Review – Our Kind Of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

Our Kind Of Cruelty – available digitally and as a hardback*

Although my go-to genre is contemporary fiction, now and then I crave a good thriller in my life. When I say thriller, I mean I want something dark, twisted and chilling to read. I’ve been on a lucky streak with books like this lately – Tangerine certainly lived up to my expectations, and I recently polished off The Good Mother by Aimee Molloy which was more of a mystery paired with female friendship. Both kept me on my toes and kept me guessing until the end. Our Kind Of Cruelty has been all over my bookstagram lately. It was one of the Book Of The Month, a subscription service for new book releases in the USA, ¬†selections for April. Luckily I managed to get this via the Kindle store for just 99p, and all I can say is WOW. This book certainly isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea but, I popped a poll on my Instagram stories asking if anybody would like to see a full review on my blog and with 110 participants all answering yes, it’s time for me to deliver what I thought of this book.

The book is told through the eyes of our protagonist, Mike Hayes. Mike grew up in the care system after being taken away from his alcoholic, neglectful mother. He was eventually placed into a foster home with a loveable couple Elaine and Barry who, even when Mike turned sixteen and was free to move and do as he pleased, let Mike continue to stay with them so he could continue to do well at school and attend university. Mike graduated in economics and had gone on to have a successful career in banking.

It is when Mike attended university; he met Verity – his ex-girlfriend who he went on to have a nine-year relationship with. Their relationship, however, was far from conventional. Mike and Verity enjoyed playing a game they named Crave. They would often go out on nights out with the intention to play Crave. The rules of the game were simple – Verity would allow herself to be chatted up by a male stranger in a club, bar or pub and Mike would swoop in after watching them flirting, asking what they were doing with his girlfriend and become aggressive. This turned both Mike and Verity on and the game became their little secret – something they enjoyed to do and bonded them together. When separate career opportunities arose for both Mike and Verity – they face the difficulty of having a long distance relationship. Verity has been offered a position at an artificial¬†intelligence company in London and Mike is also offered an incredible career opportunity working with a bank based in New York City. But, when their relationship faces the strain long distance brings, challenges and temptation, Mike and Verity part ways. A year later, Mike returns to London and receives an invitation to Verity’s wedding. He believes this is their biggest game of Crave yet and vows to go along with what he thinks is Verity’s plan … but it’s clear the only person who thinks the wedding is fictitious and part of a game is Mike. The rest of the book is a tale of obsession and crossed wires with damaging consequences.

The book begins with Mike writing for his barrister and instantly I wanted to know what that was for. It’s a slow build as we get to know Mike and his relationship with Verity – how it started, the time they were together and how it came to an abrupt end. The slow pace is needed to help us understand Mike’s way of thinking. Why he believes Verity’s wedding is a game of Crave, how much he loves her and the lengths he is willing to go to be part of her life. It is creepy, twisted and chilling to the bone.

The biggest reason why I feel so conflicted about this book is although it is blatantly clear throughout the book that Mike is an extremely dangerous person – you can’t help but feel empathy towards him. He is obviously someone who has mental health issues, a burning passion for the woman he claims to be his soulmate and inability to let go of the past. If I had read this book from a female perspective, I’d of been screaming “RUN! CALL THE POLICE!” throughout but, somehow I couldn’t help but sympathise with Mike. I have never read a book with such a merciless, vulnerable, unpredictable main character that I grew to love and pity. For me, it showed how powerful Hall was at developing a strong character-reader relationship, and I’m seriously impressed that despite his extreme flaws, I ended the novel feeling how I do.

The second half of the book is based in a courtroom. This isn’t a spoiler given that when we first meet Mike, he is writing to his barrister. This section of the book kept me on my toes and unable to predict the verdict. Throughout the court case, almost every character within the book has their chance to be on the stand. It made for such an entertaining read as we were able to hear how every character viewed Mike which was just as enjoyable as the specifics of the case itself.

For me, I finished this book stunned. I couldn’t believe the ending and just how much I had invested in every character. I felt both happy and sad all at the one time. Like my mind has been on an emotional rollercoaster from feeling sympathy and pity one minute to fear the next. It gripped me from around a quarter of the way in, and I couldn’t read it fast enough to find out what exactly happened. Hall has such a great writing style and an incredible skill of manipulating your feelings towards the different characters within the book. My only grumble is that parts of the book felt a little repetitive – there are only so many games of Crave we needed to hear about to know exactly it involved. But, it kept me wanting more, left me curious and when I finished the final page, had me surprised by what I had just read.

It is dark, creepy and everything I ironically ‘crave’ in a good mysterious thriller. It is chilling and hands down, one of the best psychological thrillers I have read in so long. It’s been two days since I finished this and I’m still thinking about it. I couldn’t recommend it enough but, I know some people will have some strong opinions on this. It leaves you feeling conflicted like perhaps you were wrong to feel the different connections you did to the people within it, and if it had been from a different POV, if you would have compassion you seem to have amassed from the first few chapters. It won’t be for everyone but if you’re looking for a slick, dark thriller to get stuck into – this couldn’t be more perfect. You can currently purchase Our Kind Of Cruelty for just 99p from the Kindle store – a total bargain!

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