Verity and Mike are an example of a classic love story. They met at university, fell in love and then seven years later, circumstances meant that they had to continue their relationship long-distance to further their careers and ultimately to enable them to buy their dream house in London.
Then it all went wrong and the couple split up.
“I must be cruel only to be kind / Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.”
We meet Mike who in the first half of the book explains his history both before and after he met the love of his life Verity. I’m not really spoiling anything to say that you may find this young man a little hard to warm to, but that’s not to say this isn’t one fascinating story. If you like your psychological themed books of the variety where you see into the minds that view life in a very different way to the norm, you’ll love it.
While they were together Mike and Verity played a game, not of the tame board variety but one of a more adult nature. This game was called ‘The Crave.’ So when Mike receives an invitation to Verity’s wedding to a rich older man, Angus, he interprets this as a continuation of the game and acts accordingly. To the man on the street his behaviour would be classed as stalking, but not to Mike who is convinced that despite losing in act one, he is in with a definite chance in act two. This book tells us how this plays out for the couple.
That’s all I’m going to say about the plot because the power of the book is in the structure and the many layers that have clearly been lovingly thought out to give the reader an insight into stories which reflect the talking points that you probably discuss with friends even if only in the context of your combined relationship history. Someone you know is bound to have known a Mike, and a Verity. What gave me conviction that this is a brilliantly crafted piece of psychological fiction was the way that although I rattled through the book, wondering what was going to happen next, it was only after I had finished that some of the talking points were really revealed. It is one of those books which tempted me to go back to the beginning armed with the knowledge of the ending.
One of the obvious joys in this book was to read a good psychological thriller from a male perspective. I have often said I don’t need to like the protagonists of the books I read and so to read about a damaged man in his own words was fascinating in itself and really was a change from the other way around. Mike is obsessive in his love for Verity and we learn why that may be from his internal thoughts that occupy the first half of the book but we learn about those who inhabit his world and what his view of it does to them too. So very, very clever and utterly compelling.
I have been a fan of Araminta Hall ever since I read her first novel Everything and Nothing way back in 2011, which was followed by Dot in 2013 (which made my top ten reads of that year,) so I was absolutely delighted to be provided with an advance copy of Our Kind of Cruelty by the publishers Century. This unbiased review is my thank you to them and the exceptional author.