THRILLER//Our Kind of Cruelty- Araminta Hall*

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It’s a heck of a thing for a book to carry an endorsement from Gillian Flynn on the cover, but this one definitely deserves such an accolade. Welcome to the twisted world of Mike and Verity.

Mike’s a highly successful banker with a difficult past and he’s back from New York, determined to rekindle things with his ex-girlfriend, Verity- although he’s not convinced that they ever really ended it. To him, her refusal to engage with him and her upcoming marriage to someone else is just another stage in their private sexual game, which they call Crave. It’s not that she doesn’t want him, he believes, but that she’s making him work hard to win her back, the thrill of the chase leading to the ultimate reunion. He’s even gone so far to buy a house and furnish it with everything Verity likes. Theirs is a life of money, luxury and being used to getting what they want. In Mike’s mind, they’re perfect for each other and anyone else is just a distraction.

Determined, he pursues her. And, of course, it goes very horribly wrong and both Mike and Verity end up facing the long arm of the law.

Mike is a strange protagonist: clearly a sociopath, with other underlying issues, his is an uncomfortable world for a reader to spend time in. But I couldn’t get enough. The characters are not black-and-white and everything is twisted during a trial. It’s a clever exploration of how perceptions are individual and what we feel inside may not be quite what’s projected to those around us. Mike is a deeply disturbed character, but I weirdly found myself feeling sorry for him, despite everything; Verity is a victim, but it’s possible to view her as something else, as those around her twist in the currents of what Mike has done. Both are unpleasant in their way, but everything is muddied when seen through Mike’s idolising of Verity in everything that he does.

Modern thrillers often follow a similar path. It’s unusual to see the story from the side of the pursuer, we’re used to reading these books from the point of view of the criminal. I felt drawn in by the strange psychology of the story and it’s a clever book that’s well worth a read, especially as I’d love to know what other people think of it.

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