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Amazon Customer

Review of In The Hands Of The Unknown - Kindle Edition


"For loves of Lovecraft and the RPGs of investigation and the world of his nightmares, you will love this book. A modern day setting where the FBI have a branch of their own that looks into the occasional project with unsettling circumstances, this story doesn’t pull the creepy factor right from the start. It slowly develops all the tension and faintly disgusted terror one associates with Lovecraft, but Hellstorm leaves her own mark, not just on the characters or story but with the lingering foul fear of things that wait in the dark. I sincerely recommend this book to horror readers and anyone who loves Lovecraft, Hellstorm breathes life into this little corner of darkness – and it's not the kind you want, but you can’t stop yourself peering into the unknown!"



Review of In The Hands Of The Unknown - Kindle Edition


"I really enjoyed this book, to the point that when I finished I couldn't help but see if there was a sequel (there is!).

So what's it all about? The best way to describe it is as crime procedural set in a Lovecraftian universe. There is a small team of people chasing down a pretty nasty crime, then... it gets weird.


Solid writing, believable characters, romance that makes sense. The horror builds slowly but surely. There were a few moments that might have led to more, but overall a thoroughly enjoyable book that I don't hesitate to recommend."



C. McMullen

Review of In The Hands Of The Unknown - Kindle Edition


This was the perfect October read. An atmospheric horror that is dark and disturbing, yet not overly gory. Hellstorm doesn't go for the easy jump scares, relying instead on an overall sense of creepiness that makes the truly scary moments that much more jarring. As soon as you settle in and start thinking of this more as a suspenseful thriller, the horror aspect sneaks up and reminds you to lock the doors, close the shades, and check under the bed.

Right from the beginning, there's an almost uncanny valley feel to the world in which the story takes place. It's our world, yet, it's not. It's just different enough to cause unease. And then there is the field researchers themselves. Who are they? What exactly is it that they do? Why do they have secret identities? We're only given as much as we need to know to not be left scratching our heads.

I do have one small nitpick and that is in the fact that the action at the end seems almost too brief and too cryptic. Like everything else, we're only given a glimpse, just enough to get a feel for what is happening, but darn it, I wanted more.



Kevin Wright

Review of In The Hands Of The Unknown - Kindle Edition


"This was a cool read. It was a mix of The X-Files and H.P. Lovecraft's occult agency Delta Green. The overall feel for me was a split between a cosy-type mystery and eldritch horror which was different. Different in a good way. There are some legitimately disturbing parts to it mostly involving internal eel implantation, not to mention Miriam's reactions to her confrontations with tentacled nightmares, juxtaposed against the detectives' after-hours personal relationships. There was quite a bit of tea drinking, too. Hellstorm writes very well. The prose is engaging and clean and the story moves right along. A good first chapter in an unfolding series."


JD Kaplan

Review of In The Hands Of The Unknown - Hard Cover


"This book really grabbed me from the first page and held on tight, a death grip pulling me through the story relentlessly toward what I would describe as sublime terror in the final chapters. I found this slow, inexorable building of tension and fear reminiscent of the works of Lovecraft—some of my favorite horror fiction of all time. What started out as macabre and disturbing was horrifying by the final pages. In a world of horror dominated by gore, shock value and slaughter, it was wonderful to read this book. That's not to say that the writing style itself is the same as the style of Lovecraft. The voice is unique, the storytelling modern and easy to read. Told in the third person, I found the voice of the main character extremely easy to get behind. While Miriam/Claire is a strong female protagonist, she's also vulnerable—a skillfully woven combination of the two sides. This gave her some depth that really drew me in. While I've always had a fascination for strong female leads, some of the best ones out there have vulnerabilities. The other characters were just as well built. None of the central ones were single faceted foils. Especially well handled was Cyrus, one of Claire's partners. Every book has technical issues, but overall this was quite clean. There were very few errors—definitely not enough to pull me out of the story. I strongly recommend this for readers that enjoy this kind of horror and I really am hoping to see more books in this style from this author."



Review of In The Hands Of The Unknown - Hard Cover


"This is a book to put down long before bed if you scare easily. I made sure to have plenty of daylight left since I was sure something bad was going to happen, but never knew to whom or when. It kept changing… Loved it! :) And now I can’t wait till next year for the sequel!"


Danaan Bartok

Review of In The Hands Of The Unknown - Kindle Edition


"This piece of writing is a breath of fresh air for pop-culture. This writer does not use the common writing tropes of genre. Instead, the writing is so strong that we as readers get to experience what the protagonists are experiencing. We feel what they feel, hear what they hear. The writing is grounded in the everyday sensations - a jingle of keys, a quirky gesture, a colour, a smell of freshly fallen rain. Another reader described this as better than Stephen King. I fully agree."


