51 uzv1SVHL. SY346 Lovers Mike and Ver­ity play a game fraught with dan­ger. They call it “The Crave” and it hinges on Verity’s abil­ity to attract would-​be suit­ors and mus­cu­lar Mike’s skill at fend­ing them off. In a night­club, Ver­ity hangs out alone at the bar until a man approaches. She teases and flirts until, upon a sig­nal from her, Mike storms over and inter­venes. “I love see­ing how scared they are of you,” says Ver­ity, as they find a dark cor­ner where they can have sex.

Writ­ing from the point of view of Mike, author Aram­inta Hall depicts a man whose wretched child­hood has left him so dam­aged he is pow­er­less to rec­og­nize the depth of his delu­sions. After the pair split up and Ver­ity rashly invites Mike to her wed­ding to Angus Met­calf (“London’s most eli­gi­ble bach­e­lor”), Mike con­vinces him­self the mar­riage itself is part of an elab­o­rate “Crave” meant to pun­ish him for a brief infidelity.

Of course Mike’s creepy obses­sion with Ver­ity and his inabil­ity to believe she really does love her new hus­band can lead to noth­ing good. When the novel opens, Mike is telling his story from prison where he’s being held for mur­der. Whose mur­der, we find out later.

OUR KIND OF CRU­ELTY is a page-​turner I read almost at one sit­ting. My only quib­ble with the novel is that at times char­ac­ters behave so fool­ishly that their actions defy all rea­son except as a plot device. Instead, a tragedy that could have been averted by sim­ply involv­ing the police or hir­ing a pri­vate secu­rity team is allowed to run its vio­lent course.

Still, in every other respect the novel is far too com­pelling and well-​done to pass up.

In her after­word, Hall points out what many women sadly already know, that we live in a world where “women must be per­fect, men are allowed to get away with murder.”

OUR KIND OF CRU­ELTY does a stel­lar job of illus­trat­ing that point.

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