Book Review: Our Kind of Cruelty: A Novel by Araminta Hall

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
My rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4 stars)
Publisher: MCD/Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Publishing Date: May 8, 2018

This was a thoroughly compulsive read. I picked it up in the morning and refused to go to bed until I'd finished. I won't be giving up any major spoilers but I will say that Mike is a great unreliable narrator and his recounting of this tale is consistently darkly disturbing. But more disturbing things are at play here too and that's what I really liked about this book.

This tense tale is told in three parts. The first Mike's written account to his attorney while awaiting trial for murder. The second part was quite taut as it covers the event that lights the fuse for what you already know is going to be a explosion that's going to destroy more than one life. The final part is focused on the trial and I have to say that I found this part not only tense but also infuriating. While the first two parts give insight to quite a lot of gross male behavior and many instances of Mike being so consistently dismissive of the women in his life (Verity, Carly, Kaitlyn, Lottie) whom he always knows better than they do, what they mean when they speak and act. He also thought of himself as god-like in comparison to other men who displayed dismissive behavior toward women. I was taken with how the author was able to express this over and again in different ways. This dismissing of a woman theme never got boring and always stung and no more than in the denouement. It also struck me that quite a bit of Mike's tendencies, actions, physical attributes and economic status could quite easily be transferred to some romance novels and contextually be seen as sexy, endearing and expressions of his devotion and love. Additionally, the discomfort of a society still at odds with women being sexual entities exercising their own agency played out. The Crave game played by Mike and Verity was no doubt cruel and twisted but they were not equally apportioned blame and judgement for it.

When I read the summary for this I was just expecting a thriller in the same vein of You by Caroline Kepnes but the third act is the unexpected surprise that I feel really shines here. The trial proceedings and the judge adjudicating particularly irritated me. The newspaper article that Mike saved was an interesting inclusion as it was really nothing to do with Verity and everything to do with the female writer's own bad experience (her husband ran off with a woman she likened to Verity) and lingering anger over it. That she mentions no anger toward or assigns any blame for that situation to her husband was as representative of the worst theme at play in this whole story as anything. That women are responsible for the bad behavior of men and therefore need to be brought low. The judge says as much too, just to drive it home.

I too had an initial impulse to lay some of the blame for the resolution on Carly because she didn't fly in to testify when it could have given a more clear view of Mike (though the judge said he wasn't going to allow her testimony because he didn't find Mike's past sexual history of relevance.) But then I thought of what Carly'd already lost and what doing so would have cost her additionally. Given what happened with Verity, I felt sure Carly's past sexual history would become highly relevant in the cross examination, so I couldn't blame her for protecting herself.

I'll be thinking about this one for a while as the themes really struck a chord. It's out in May 2018, just in time for summer book clubs and beach season. It's a thriller that'll leave you thinking when it's done. Definitely recommended.

Thanks to Netgalley & publisher MCD/Farrar, Straus & Giroux for an advance reader copy in exchange for my honest review.

Summary: This is a love story. Mike’s love story.
Mike Hayes fought his way out of a brutal childhood and into a quiet, if lonely life, before he met Verity Metcalf. V taught him about love, and in return, Mike has dedicated his life to making her happy. He’s found the perfect home, the perfect job, he’s sculpted himself into the physical ideal V has always wanted. He knows they’ll be blissfully happy together.
It doesn’t matter that she hasn’t been returning his emails or phone calls.It doesn’t matter that she says she’s marrying Angus.
It’s all just part of the secret game they used to play. If Mike watches V closely, he’ll see the signs. If he keeps track of her every move he’ll know just when to come to her rescue…
A spellbinding, darkly twisted novel about desire and obsession, and the complicated lines between truth and perception, Our Kind of Cruelty introduces Araminta Hall, a chilling new voice in psychological suspense.

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