Rian Nejar

Review of In The Hands Of The Unknown - Kindle Edition


"Tense, and gripping, A.E. Hellstorm's 'In the Hands of the Unknown' felt much like a slow and complex X-Files episode with three instead of two interesting protagonists. It includes everything from deadly parasites, macabre crimes, undetectable entities possessing supernatural abilities, and strange cults and gruesome abuse. An ideal cocktail for horror aficionados. There may well be a gem in this work. Every gem needs some polishing to elicit brilliance, and this work fits the mold. A commendable first-of-a-series effort!"


Dana Betts

Review of In The Hands Of The Unknown - Kindle Edition


"Great reads so far. Detailed and unnerving. Highly recommended for modern Cthulhu fans. Many plot twists and missed observations! I enjoy the fact that the organization has already taken multiple casualties, and is obviously distressed and partly disfunctional. The reader is (and the investigators are) always kept off balance and yearning for some sense of stability, so a constant sense of unease carries from the pages."


Amazon Customer

Review of In The Hands Of The Unknown - Hard Cover


"I don't normally buy self-published novels, mostly because most of them are, well they are what they are. But I was at a con and there was an author with a booth and one thing led to another. Partly because it was a nice looking novel (yes, sometimes I judge a book by its cover). Being in hard copy and not a PDF, that means something in the world of self-published novels. Usually that it's better than 99% of the other self-published works - and this book was one of the better self-published novels I've encountered. Probably the best one I've read.

"In The Hands of the Unknown" is set in a world inspired by Lovecraft's writings. The book is the opening of a series called "The Field Researchers" series, with two books currently available while the others are works in progress with intriguing titles.

The Field Researchers are the active agents of the Golden Fleece Society, a group that is trying deal with Lovecraftian horrors in a modern setting. Yes, rather than "agents", "operatives", or whatever word other settings use, the agents are "Field Researchers". Each year they recruit a single student of from a special college, except for the years they recruit 2 students. Or maybe 3. No, it's not because of the attrition rate, it's because some years there's less than a tenth of one percent point difference between a couple of students, which makes it impossible not to recruit both (or all three) of the students. The Golden Fleece Society also occasionally recruits other operatives. Get exposed to weird horrors, take an accelerated training course and you too can move from being an Army Ranger to a Field Researcher.

The Golden Fleece Society seems to be both official and unofficial - as in the authorities don't want to acknowledge the existence of the Weird and Unknown, but all the field ops are FBI agents taking care of the weird for the government. They aren't part of a special FBI task force or X-Files program; the agents are scattered among regular FBI agents with cells gathering for "Research Projects" (call them "against the weird" missions) once or twice a year. Each cell is assigned a Letter and each member of that team has a code name starting with that letter. Change teams and you get a new code name starting with that new team's letter.

"In The Hands of the Unknown" focuses on team C - which is made of a trio. The main character / principle narrator is Claire (code name) / Miriam (real name), who is still mourning the deaths of two other members of the team (who died on different Research Projects). Then there's the team leader - Caesar / Henry - who is a legend because he's been in the field for decades and is one of the top team leaders out there, but each project has left its own scar. The newcomer on the team (replacing the dead members) is Cyrus / Carl - the sole survivor of his previous teams.

Yes, all of them are damaged. For example: Claire / Miriam sleeps with the lights on and music playing in her bedroom, because she needs that to help her handle her nightmares. Cyrus / Carl doesn't want to be close to his new team, just in case he is the sole survivor again. Caesar / Henry is wondering if he too old for this crap and maybe it could be best if he retired from the field. None of these characters are super humans or Rambos ready to take on the supernatural. In pulp terms, it is clear that they are more Lovecraft than Howard.

Now I feel I should mention something about the author. A.E Hallstrom was born in Sweden and spent several years of her youth in Portugal and Greece before returning to Sweden. She was deeply engaged in the Swedish LARPing community in 1990s and 2000s before moving to Canada. This means that English is probably her 4th (or maybe 5th?) language. How does that impact this book? Well sometimes there are interesting phrases or words used in ways that you don't expect them to be used - but it works in this book, partly because of Claire's / Miriam's academic background.

The author's connection to RPGs had me viewing this book as a Call of Cthulhu campaign, and the story well works with that mindset. The book doesn't get bogged down with trivial details of FBI procedures and the characters interact in a way that would send any HR department into a screaming fit, but clearly work as a Call of Cthulhu investigator team.

So anyway, the book opens with Claire / Miriam being summoned for a new "Research Project" (a.k.a. mission against weird stuff that kills people). She's told to go to a special morgue and if she hasn't already eaten, well don't. She meets up with Cyrus / Carl and they look at a recent corpse, one of a ten year old girl. The girl's eyes are still damp and she has a lifelike look to her, meaning that she can't have been dead long,… except she's been in the morgue for about four days. The girl had a stomach ache, one that sent her screaming. The paramedics brought her to a hospital where she died, still screaming. Her parents… well for some reason they've moved since her death. And there's no record of them having a child… And it appears that she was eaten from the inside out… And that's the first chapter - call it the first 12 or so pages that hooks you.

