Thursday, 16 January 2014

Book review: "Kind of Cruel", by Sophie Hannah

A locked room, four people going missing on Christmas Day, and murder are linked together in this psychological thriller by Sophie Hannah.

Amber Hewerdine has not been able to sleep since the death of her best friend. She and her husband have taken in her friend's two young daughters, who they are trying to adopt. Driven to the end of her tether by sleeplessness, she visits a hypnotherapist, who inadvertently uncovers a link with a recent murder case that has police baffled.

Now a police suspect, Amber has to discover how a vital piece of evidence became buried deep in her subconscious before the killer strikes again.

I am not ordinarily a fan of psychological thrillers. This is particularly the case for densely-written psychological thrillers - this book weighs in at nearly 500 pages. At times the prose felt a little like wading through mud - every character's thought and emotions are dissected, often in too much detail. This may appeal to some readers, but I would have preferred it if the plot moved on at a faster pace.

It is one of these stories where virtually every major character - and every adult character - has a psychological issue that drives the plot along. One person is sexually repressed; another finds it hard to forgive her sister for a past transgression. All the characters are individuals - but it would be hard for them not to be when they are written about in such depth. Sometimes a page or two pass without anything actually happening, as the text is descriptions or interior monologue.

Despite this, the linked neuroses and issues work. The key to the story  - and the main villain - was fairly easy to detect, but I was left reading to work out the why the crime was committed - as could be expected, it was a very psychological motive.

I found my credulity stretched towards the middle of the book: for instance, how could these characters afford to live their rich lifestyles? Fortunately that credulity was not stretched to breaking point, and the questions - all relevant to the plot - are neatly answered by the final page. The plot is fairly complex, but the author plays the clever trick of simplifying the complexities as you near the end.

One downside: there is a moment of drama towards the end of the book that puts some characters in peril, that is fixed by a rather startling coincidence. It isn't a major problem, but the author could easily have found a better way of saving them.

I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.


Robyn said...

I love the idea of this book. I know from experience the bond best girlfriends have. It is a rather dark subject matter, but one that looks like a good read. Thanks for the review. I am putting it on my list to read. I love action and thriller books. I just finished one last week that really stood out. It is called, "Chasing A Miracle" by author Eliot Hartford Bailey. The concept put forth in the book is very engaging and relevant, if forces you to reflect on the common feeling everyone has that ‘everything happens for a reason’. This is the first book in a trilogy. I can't wait to read the rest!

Donna Wren said...

Great review. Sounds like a very intense story - right up my alley! Thanks, Robyn, for sharing Chasing A Miracle as well - I will check that out.

Robyn said...

Your welcome Donna. It is a good one!