evil.

Overall, this story was a mostly enjoyable read, especially in the context of how it brings to light strong women who have gained and earned their strength through their own tragic travails and survival of abuse. Grace, whom I regard as the story’s protagonist (though it seems Barker-Simpson touts JJ, a stoic and manly former military special forces operator and now civilian close protection officer as the lead, as indicated by both her submission for this exercise, as well as her synopsis on the book’s back cover), sets a fine example of a strong female character, which is definitely needed in times such as now.

However, as far as being a thriller, it simply isn’t. I list it as a thriller only because that is how it was pitched to me and that is how it appears to be as written in the book’s back cover synopsis. However, other than at the beginning and the ending, and a brief moment or two spattered throughout, there isn’t much mystery or suspense, let alone thrills. The killer, for whose crimes the story is named, is not developed and his role in the story comes to a predictable conclusion long before the book ends. To me, the killer seems more to be an afterthought. The real bad guy of the story, and a character the author did a good job of developing, is Grace’s former husband. It is he who adds what little suspense and mystery there is to the story.

What this story really is is a romance novel. And, while I’m no romance novel expert, Barker-Simpson does a very good job at illustrating all the contortions and misgivings and joy and sadness that human relationships of love and hate and envy and sex entail. JJ, who has his own scars as a result of abuse, abuse inflicted not to him but to someone he loves, and Grace, who is in the middle of her own recovery from abuse, are drawn together by the actions of the killer (apparently his primary and what seems to be sole purpose in the story) and must find a way to overcome all the challenges before them for their relationship to have a chance. Now, as someone who came into the story expecting a thriller, one romance (which included not one but two sex scenes for those of you who like reading those) would have been more than enough; however, we also are given the lesser developed relationship pangs and pains of two secondary characters.

As it is, I suppose a major take-away from this review is: if you’re looking for a thriller this isn’t it; if you’re looking for a romance novel, it just may be it. And even though the story is not what I expected or hoped it to be, it succeeds most in what it needs to be, and that is as an example of a contemporary female author writing about and paying tribute to strong, contemporary women by showing them surviving and thriving in an environment often hostile and dangerous toward their very existence. An environment that is very real and very present to far too many women throughout this often petulant and perplexing planet of ours. And that example set by Melissa Barker-Simpson and her character Grace, without a doubt, is what needs to be taken away mostly from this review.

So here’s the plan, Stan*…

The Indie Author Book Selection & Review plan, that is.

1. My review of HANDS OF EVIL by Melissa Barker-Simpson, the IABS&R Volume 1 selection, will be published at 8:00PM** Friday, December 5, 2014.

2. Submissions for IABS&R Volume 2 will close upon publication of the HANDS OF EVIL review.

3. IABS&R Volume 2 selection will be published at 8:00PM** Monday, December 8, 2014.

4. I will loudly and proudly sing Hark the Heralds Angels Sing and Joy to the World (no, no…the Christmas song, not the Three Dog Night song!) immediately thereafter in celebration of my selection.

Which reminds me, because I know you’ve been anxiously awaiting this announcement:

The playing and singing of Christmas Music is now authorized and strongly condoned in all participating households both near and far henceforth and hereafter until 11:59PM**, Wednesday, December 31, 2014, upon which all Christmas Music playing and singing will cease until hereby authorized once again by me.

That is all.

Oh wait…if you have a book you would like to be read and reviewed here, at Amazon, and at Goodreads, I’m your man***. So get your submission in pronto.

That is all.

Dang it! I forgot to mention that I strongly urge everyone to please visit the IABS&R Volume 2 submissions that we already have and vote for your favorite(s) with a “Like.”

That is all.

Ah…S#!+!! One more thing… And don’t forget about the Relating to Humans feature. Submissions are always open for that. Please please please consider sharing some of your awesomeness with us.

Okay…

For real now…

That is all.

No, seriously…

 

*non-gender specific

**Eastern Standard Time (you know, New York City time)

***gender specific

Melissa Barker-Simpson: Author of HANDS OF EVIL – Guest Post (A team is born)

Author Melissa Barker-Simpson
Author Melissa Barker-Simpson
Kurt kindly allowed me to hi-jack a little blog space to share my story – or at least a chapter or two. I’m sure by now you’re aware my novel, Hands of Evil, is the inaugural review in the new Indie Author Book Selection and Review feature (we really must help out with a new title!). Kurt’s Pick, The Review Challenge…something!

