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October 30, 2022

The Hands of Revenge by JF Lee ~ a Review

by MK French


Magistrate Tao Jun has never liked bureaucracy, so he happily investigates a murder. When he discovers it's the work of a serial killer he'd already taken care of, he takes it personally. Tao Jun investigates the Sickle Killer and the ties to the Jade Beauty, a woman that people would kill to possess.

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book cover of Asian American novel The Hands of Revenge by JF Lee
August 2022; Indie; 979-8848188943
ebook, print (196 pages); fantasy

The Hand of Revenge
 
is a novella set between the Tales of the Swordsman and Tales of Jianghu series. As with the other Tales of the Magistrate novel (my review here), this is a combination of wuxia and film noir aesthetics, which doesn't seem like it would work but it does. There is a warning for reference to sexual assault in chapter one, and that readers sensitive to this can skip to chapter two. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of authors that include warnings like this; while sensitive content can be present in novels, sometimes readers need to skip it in order to enjoy the rest of the story. Chapter one sets up a summit between three rival clans, and two make "jokes" against the women of one clan, ripping robes in a fight.

Tao Jun speaks in our colloquial English, so he's easy to understand and you can see the action clearly. There are fights between clans setting off the action, paperwork for him to avoid, and then his wife and mother conspiring to choose a second wife for him to marry. Tao Jun is more than ready to explore and then investigate the grisly murders reminiscent of the Sickle Killer, his first case in the area. There are obvious suspects for the murder, but as Tao Jun continues to investigate, he finds out a little more about the victims and the suspects. He has an idea of who the killer might actually be, and he ultimately solves the case with an elaborate trap.

The novella is a fast and fun read, with martial arts and jokes interspersed with Tao Jun doing his job. He fully admits that he wants to be seen as a fool so he's not saddled with more responsibility and can be underestimated. I understand that motivation, and it keeps things interesting for the reader. Another fun book in these interconnected series.

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Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever. 




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