11) The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig
A couple of years back, I read The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig, which I thoroughly enjoyed and heartily recommend. This book shares something with that earlier one, in that it’s split between the South West and London, and in that there is an unlikely crime at the heart of it: and, most importantly, that it’s a great read.
It starts with Hannah, a recently divorced mother who is down on her luck, meeting Jinni on the train down to Cornwall – and they agree to kill each other’s (ex) husbands. So far, so Strangers on a Train, but it expands beautifully from there as Hannah reconnects with her family, her background and Cornwall as a whole – and finds herself embroiled emotionally and financially in the restoration of an old building with a curious character.
It’s as beautifully written and as eminently readable as ever by Craig, who makes plotting and pace seem effortless – and while some of the characters veer a bit towards London or Cornwall stereotypes, the central character Hannah is engaging and likeable: you can’t help but cheer her towards (one hopes) a happy ending. And that also meant I could forgive the fairytale elements and echoes, which are undoubtedly deliberate.
The parts of the book looking at the rich-poor divide, with a helping of Brexit, felt a bit clunky – but what resonated much more (partly as a result of timing of when I read the book) is the centrality of domestic violence to several relationships. So while you could read it and go away thinking of Beauty and the Beast or a Jane Austen romance, or a thriller or state-of-nation satire, I left primarily thinking about the misery and fear that many women live with.
Overall, highly recommended again, albeit not quite as successfully achieved (for me) as The Lie of the Land.