Sophie Hannah has been labeled the new British Queen of the psychological thriller and is long overdue for the same recognition in the U.S. KIND OF CRUEL marks the seventh gripping thriller in her crime series featuring married British police officers Charlotte “Charlie” Zailer and Simon Waterhouse.
What Hannah does best is create unique situations that will challenge and perplex readers as they unravel what is actually going on. The key figure here is a British woman named Amber Hewerdine, who is seeking a cure to her battle with insomnia. She decides to see a hypnotherapist, and the end result of that visit will put her firmly in the middle of a serious police investigation.
The novel jumps around in time, giving readers various pieces of the puzzle that drop clues as to the identity of the killer being sought. The mystery actually begins several years earlier when Amber and several members of her immediate and extended family spend the Christmas holiday at a rented mansion by the name of Little Orchard. What should be a standard family celebration turns strange when Amber’s sister-in-law, Jo, and her family disappear during the night on Christmas Eve.
"KIND OF CRUEL is a top-notch psychological thriller that will provide many sleepless nights of reading for those who venture in."
The family of four remains missing all of Christmas Day only to return the next day on Boxing Day. When the rest of the family seeks to find out the reason for the unexpected disappearance, Jo insists that they not discuss it. It is this event that could be behind Amber’s current sleep issues as she knows deep down that something sinister was going on during that visit to Little Orchard.
While under hypnosis, Amber blurts the phrase “Kind, cruel, kind of cruel.” She has no idea what that means and is surprised when the police wish to question her about the statement. Through an interesting plot twist, the police find out about Amber’s statement made under hypnosis and have particular interest in speaking with her since a piece of paper containing those exact words was found at the site of a young woman’s brutal murder.
Detective Constable Simon Waterhouse leads the investigation, and he and his team --- which includes his wife, DCI Charlie Zailer --- put pressure on Amber to try and remember why she blurted out that phrase. It seems Amber has been connected to other tragedies and secrets, and is presently raising the two daughters of a friend who was killed in a tragic arson incident. Could the murder and that fire be connected somehow? The reader will come up against several unexpected events as the challenging narrative peels back layer after layer of family secrets that ultimately reveal a deadly agenda.
To prepare for this novel, Sophie Hannah actually underwent some hypnotherapy herself, which helped form the idea for the beginning of the plot and the surreal hypnotherapy session her character goes through. KIND OF CRUEL is a top-notch psychological thriller that will provide many sleepless nights of reading for those who venture in.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on August 9, 2013