Epeolatry Book Review: Hand To Mouth (Short Sharp Shocks! Book 48)

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Title: Hand To Mouth
Author: Deborah Sheldon
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Demain Publishing
Release Date: 31st January, 2020

Synopsis: “When the truth doesn’t satisfy, people make up stories.”

An imprisoned man writes letters to his son, trying to explain the bizarre circumstances that led to his incarceration. But can his son believe him? Award-winning author Deborah Sheldon keeps you guessing with this novelette of secrets, lies, conspiracies and paranoia.

Writing about ‘Hand To Mouth’, the author recently said: “On the surface, this is a novelette about an imprisoned man who writes letters to his son to explain why he’s behind bars. It’s also a sci-fi exploration of cutting-edge technology. And while Hand to Mouth is a horror story, it’s a puzzle too; a layering of truth and deception, like a ‘choose your own adventure’ story. Ten readers will have ten different interpretations of what happened. It took a lot of drafting to work in so many possibilities.”

This is another in the stand alone series of e-books from Demain Publishers in their SSS! Series. This time penned by award winning much published Australian dark fiction writer, Deborah Sheldon, and it is a worthy addition to the series.

Deb Sheldon says, “On the surface, this is a novelette about an imprisoned man who writes letters to his son to explain why he’s behind bars. It’s also a sci-fi exploration of cutting-edge technology. And while Hand to Mouth is a horror story, it’s a puzzle too; a layering of truth and deception…”

So within this short story you get three genres for the price of one! You can read it on several different levels too and try and work out the most guilty of the parties.

There is much to enjoy in the background characters and how they impact on the main events. The hideous ‘Matriach’ she is given no other name – made me shudder.

The main character is a man in prison for murder, who writes a series of long letters to his son, James, which form the narrative of the story. In these letters various facts are revealed, as though when peeling layers from an onion, you weep and there is more skin underneath. Just so with this short story, there is much to cry about here and always more secrets to learn.

I found the descriptions of the hi-tech million dollar robotic arm fascinating; how it was fitted, what it looked like, people’s differing responses to it and how it operated. Sheldon weaves the facts into the fabric of the fiction seamlessly.

The letters reveal His/Her differing viewpoints, and Sheldon is adept at peeling back the skin on the couple’s decaying marriage both before and after the introduction of the prosthetic arm, which becomes an active third party in the marriage.

Indeed I didn’t think how horrifying and downright creepy a prosthetic could be till I’d read this story. You just assume they would be good thing- a life enhancer- but what if they aren’t?

There is no definitive right or wrong here either – both His/Her characters are flawed but Sheldon does succeed in making the prisoner sympathetic, despite everything he’s done or not done, depending whose version you believe.

There is a touching scene of father/son shown in the letters around one long ago Christmas, which reveals much about their relationship.

Sheldon saves a final twist for the concluding paragraphs. It will make you want to reread the whole story again with the knowledge.

This is a clever, layered, sophisticated take on marriage, the impact of major life changing injury and   how the solution becomes the problem with horrific consequences.

Highly recommended for a fast slick read.

5/5 stars
Available on Amazon.
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Alyson Faye

Alyson lives in the UK; her fiction has been published widely in print anthologies - DeadCades, Women in Horror Annual 2, Trembling with Fear 1 &2, Coffin Bell Journal 1 and Stories from Stone and in ezines, most often on the Horror Tree site, Siren’s Call and The Casket of Fictional Delights. In May 2019 Night of the Rider, was published by Demain, in their Short Sharp Shocks! E book series and reached the amazon kindle top 10 best seller lists. Her work has been read on podcasts (eg Ladies of Horror), shortlisted in competitions and published in charity anthologies. Future work will appear in anthologies from Things in the Well, Mortal Realm and Twisted Wing Publishers. She performs at open mics, teaches, edits and hangs out with her dog on the moor in all weathers. https://alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com/ Twitter @AlysonFaye2

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