One of the more Lovecraftian aspects of this book is how most of the characters have read field reports and research notes but they haven't actually seen many of the things they face. When they do encounter those things in real life they react in shock and horror, because reading about stuff and actually seeing the thing are often completely different. Other times they are wondering if X is possible, how to handle X if it is possible, and resort to saying "well it was in that movie so maybe we can think about it that way"… None of the characters are perfect and the mistakes they make lend an aura of verisimilitude to the book. There are also mysteries that the characters barely notice but may be important in later books.

This book doesn't try to describe indescribable horrors, nor is it a "splatter gore" gross out. Much of the horror is in the minds of the Field Researchers as they try to cope with what they are discovering, which is reminiscent of Lovecraft. There are times that Claire / Miriam has to tell herself that she's not going mad - and there are times when she barely believes it when she tells herself that she's not going mad. And maybe a couple of those times she's lying to herself…

Mother, accept our offering!

Sorry, I don't know where that came from. Just ignore that; I'm sure that's not important.

All told I have to say it was a pleasant book, an enjoyable read, and well worth the price."



Review of In The Hands Of The Unknown - Kindle Edition


"I chanced upon the author's Facebook page and saw this book. I can't remember if I have read the blurb but I think it was H.P. Lovecraft that made my decision. I am familiar with the name. I am sure since he is so popular, some of you have heard of him too. But unfortunately, I have not read any of his books. And this book was based on the world created by that famous author. So, I was curious. And since it's October, the traffic on the entire social media was all about Halloween. I was thinking this was a good scary book to read. I have not read a lot of horror novels. There is only one that is on top of my head - The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King. So, as evidenced by this post, I got a copy of the book." In the Hands of the Unknown is about a FBI team called Field Researchers. Any case that is out of the ordinary and leaning towards the bizarre is assigned to this team. There are three members of the team. One is our main character - Miriam Goldblum. So, there was one of these cases. It was a girl who died after coming home from camping. And the facts surrounding the cause of death were very disturbing. The team will soon find out that this case is far more complicated and sinister than any they have ever worked on. Will our three friends be able to get to the bottom of this?

It was late in the night when I started reading this. The lights were out and the rest of the house was asleep. I prefer to read at night because by then I would have finished my chores and I won't have to worry about anything interfering with my reading. So, a few chapters in to the story, I was starting to feel cold and thought I should not be reading this in the dark. Well, the air conditioning unit is on, so that would explain the cold. And as I said, every one else was sleeping so lights were out. I was reading an e-book, so the lights were not an issue. I just realized that the atmosphere was all set for the story and my imagination started running to where it shouldn't. I started looking around the room and tried listening for unfamiliar sounds. Yes, the first few chapters had me feeling a little creepy but I could not put the book down. I was thinking, "this is just a story. Horror movies are far scarier than this because of all the sound and effects. I am just reading. The only sound I would be hearing would just be my breathing and that should not scare me". I was trying to reassure myself by giving my self a pep talk.

In short, I did not finish the book. I had to sleep too.(Sounds like an excuse?) The next day, after lunch, with the sun so bright by our terrace, I picked up where I left off. And to my dismay, it was not as exciting as the last time I was reading it. Not because the story was not interesting anymore but because it was warm and sunny. I had to admit, the dark and coldness of the night added to the thrill. It felt like I was really there with the FR team and examining the dead bodies. Like how it is when the hair on your neck stands on its end and you have goosebumps all over your arms.

I was still glued to the book, even though there was a noticeable difference in the ambiance. Like some character in a horror movie who was not supposed to open the door or follow the sound, but can't help but do it anyway. That was how it was for me. I had to finish the story fast. I wanted to get to the end as soon as possible. Same with the characters in the story, I had to find out too what or who was the source of all these strange incidents.

This is probably, one of the best horror stories I have read. In the end, it wasn't that scary after all. My imagination got the best of me. I finished it with the sun in all its glory but it did not dampen my enthusiasm to still enjoy it. In the end, this felt like a mystery/suspense and less like horror but I still had a great time. But the first few chapters were really creepy (shivers). I would love to read more of the next assignments of the FR (Field Researchers) team. I felt like an honorary member already having to go through this with them. I think I can handle the next one, even with the lights out the whole time.

I give this 5/5 Faberge eggs. You will have to read the book to know about the Faberge eggs. I am keeping my mouth shut. No, I am not giving any clues. Trust me, it will be a very exciting and a creepy experience. You don't want to miss it.

I did not find any quotable lines in the book but I have one really good trivia about chai tea. And for all those tea lovers out there like me, here it is:

Chai's not the exact word for what were drinking (tea). It's Masala Chai, which means "mixed-spiced tea" in Hindi. Masala Chai,was originally used in India as herbal medicine and the earliest mention of this particular kind of tea is from Ayurvedic medical texts. Mostly to improve digestion and clear up mucus. The Ayurvedic traditions has a lot to do with the body and mind connections."



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