Our Kind Of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
Review Copy – proof
Mike and Verity have a special game. The Crave.
They play it to prove what they already know: that Verity loves Mike. That she needs Mike.
Even though she’s marrying another man.
Now Mike knows that the stakes of their private game are rising.
This time, someone has to die…
‘You should never trust people who yearn to be something other than who they are’
WOW! Where to start with this cracking psychological thriller? This novel gets inside your mind and you become as obsessed with reading the novel, as the protagonist Mike is with telling the narrative. I found the opening very unusual compared to most new release’s in the genre. I didn’t feel drawn to the characters Mike and Verity at all. In fact, I actually found them rather repulsive, but the infatuation, mystery and voice draw you in. Mike can’t be trusted, but can Verity be trusted either?
The novel opens with Mike sat in a prison cell with his cell-mate ‘Fat Terry’. He nonchalantly informs the readers that he is in prison on a murder charge. That his reason for writing his story, is in itself a way of unravelling all the details, so he might grasp a better concept of what he has done. I didn’t like Mike at all.
But I wanted to listen in on his thoughts.
‘In a way she was right, as the American incident proved. I did become a monster’
He tells his story in reflection, recalling the events and his interpretation of them. The timeline is mixed ever so slightly to allow for the many twists and turns.
Upon receiving an invitation to Verity’s upcoming wedding to Angus Metcalf. Something snaps within Mike and he feels compelled to control the past, present, future and what others think of him. But in life you can’t possibly control how others think and feel towards you and so the story flows. . .
Mike and Verity used to date, they had quite a long relationship. Which was tainted by Mikes inability to control and fully dominate Verity at all times.
As healthy relationships go, this one is far from rosy.
Mike and Verity both hold quite prestigious professional roles in their working life. They appear to have ample wealth. But if one thing is for certain, money doesn’t buy you love.
Mike is offered a new opportunity in the states and Verity is unable to accompany him. Mike finds himself thousands of miles away from the woman he so desperately loves. This in turn leads to the breakdown in their relationship, a breakdown Mike is refusing to accept.
The relationship is far from perfect. They both come across as people who enjoy a feeling of superiority over others. This is evidenced in their ‘game’ the crave. I personally found the idea of the crave quite distasteful and immature. I could see, it would only cause further problems as Mike’s inner psychology struggled to separate the game from reality.
‘Some would see that as the basest level of cruelty, others as an act of love. Ultimately, that is what to crave means’
Mike has a deeply troubled past, it goes some way in to explaining why he presents as he does. On the outside, I could easily see why others would envy Mike. His wealth, status and beautiful girlfriend. But deep inside Mike is a broken little boy, a little boy that never felt love, warmth or comfort.
At this point I began to pity Mike. I would say that sympathy is a step too far. But I could empathise with background and why he must struggle with low self-esteem, doubt and a demand to be loved. Mike is a complex and unreliable narrator of the plot, but he is the only one we have. His refusal to let Verity go, began to make me question Verity’s actions and motives. Why would you invite your stalker to your wedding? Is it so easy to judge? Haven’t we all been fooled by the alleged harmless actions of another?
Who is telling the truth Mike or Verity?
There’s a series of emails and Mike’s interactions with others who know and love Verity, such as her snobby mother. These incidents made me sure that it was Mike who was at fault. He was clearly delusional, and Verity was his victim. But there was something about Verity, that I just couldn’t get to grips with.
Looking back, I’m not sure whether I failed to connect with Verity as she failed to fit my view of a victim or because this was a cleverly crafted psychological novel and I should trust no one. Either way, these are fictional characters and therefore it opens the novel up to healthy debate. I could easily see some heated debates in book groups. As not only do the characters get under your skin. It is a powerful theme, which invokes emotions within the reader. Do we blame female victims for the crimes committed against them? If so why? Why are women villainised in high-profile court cases? Does this enable the perpetrator to get an easier sentence?
There are so many themes open for debate the pitfalls of Mikes personality. One moment he is arrogant and confident, the next weak and needy. Is this due to his past or is he cunningly evil? The theme of male entitlement, when dating or pursuing a relationship. Mike’s toxic personality, is he using his childhood vulnerability as a weapon or defence strategy? The power of obsession and its psychological hold on the abuser.
Mike’s emotions and the narrative of the plot become contoured due to his mental health problems and unwillingness to accept reality. He makes the narrative a difficult read in places. Yet I was absolutely hooked on the story from the open pages to the impending court case. Mike’s story reads right up to the very last page. I will be very intrigued to read the reviews of other bloggers and their thoughts on Mike and Verity.
Our Kind Of Cruelty is released today in hardback & currently just 99p on Ebook
Happy publication day Araminta Hall