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Kind of Cruel: A Novel (A Zailer & Waterhouse Mystery) Hardcover – August 6, 2013

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Editorial Reviews Review

Essay by Sophie Hannah: Beware of Psychological Knives

Researching my seventh psychological thriller, Kind of Cruel, I realized I was psychologically illiterate. The plot of Kind of Cruel involves hypnotherapy, and I’d never been hypnotized. I was planning to go for one session, but the hypnotherapist took one look at me, decided I was a little on the screwed-up side, and signed me up for fifteen sessions of “hypnoanalysis.” I quickly became aware that, dysfunctional as I undoubtedly was, I was far from fluent in the language of psychological dysfunction. I’d fancied myself an expert, and yet I didn’t know how to recognize a textbook narcissist, or an emotional energy vampire. I didn’t know what enmeshment was, or codependency, or enabling, or triangulation. So, while I wrote Kind of Cruel, I simultaneously read lots of books with titles like Healing the Shame That Binds You, Trapped in the Mirror, and Toxic Parents and How to Survive Their Hurtful Legacy. (I had to hide that last one when my nearest and dearest visited, for obvious reasons!) All of these books were fascinating, and they taught me a lot. For forty years, I realized, I’d done my best to make myself understood from a position of psychological illiteracy. I’d relied on phrases like “Whenever I’m with her, I feel as if I’m suffocating” and “There’s something kind of off about him.” Suddenly, I had a whole new vocabulary at my disposal. I could identify people who posed a psychological threat, and I often found that I knew the right word for the threat they posed.

Imagine if we could all recognize a codependent narcissist as easily as a knife. If someone runs at you holding a knife, you’re immediately aware of the danger. You have the concepts and vocabulary you need. You think, “Knife—help—imminent, hideous death!” and you run. Also, you can be confident that the police will be familiar with the language of physical threat and understand the implications of “He came at me with a knife.” Everyone knows what a knife is, means, and is called. Same with a bomb. If someone lobbed a bomb at you and you thought, “What a pretty round thingie,” and didn’t run away, you’d get blown up. That’s the situation most of us are in, psychologically. Say to the world at large, “He came at me with enmeshment,” and you’ll meet with baffled looks. Most of us don’t know what that and other such terms mean, and I’d guess that a lot of people suspect they mean nothing, that American shrinks have made them up. As a skeptical Brit, I firmly believe that this is not the case. I’ve known enmeshment in Edinburgh, codependence in Coventry, narcissism in Newbury, triangulation in Truro. Okay, I’ve altered details for the sake of alliteration, but the point is still valid. This isn’t something that applies only to people in L.A. From Dagenham to Doncaster to Dundee, diagnosis is the key. Believe me, nothing scares off a damaged and damaging psyche as quickly or efficiently as the threat of diagnosis.

I’m currently reading Healing the Child Within. Partly as research, and partly because I’m still only at kindergarten level when it comes to diagnosing psychological dysfunction. One day, I hope, I’ll be an expert!

From Publishers Weekly

Hannah's addictive seventh psychological thriller featuring husband-and-wife Det. Constable Simon Waterhouse and Det. Sgt. Charlie Zailer (after 2012's The Other Woman's House) explores the differences between feelings and memories. Insomniac Amber Hewerdine's visit to a hypnotherapist in Silsford, England, leads to her involvement in the investigation of the murder of Katharine Allen, a primary school teacher. At the crime scene is a piece of paper with the enigmatic words of the title. Oddly, the police decide to treat Amber not as a suspect, but almost as a colleague. An earlier murder, by arson, of Amber's best friend, raises the tension. Readers will begin to wonder how much of what the characters say can be believed. As Amber notes, A connection in my mind isn't the same thing as a connection in the real world. The key to the mystery involves divining the meaning of the words on the piece of paper. A creepy subplot involves some of the most evil mothers in contemporary fiction. (Aug.)

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Product Details

  • Series: A Zailer & Waterhouse Mystery
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (August 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670785857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670785858
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #930,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sophie Hannah is an award-winning poet and crime fiction writer whose novels are international bestsellers.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Lazy Day Gardener on June 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
British women mystery novelists have never been better - at least for readers who enjoy telling psychological insight, twisted plots - and characters -, and novelists who probe beneath the surface to explore the human psyche. Tana French, Jane Casey, SJ Bolton, Kate Rhodes, and Denise Mina are noteworthy practitioners of this best-selling literary art, and at the head of pack is Sophie Hannah.

Hannah's novels, as evidenced by her latest, "Kind of Cruel," are character rather than plot driven. They are more novels than mystery stories; or if they're mysteries, it's the mysteries of the human soul that are being probed. And while on one level they're police procedurals even cops Charlotte Zailer and Simon Waterhouse come to the reader with their own complex histories.

