“Our kind of cruelty” by Araminta Hall – Book Review

“We make a funny pair,” she said to me once, “you with no parents, me with no siblings. There’s so little of us to go around. We have to keep a tight hold of each other to stop the other from floating away”.

This is a story of a volatile, toxic relationship. Michael Hayes and ‘V’ (Verity) have lived together since university. I hesitate to say that they were in love, because love to them means something different to what love means to most people.  Mike is highly controlling, and absolutely obsessed with the beautiful V. Their sex is fantastic, and to keep it that way they play a devious game.  The game consists of them going to a bar, entering separately, then V sits alone at the bar and waits for some unsuspecting male to ‘hit on her’.  She flirts openly and when the man makes a real move, she touches the silver eagle pendant she wears. This is the signal for Mike to step in and say something threatening like “What do you think you are doing with MY girlfriend?”.  As the man scuttles away, they find themselves both so charged with lust that they must have sex right away – sometimes in the corner of the bar – up against the wall…

Verity is Mike’s anchor. He calls himself her Eagle.

They call this game they play Crave

“Cruelty was a necessary part of our game.”

They are both highly intelligent people and are quite successful in their work. He in banking, she in developing artificial intelligence.  When he is offered a job in America, the salary is such that they feel he cannot turn it down. He will stay over there a few years, then return to London and buy a house for them both. She has just been made director of the company she works for, so together they are more than financially solvent.

Long distance relationships are not always successful, and Mike and V struggle to maintain theirs. He has an ‘incident’ in New York which he highly regrets. When he returns home for Christmas he confesses to his indiscretion, and V breaks off with him.  Mike is distraught – for he cannot imagine a future without her in it.

Several months later he gets a wedding invitation. It seems that Verity is marrying a man called Agnes Metcalf – and he has been invited to witness their union.  Mike is such a fantasist that he actually tells himself that this is all part of the game they play, it is just another Crave. The ultimate Crave.

Mike has no sense of boundaries and no empathy for others.  Verity had taught him some social skills, and has encouraged his physical fitness. She has ‘created’ the man he now is. Since returning to London, he has bought a lovely house in Clapham for Verity.  Although she says she wants nothing more to do with him, he thinks she doesn’t mean it. He tells his co-workers that he and Verity live together. He sometimes sets the table for two, pouring two glasses of wine, talking to her over the table. She is not there.

Mike sees an implied meaning in most communications from V. He interprets her words and actions the way he wants to see them. He is delusional and obsessive. He also has gaps in his memory which he finds puzzling and troublesome. He has always been lonely except for the time he was with V. He drinks more than he should AND he has anger issues.

“Sometimes two people need each other so much it is worth sacrificing others to make sure they end up together.”

Mike sends V some very disturbing emails. These escalate the fractured dynamic between them…

This novel left me feeling conflicted. On the one hand, the protagonist is without a doubt mentally ill, psychotic and ‘over the top’ obsessed. On the other hand, though you don’t ever feel the need to condone what he does, you do have to feel empathy for his horrendous childhood. He was both physically and emotionally abused, severely neglected, and subsequently separated from his alcoholic mother at the tender age of ten. This upbringing has left him so damaged that it has warped his thinking throughout his life.

Our kind of cruelty” emphasizes the fact that the justice system does not always deliver justice, and that there is still a dire problem with sexism inherent in the legal process. This thriller is very well written. So well written that it left me feeling very uncomfortable.   If that was the author’s aim, then she succeeded.  It was a thriller that emphasizes the psychological, and one that gives the reader an intense, though disturbing, reading experience.  A chilling look at obsessive love.

I received a digital copy of this novel from Farrar, Straus and Giroux via NetGalley. This in no way influenced my rating or review of this book.

The author, Araminta Hall discusses obsessive love.


Araminta Hall has worked as a journalist since 1994 at some of Emap’s biggest titles, including Bliss Magazine and New Woman. Since 2000 she has freelanced for a variety of magazines and national newspapers. She lives in Brighton with her husband and three children.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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5 Responses to “Our kind of cruelty” by Araminta Hall – Book Review

  1. I notice that this isn’t your usual go-to genre and am fascinated by your thoughts. Great review as always 👌🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh this sounds so SO good!


  3. Your first picture is gorgeous!!


  4. skyecaitlin says:

    Lynne, actually sounds interesting; with some characters who are clearly disagreeable.


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