As you’ll be hearing more about the book (or certainly reading about it), I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself and give you a little background on the novel itself. I feel I should add a disclaimer at this point, because I talk about my characters in a very real sense. It’s how I see them – all the jokes about authors are based on truth; we do hear voices in our head and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ve been writing since I could first craft a sentence and it has remained my one true passion. That isn’t to say I don’t have others, but writing is a big part of who I am. I can’t put a number on the short stories I’ve penned over the years, most of them aren’t worth reading, but they helped me hone the craft and continue to do so. We never stop learning and why would we want to?

Hands of Evil is probably my favourite of the Morgan & Fairchild series (though it’s only the second!). About fifteen years ago a character began to develop in my mind; a protector. His very essence is that of a soldier and he dogged me relentlessly. His name is Brad Morgan and I guess you could say he is to blame for my obsession with all things military.

Hands of Evil by Ms Melissa Barker-Simpson

When I did create a world for him to conquer, although I saw value in the end result, it wasn’t everything I expected it to be. At the time I had a young family and writing took a back seat for a while. That’s not to say Brad left me alone! He remained stoic and determined, waiting patiently for me to flesh out his adventure and commit to sharing it with the world.

My brother, whom I adore, enlisted in the Army around the time I wrote the book and we talked regularly about his own experiences. I loved listening to him describe his life in the armed forces. The more I listened, the more I began to picture the sense of family in his squad – the unity. It was a connection I hadn’t considered and I knew instinctively it was the element missing from Brad’s story. He didn’t have his family.

I’m not a planner, I never have been. I give the power to my characters and allow them to tell the story. Then, when it’s done, I go back and use every tool in my arsenal to whip it into shape; plugging those plot holes and polishing the heart of the tale. A fellow writer once taught me the benefit of giving our characters a voice, and so I wrote a piece of free-form fiction, in which I allowed Brad to talk about his team.

Melissa Barker-Simpson Website
Visit with Mel at her website mbarkersimpson.wordpress.com

He introduced me to Kelvin Fairchild, his best friend and co-founder of Morgan and Fairchild. Almost immediately, Susannah McElvogue piped up; the undisputed leader of the group. She hasn’t quit since. I retold the original story, adding Brad’s team and Sins of the Father was born. It was never meant to be a series, and yet I couldn’t walk away from them. As soon as I came to the end of the novel, Brad faded into the background and another member of the team stepped up to the plate (I know, I’m mixing my metaphors!).

I’ve always had a soft spot for Jonathan Jukes (JJ). He takes far too much responsibility on his shoulders, and his personal demons have haunted him for a long time. He’s skilled, loyal and has a strength others can rely on. It is a pleasure to spend time with him. Hands of Evil is JJ’s story.

Thanks to Kurt for allowing me to share JJ with you. I’m excited to hear his thoughts on the novel, considering he is a military man. I may even get some tips for the third in the series, which I plan to publish next year. My brother has always been a sound advisor, and I pour over books relevant to the stories I’m planning. In this case it was all things related to close personal protection and the police force.

I hope you’re still with me at this point, and if you are, thanks for hanging in there!

It was a pleasure to stop by.

Mel

Mel-logo

HANDS OF EVIL – The Big Reveal!

Well, I ordered the bloody book right after it was selected as the inaugural selection for the Indie Author Book Selection & Review (that’s a lot of selections in one sentence).

And after I did I joked with Melissa Barker-Simpson (Mel to her friends and cool people like me) about how she, living in the United Kingdom, practically lived at the end of the universe.

Little did I know how right I was. Well, at least based upon the number of days it took for the book to arrive – nearly two weeks – it seems that it may very well have been dispatched from the end of the universe.

Anyway, it’s finally here and I am really really really excited to begin reading it. But before I begin, I was thinking that it would be fun to do a little reveal sequence of the book…you know, kind of in the spirit of those tech nerd reveals that all those cool tech nerds like to do whenever they get all giddy over their latest tech nerd toy that they just received.

