Book Review | Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

Mike loves Verity – V – more than anything. Since they met at university, they’ve been inseparable, and Mike can’t imagine life without her. Their relationship isn’t, perhaps, what you’d call conventional – one of their favourite pastimes is a game they play, called the Crave. A game involving manipulating strangers in order to scare them – and they love the rush, the turn-on, the feeling of power.

But Mike’s love for V gets a little bit too intense. He moves to New York on a temporary work contract, and things start to fall apart – from her perspective, in any case. When he comes back at Christmas, the relationship crumbles, and life as Mike knows it is over.

It can’t be, though – right? This is him and V. They are soulmates, destined to be together. He sets about making his beautiful Clapham house just the way V would have wanted it – an edenic English garden, bursting with flowers, to take the place of grey concrete and stone. Even when he gets an invitation to her wedding, he can’t believe it’s really over. It’s all part of the game, see. All part of the Crave.

This psychological thriller gripped me from the start. It’s a perverse love story, told from Mike’s perspective as he awaits trial – for what, we’re not yet sure. He writes it all down, reflecting back on the events that led up to that moment; how it all transpired. We learn about his troubled childhood and trauma at the hands of a neglectful mother; his lack of friends; his obvious delusions. You can’t help but pity him, even as you feel sickened by his behaviour.

‘I could look at V when she came in from wherever she’d been and know instantly how she was feeling. Every time she rang I knew it was her without looking at the screen. When we watched a film or listened to music I knew what her reaction would be without speaking. I knew how to make her scream and moan and thrash, every inch of her body mapped indelibly on my mind. Connections like that cannot be broken, however much we are separated.’

All the while, I kept expecting this novel to turn out differently from the way it did. I kept thinking I had it figured out, but I didn’t. Mike refuses to believe what V has told him, time and time again – that it’s over between them, that she’s moved on, that she loves someone else.

In the end, though, we get it. We get what Hall has been trying to tell us all along. This isn’t about some big twist, some jaw-dropping turn of events ­– the truth has been right under our noses this whole time. Whilst not what I was expecting, this is nevertheless a gripping, twisted tale, one that makes you think long after it’s over.

I received a copy of this title through Netgalley. Our Kind of Cruelty will be published on 8th May 2018.

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