Top positive review
The best kind of cruelty
on 23 February 2016
When I first picked up this book, I didn't really read crime fiction novels, but I immediately was drawn into the story merely by the opening chapter. By the time I had finished it, I knew that not only had this been my introduction to the rest of Sophie Hannah's work, but the entire crime fiction genre had been opened up to me by this wonderful book.
Amber Hewerdine can't sleep. Her mind is plagued with thoughts of her friend's mysterious death in a housefire years ago, and the ongoing mystery of her husband's family, who vanished without explanation one Christmas Eve, only to return as suddenly as they left. When she goes to see a hypnotherapist, she utters the baffling words, "Kind, Cruel, Kind of Cruel," which sparks off a chain reaction into the case of a dead woman she has never met.
Amber is a great protagonist to follow- clever, cynical and vulnerable, she rises to the challenge of trying to understand the bizarre case has been sucked into, all the while keeping some secrets of her own. Sophie Hannah blends crime with family life, psychology and the occasional bout of black humour that makes her writing style incredibly engaging. Though I read this book out of order, I still felt a familiarity with the Spilling police force, particularly the Sherlockian Simon Waterhouse. He'll solve a case for you, but cannot handle other people crying around him, for instance. The characters all speak with their own distinctive voices and have plenty of personality to go around, so even as the plot thickens and more and more threads of possibility connect the web of crime together, I didn't get the sensation of, "Wait, who was this, again?" I loved the split between Amber's chapters, those from the perspective of the Culver Valley police and Ginny Baker, Amber's beleaguered hypnotherapist - Hannah is an author who is able to not only handle several differing narratives at once, but with a confident ease. I especially loved Amber's dedication to her immediate family contrasting her intense dislike of Jo, her sister-in-law and the queen of passive-aggressive mind games.
Though it's advisable to read the Spilling Series in order, I still found this to be incredibly readable and still probably one of my crime fiction novels to this day.