So, without further ado, I introduce to you my introduction to author Melissa Barker-Simpson’s novel HANDS OF EVIL

Well, by the looks of this photo, maybe it's me who lives at the end of the universe...
Well, by the looks of this photo, maybe I’m the one who lives at the end of the universe…
Well, well, well...it's about bloody time
Well, well, well…it’s about bloody time
And that there is the author. No, not the package, the website...well, the tiny picture on the website
And that there is the author. No, not the package, the website…well, the tiny picture on the website
There it is! Looks like a legit book to me...
There it is! Looks like a legit book to me…
And the back cover with a very intriguing synopsis about some Jonathan Jukes guy...I'm guessing he has something to do with the story. Not sure though...
And the back cover with a very intriguing synopsis about some Jonathan Jukes guy…I’m guessing he has something to do with the story. Not sure though…
Printed in Germany... How cool is that?! Yeah, I'm easily impressed, I admit.
Printed in Germany… How cool is that?! Yeah, I’m easily impressed, I admit. You know us silly Americans of the US kind…
Yep, It's legit all right weighing in at a ... huh? Wait a tick... No page numbers? Uh oh...I'm gonna be so confused.
Yep, It’s legit all right weighing in at a … huh? Wait a tick… I don’t know how many pages it weighs in at since it has no page numbers. Must be a European thing…
And no Table of Contents either. This scares me. It's like walking into the forest without breadcrumbs....
Pretty slick in all its style and sleekness, no? (Did that “no” make me sound European? I hope so…

Well, how about that… I finally have a book to read. And to be honest, I’m pretty frikkin’ excited about it.

And I’m so grateful to Mel for participating in the book selection thing. So grateful, in fact, that I invited her to contribute a Guest Post to talk a little bit about herself and her writing process. That will be following right behind this post so please check it out and then check out Mel’s site afterwards. I think you’ll find that she has really built a solid author’s platform for herself. She really is a very impressive person and I am proud to now be able to call her a friend.

So off I go to immerse myself in a new adventure, courtesy of Mel and her labor of love, the novel HANDS OF EVIL.

WRITE ON!

Oh yeah…since I am now…finally…reading my new Current Read, I think it’s time we start thinking about our next Indie Author Book Selection & Review. I’m up for another one if you are!

Amazon.uk.co just emailed me to let me know that my order of “Hands of Evil” by author Melissa Barker-Simpson has been “dispatched”

Dispatched.

How cool is that?

I mean, you Brits are so awesome with your English all proper-like…

It’s like getting a little bit of Downton Abbey delivered right to my inbox.

Speaking of Downton Abbey, what’s up with that show? I mean, is it some secret Brit MI6 diversion of a programme encoded with mind altering signals that make us fixate like drooling subservient servants on this most unlikely of a stuffy hit so they can go about putting their Empire of Old back in order without our realizing it?

I mean, I cannot get enough of this show…

And I’m not even sure why.

But I am sure of the massive irony in it all, all us oh so democratic and ultra egalitarian Americans lusting over one of the most autocratic and subservient ways of existence.

Well, lusting after the “upstairs” lifestyle, anyway.

Why would we want to lust after the “downstairs” way of life? It’s pretty much how most of us are already living.

No, we want to be lords and ladies…

Strike that.

We want to be kings and queens

Come on. Admit it.

You’d wear that crown in a royal heartbeat.

I mean who wouldn’t want to be king and/or queen of his or/and her castle. And I’m not only speaking metaphorically here either.

All bow down before King Kurt!

Has a nice ring to it…

Just yesterday I was checking out the wonderful site of author M-R, and she has a beautiful post that shows a black-and-white photo of castle ruins somewhere in France as a representation of an expression of abandonment. It’s just a short post but it moved me and got me to thinking about how much more wonderful a place the US would be if we had our own ancient castles and castle ruins.

Man…

Anyway…

Heck, I don’t even know what Amazon US says when it “dispatches” an order to me…

Obviously, if I can’t recall it, it’s nothing as noteworthy and awesome as “dispatched.”

Probably something like, “Hey pal, did you just order something from us? Yeah, well, see here’s the thing. It just got shipped out…”

I don’t know…

I mean, I love my land and my people and all, but sometimes we can be a little rough around the edges, if you know what I mean.

Yeah…

Dispatched…

Royal awesomeness.

 

King Kurt

 
 

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HANDS OF EVIL by Ms Melissa Barker-Simpson has been chosen as the inaugural selection for the Indie Author Book Selection & Review

ORIGINALLY POSTED OCTOBER 27, 2014
 

A hearty congratulations are definitely in order…

To me!

For I am the fortunate Reader who has just set himself off on the path of what looks to be a very interesting and exciting literary journey.

