Bay Ridge

Malleability of memory plays out in new thriller

August 6, 2013 From G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Group
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Brooklyn BookBeat

“Kind of Cruel” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons; Aug. 6, 2013), the seventh installment in Sophie Hannah’s acclaimed Zailer & Waterhouse crime series—and the first to appear as a Putnam hardcover—is another psychologically complex thriller from “one of the great unmissables of this genre” (The Times, London). Nearly impossible to unravel until its final pages, Hannah’s intricate, multi-voice narrative explores the elusive, malleable nature of memory as played out in a baffling criminal investigation involving some odd remembered words and the brutal death of a stranger. The author will appear to read from her novel in Brooklyn on Aug. 7 at the Bookmark Shoppe in Bay Ridge.

“Kind of Cruel” begins with hypnosis. Amber Hewerdine, a strong-willed, at times even abrasive woman, warily consults a hypnotherapist as a last-ditch effort to cure her chronic insomnia. During the session, Amber utters the phrase, “Kind. Cruel. Kind of Cruel.” It means nothing to her—indeed, she accuses the hypnotherapist of planting it in her mind—but it does stir up something disturbing in her memory, and she storms out of the session, refusing to pay. Outside, she confronts another woman who is waiting for hypnosis—Amber is convinced she has seen the phrase in a diary in which that other woman has been writing. And sure enough, there it is. The problem, though, is that the writing in the diary is on unlined paper, and the vague visual memory that slowly returns to Amber is of these words written emphatically on a lined page. What do they mean and where did she see them?

As it happens, the woman with the diary is Police Officer Charlie Zailer, whose husband, Detective Constable Simon Waterhouse, is working on a murder case. The imprint of these words—on lined paper—was found at the crime scene where a woman, Katharine Allen, was found brutally murdered. But when Amber is questioned, she denies any knowledge of the killing—or, indeed, of the victim. Yet the alibi she provides is a false one, meant to hide a different crime, and her current situation, fostering two young girls whose mother died in an unsolved murder, raises police suspicions. In the meantime, Amber is haunted by a different mystery—one involving her sister-in-law, Jo, and a strange occurrence at a rented house one Christmas holiday years before.

The complexity of the case is intensified further by rampant dissension at the police precinct, where Simon and his commander, Proust, lock horns with increasing hostility. Charlie, meanwhile, has her own issues with her sister, Liv, who is conducting an ill-advised affair with one of Charlie and Simon’s married colleagues. Family relationships can be tortuous—indeed, even kind of cruel.

“Hannah, who understands psychological mayhem as well as Ruth Rendell and maybe even Sigmund Freud, is best read with a crisis counselor on speed-dial,” says Kirkus Reviews. “Kind of Cruel” is another disturbing, mind-boggling thriller from “this exemplar of psychological suspense” (Booklist).

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The Aug. 7 event will begin at 7 p.m. The Bookmark Shoppe is located at 8415 3rd Ave. in Bay Ridge.

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Sophie Hannah’s psychological thrillers, Little Face, The Truth-Teller’s Lie, The Wrong Mother, The Dead Lie Down, The Cradle in the Grave, and The Other Woman’s House are international bestsellers that have been translated into 22 languages. Hannah’s novels have been shortlisted for many awards, including Specsavers National Book Awards Crime Thriller of the Year 2012 and the Barry Award, and she won first prize in the Daphne Du Maurier Festival Short Story Competition. She is also a bestselling and award-winning poet. Hannah lives with her husband and children in Cambridge, where she is a Fellow Commoner at Lucy Cavendish College.