Desert Isle Keeper
Our Kind of Cruelty
Fans of You, the twisty psychological thriller by Caroline Kepnes are very likely going to be drawn to Araminta Hall’s Our Kind of Cruelty. It’s a dark tale of obsession that kept me engrossed from beginning to end, but I think it’s important to point out that parts of the book did make me extremely uncomfortable. The subject matter is quite disturbing, so if books about stalking are difficult for you to read, you’re probably going to want to give this one a miss.
Before I tell you anything about it, I want to explain that Our Kind of Cruelty is not a mystery in the truest sense of the word. We know right from the beginning that something very bad has happened, and we’re given a pretty clear idea of who is responsible. What we don’t know is what caused this particular set of circumstances to unfold, and it’s these small details that set this novel apart from many others I’ve read this year.
Our narrator is Mike Hayes, a young man who has worked hard to rise above his troubled past, and most people who know him would probably tell you he’s done a stellar job creating the perfect life for himself. What they don’t know is that Mike couldn’t have done it without Verity, the woman he loves beyond all reason. She taught him everything he knows about love and trust, and he’s finally ready to show her just how important she really is to him. He’s gotten an excellent job, bought a beautiful home, and worked out until his body is as close to perfect as he can get it. Now, all he has to do is convince Verity that he’s done all of this for her.
Unfortunately, Verity doesn’t seem willing to be convinced. She hasn’t returned Mike’s emails or phone calls for the past several months – and he’s not sure what to make of this. Then, he gets an invitation in the mail to Verity’s upcoming wedding. At first, he’s completely devastated, but after he’s taken some time to cool down, he realizes that all of this is just part of the secret game he and Verity used to play. Surely, if he pays attention, he’ll be able to spot the little clues she’s leaving for him, and then he’ll know just when to swoop in and save her, just the way he always has in the past.
It didn’t take long for me to come to the conclusion that Mike is not a very stable person. His thought processes are quite skewed, and some of his actions were abhorrent to me. He sees absolutely nothing wrong with watching Verity without her knowledge. He follows her home from work on several occasions and stands outside her house at night. He lies to his coworkers, telling them that he and Verity are a couple who hope to get married in the very near future, and he doesn’t see anything wrong with any of this. After all, he and Verity will be together soon, and things will finally be perfect.
I loved that Ms. Hall takes great pains to show us what made Mike into the man he is today. His childhood was quite horrible, and while this certainly doesn’t excuse his bad behavior, it did give me quite a bit of insight into his character. It added a layer of authenticity to an individual who could have quite easily been just another run-of-the-mill villain without these details about his early life.
There were several times when I truly had no idea what was going on in the story. I knew I couldn’t fully believe Mike’s version of things, but his point of view is the only one we’re given. Normally, this would have frustrated me quite a bit, but I don’t think this story could have been told as effectively any other way. There was something so compelling about reading Mike’s story, even if parts of it made me cringe. It’s like the proverbial train wreck that is impossible to turn away from, even if you know you’re about to see something terrible.
Our Kind of Cruelty isn’t going to be for everyone, but I’m glad I picked it up, and Araminta Hall is definitely an author worth watching. If her next book is even half as unputdownable as this one turned out to be, I’ll be incredibly pleased.