Congratulations are also in order to all of you, everyone, both Authors and Readers, who took the time and had the consideration to either submit their book for the selection and review process or who conscientiously looked over each of the submissions and offered their highly selective choice(s), in the form of a “Like,” of which impressed them the most. Because that’s really what this is all about. Not so much what book I choose and review, but on all of us participating in this Indie Revolution that’s going on all around us, this technological declaration of independence. We can be part of the movement by supporting each other through the purchase of Indie Books and, most importantly, by reviewing the Indie books you buy. I look at this similar to the movement to buy local. The more you buy local, the more you support your community; and the more you support your community, the more your community grows and prospers and ultimately makes the world, near and far, a much better place for all of us.

Yeah, I’m a little bit passionate about all of this. Truly I am.

This is an exciting time for Art in all its facets.

And finally, and equally important, if not mostly, congratulations to Melissa, for she has truly written what looks to be a very compelling book of fun and adventure.

But before we take a look at her book, let’s refresh ourselves with the guidelines, as limited as they were, that this Selection & Review thing is operating under. Here is a cut from the the solicitation announcement:

Tell us a little bit about both your book and your writing self in the comments section. You know, a short synopsis of the story and a short Author bio. Include just enough stuff, and no more, that you think I’ll need to be compelled to tab right out of my cozy little site and rush off to find your ode to literary perfection.

Not much to it, really. But enough, evidently, to illicit a wonderful response of Authors looking to showcase their unique and special writing talents.

And that makes me very happy.

So here is Melissa’s response, her pitch, to our call for her ode to literary perfection:

I was so drawn in by your post, and the humorous, yet generous offer to read MY book (you were talking to me, right?), I just had to respond. So…onto the sales pitch.

A few years ago, after listening to my brother (a soldier) talk about the camaraderie among his troop, and all the fun and interesting things they get up to (the jibes, the antics, the general merriment), a few good men (ha ha) began to form in my head. A team, if you will, of the best of the best. They are all ex-military, and came together to form a security agency. I’ve always loved thrillers, particularly crime thrillers, so I put them through their paces and set them free to explore the world I created for them.

My latest release, Hands of Evil, is the second in the Morgan and Fairchild series. The team are called upon by a local murder investigation team, when a serial killer starts picking off interpreters. A particularly unpleasant person, who removes his victims hands after their death.

It’s not as gruesome as it sounds, or certainly not as graphic!

Thanks for the opportunity to tell you more about my work :-)

Here’s the link:

Hands of Evil by Ms Melissa Barker-Simpson
Hands of Evil: Morgan and Fairchild Series: 2

Yeah, I know exactly what you’re thinking and I totally agree…

Awesomeness.

I don’t think it is necessary, or helpful, for me to go through a list of why I didn’t choose the other submissions.

What I will say is, based upon the guidelines we laid out, she did exactly what was needed to be done, and that was to compel me to want to read it.

And so did many of the other submissions. I really would like to read many, if not all, the books and stories. And who knows, maybe I will.

However, in my view, Melissa had all the elements of a successful proposal. She had a great pitch, she had a big cut of her book cover…and even just a quick glance around my site will tell you, even as verbose as I may be, I am a very visual guy. And, in addition to a successful pitch here, she has a wonderful website, professional as well as inviting, and a fully fleshed out Author’s Page at Amazon.

Yeah, I agree…

Quite the winning package.

Which is why her package of a pitch and proposal was my selection.

Congratulations, Melissa.

How about we all head right on over to Melissa’s website and offer her our congratulations in person, and take a look around a bit while we’re there:

mbarkersimpson.wordpress.com

So, off I go on a new reading adventure.

But it’s not over for you all. I hope and expect that you will look through the list of submissions and pick a book to read. And after you read it, review it, both on your website and at Amazon, at a minimum. And if you do that for me, for all of us, then the Literary Gods will look down upon you with great favor. And, in addition, if it’s a review that focuses less on what’s wrong with the book and more on what you learned from the book, then let me know, because I just might like to share it here with all the occasional readers and friends who stop by.

Will we do this again? I don’t know. I hope so. If you think we should, please leave a comment on this post to show your support for future Selections & Reviews. I would really appreciate knowing who is interested.

Okay?

And stay tuned for my review. I may have mentioned that I’m a bit of a slow poke reader so I am not about to predict when it will be up. But I’ll let you know.

All right?

Great.

Thank you, all. Thank you all very much.

Peace and Write On!