Briefly, 'Kind of Cruel' is set around the visit Amber Hewerdine makes to a hypnotherapist while seeking a cure for her insomnia. She has lost a close friend, and has accepted the responsibility of rearing the woman's two children. And now she finds it impossible to sleep. Yet, while under hypnosis, Amber hears herself muttering "kind, cruel, kind of cruel," seemingly random words that are linked to an earlier murder. Enter Zailer and Waterhouse.

Be warned: Hannah's novel are often dark. There are no pat solutions and at times the human hearts displayed are stone cold. But as Zailer and Waterhouse struggle to find justice for the victim, Hannah also gives the reader hope that there is good to balance life's darkness.

This school of fiction will not appeal to all; the plots are not about the race to ferret out the guilty. Instead, they are windows into the sometimes dark motivations of those who cross the line between good and evil.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Q on August 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I received this arc from the publisher through First Reads. I was super excited when this came in the mail, as I love mystery/crime fiction! I had not read anything by Sophie Hannah and did not really know anything about this series.

The story begins as Amber Hewerdine decides to see a hypnotherapist for her ongoing insomnia. During her first session she says the words "Kind, Cruel, Kind of Cruel" without knowing the meaning behind them or where she saw them written. Next thing you know, she is picked up by the police for questioning regarding the murder of a local school teacher, Kat Allen.

The point of view shifts back and forth between Amber, the therapist, and each of the detectives involved with the case. This shifting narrative becomes very complex and sometimes difficult to follow. I did, however, discover that I didn't care much for any of these characters. Which is unfortunate because a large chunk of this book is spent on character development. The plot on the other hand was interesting, but not particularly compelling.

Overall it was an okay read. I probably would have enjoyed it more had I read the previous books. If you are a fan of Sophie Hannah and enjoy the series then you will probably like this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Laurel-Rain Snow TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Amber Hewerdine suffers from chronic insomnia. As a last resort, she visits a hypnotherapist, doubtful that anything will really change. Under hypnosis, Amber hears herself saying, "Kind, cruel, kind of cruel." The words awaken a vague memory, but she dismisses the whole episode as nonsense. Two hours later, however, Amber is arrested for the brutal murder of a woman she's never heard of, and the only way she can clear her name is by remembering exactly where she's seen those words.

The story unfolds from the perspectives of the therapist, Ginny Saxon; from Amber; and from various detectives involved in solving two murders, including Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse, even though Charlie is not "officially" on this case.

Charlie and Simon are married, but they have issues. We have learned about them in previous books, but they are pinpointed again in Kind of Cruel.

Amber's world is one which includes her husband Luke and her best friend Sharon's children, Dinah and Nonie. Sharon was murdered in a fire, and this crime is one of the unsolved ones. Another unrelated (seemingly) murder, of a woman named Katherine Allen, is the one that triggers something in Amber when she hears herself saying the words "Kind, Cruel, Kind of Cruel." She believes she has seen the words written down somewhere...but where? And when? She can even describe the notepaper on which the words were written.

How do members of Luke's family--his brother Neil and Neil's wife Jo, as well as assorted other family members--impact Luke and Amber? Why does Jo seem especially controlling of Amber, and how do Amber's fears and insecurities escalate when around her?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Murray VINE VOICE on June 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Sophie Hannah's thriller "Kind of Cruel" (Putnam 2013) never lets up. From the opening character, Amber Hewerdine, an insomniac regretfully going to a hypnotist as a final gambit to end her sleeplessness, to her arrest in connection to a murder from the doorstep of her home as her young daughters and husband begin their dinner, the story wraps mystery into plot line as we scrabble to figure out the origin of the words 'kind of cruel' and are they the fulcrum to who killed two seemingly unconnected women. In the usual British way, the characters are difficult and acerbic, hard to like thanks to their lack of social skills, but intriguing because of their intellect. For example, Amber Hewerdine is cranky, opinionated, and seems to judge everyone, but is saved because she is just as hard on herself.

The story's voice is as confusing as the plotline. We sometimes see the world through Amber's eyes, in first person present. Other times, we jump into another character's head (Amber's sister-in-law or one of the detectives or any number of pivotal individuals)--and switch to third person present or past--whichever seems to suit Hannah (oh, that's also the cue for the Narrator's voice). Then, there are times we are in an unnamed person's point of view, this always identified by italics--actually two fonts of italics (this we finally figure out half way through is the hypnotherapist whose character ties all the disparate story threads together). This final viewpoint is seemingly intended to provide readers the psycho-analysis of motives, tie-ins, backstory at times, and an insider perspective on a complicated and tightly-woven plot.

But that's a lot of switches and caused me no small bit of confusion. I never could quite relax into the story.
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