Kind of Cruel by Sophie Hannah

Amber Hewerdine was losing sleep, and it really wasn’t surprising.

Her best friend died in an arson attack, the arsonist had never been identified, and now Amber and her husband, Luke, were bringing up her friend’s two young daughters.

An incident that happened at a family Christmas spent in a holiday cottage was still troubling her. Luke’s sister, her husband and their two young sons disappeared on Christmas day, not returning until the next morning when the refused to give any explanation of what had happened.

And things got worse. When Amber took positive action to deal with her insomnia, visiting a psychotherapist, she found herself under arrest. ‘Kind, cruel, kind of cruel,’ she said. She didn’t know what it meant, where the words came from, they just came into her head.

The impression of those words had been found on a notepad in the room where Katherine Allen had been found, beaten to death with an iron bar. The police had no idea what they meant.

That’s how Sophie Hannah set up another fiendishly complicated mystery.

She gave it a few clever twists, and then she offered up a solution that was entirely credible but pretty unguessable. I realised about two-thirds of the way through the book who the murderer would probably be. And I was right, but I couldn’t put all of the pieces of the puzzle into place until the very end of the book.

I loved watching those pieces fall into place.

There were one or two niggles but they were more than made up for by many, many wonderful things. I’m not mentioning specifics, because they really aren’t things you’d want to know before you read the book.

I loved observing the characters. They weren’t overly likeable, but they were interesting, believable and complex. Real, three-dimensional human beings.

And there was none of the slight feeling of ennui I’ve experienced once or twice with Sophie Hannah’s leading ladies: Amber was definitely a one-off. She was an intelligent woman; she was a professional; she’d clearly worked to build a strong relationship with the daughters she inherited ; she had with strong – and sometimes unconventional – opinions, and she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, though she understood that sometimes it was wiser not to… A great character.

I was enthralled by some wonderful dialogue: between Amber and her two girls, between Amber and the Spilling detectives, between Amber and her usually warm but sometimes spiky sister-in law, Jo.There were times when I could have happily just followed those conversations even if there had been no mystery to be resolved.

The stories of the various members of the Spilling police force evolved nicely, and the mix of their story, Amber’s story and the psychotherapists’ narrative worked very well.

I’m a little tired though of the troubled relationship between Simon and Charlie though, and I think it’s time to call a halt. It’s become a little tiresome, and it so clearly isn’t going to work out.

Otherwise though Sophie Hannah was at the top of her game, and Kind of Cruel was pretty much perfect.

An intriging puzzle and a psychological thriller perfectly balanced.

And all I have left to say is – MORE PLEASE!

11 responses

  1. I don’t know why I’ve not yet read any of her books, though I do have one on my reading pile (I think they are better read in order?). I’m certainly looking forward to trying her soon!

    • I would say they are best read in order – because there are ongoing stories with the Spilling police force – but it isn’t essential because it is less important than the each book’s mystery puzzle, and they stand alone.

      I read out of order, because I didn’t know there was a series element – and certainly they aren’t marketed as a series – and I don’t feel I’ve missed too much.

    • Best read in order – probably but I wouldn’t say it was essential – more details above.

      Sophie Hannah also writes poetry, and there were a couple of good stand alone novels before she turned to crime, though I think they are out of print now.

  2. I wasn’t so enamored of her last one Lasting Damage, it was just too complex. I’ll look forward to reading this one though if the balance is right.

    • i did like Lasting Damage, but I ‘m inclined to sat that this one is slightly less convuluted and I probably liked it a little more.

  3. I really want to like Sophie Hannah and I even own one of her novels, but I haven’t been able to get into the three that I’ve tried. Her plots sound amazing and I know she is well-loved, so I am going to keep trying! Maybe it is a case of timing for me and Sophie 🙂

    • It might be timing or it might be that she isn’t the author for you. I like the seemingly unsolvable, completely unrealistic mysteries she writes, but I can understand why some people don’t.

  4. I do want to read them but just discovered my library is missing the first book! I’m very vexed. Well, I shall put them on the TBR list anyhow, I’ve heard such good things about her.

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