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Literature / Kind Of Cruel

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Kind of Cruel is a novel written by Sophie Hannah in 2012, the Seventh installment in her Spilling Series. When Amber Hewerdine consults a hypnotherapist as a desperate last resort, she doesn't expect that anything much will change. She doesn't expect it to help with her chronic insomnia . . .She doesn't expect to hear herself, under hypnosis, saying words that mean nothing to her: 'Kind, cruel, kind of cruel' - words she has seen somewhere before, if only she could remember where . . .She doesn't expect to be arrested two hours later, as a result of having spoken those words out loud, in connection with the brutal murder of Katharine Allen, a woman she's never heard of...

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Contains the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Sharon's mother Marian was psychologically abusive to her daughter, to the point that Sharon would rather Dinah and Nonie "live with crackheads" than go to their grandmother.
    • Pamela turns out to be one to Jo (and perhaps Richie, to a lesser extent) by telling Jo that she expected her to take care of Kristy when she died.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: It's never really explained what Kristy's handicap is - Amber tried to ask Jo in the most tactful way she could, but Jo acted fairly predictably by lashing out at her and Amber never brings it up again. Ginny speculates Kristy has the mental age of no more than a two-year-old.
  • Arc Words: "Kind, cruel, kind of cruel."
  • Berserk Button: Amber telling Jo she would refuse to take on Quentin if Hillary died. Because this means Jo's plan to kill Shannon so Amber would be too busy with Dinah and Nonie to look after Quentin was All for Nothing.
  • Birds of a Feather: Unlike some of the previous leading ladies of the Spilling Series, Amber finds Simon's blunt demeanour and Grumpy Bear attitude rather refreshing, and he in turn treats Amber as an equal rather than a possible suspect.
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  • Evil Matriarch: Marian and Pamela.
  • Gaslighting: Done quite a lot by Jo, who will be nice one moment, verbally tear into Amber another, then revert back to being nice as if nothing happened. Amber herself mentions she often isn't sure if Jo truly said the things she did or if she imagined them. Simon also notes that there's something incredibly unsettling about Jo's unpredictable moodswings.
  • Get Out!: Ginny is not pleased when Amber takes offence to being expected to spill her deepest secrets to her and Simon and demands Ginny do the same, prompting Ginny to kick Amber and Simon out of her clinic. Amber admits to Simon she didn't really want Ginny's secrets, she just wanted Ginny to take a moment to think about what she was asking of Amber.
  • Grumpy Bear: Amber, though if you never slept, were raising two kids after your best friend was murdered and had to deal with Jo frequently, you'd be grumpy as well.
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  • He Knows Too Much: Why Kat Allan was murdered - she witnessed Jo renting the fireman's costume she used to kill Sharon.
  • Hypocrite: Even though she doesn't want to raise Dinah and Nonie herself, Marian repeatedly tries to block Amber and Luke's attempts to adopt the girls, saying that although they are their legal guardians, that doesn't make them their parents.
  • Irony: Dinah is at loggerheads with her Headmistress for much of the book, but when said headmistress witnesses Jo kidnapping Dinah and Nonie, it's her who comes to the rescue.
  • The Load: Quentin, Neil and Luke's father, is an incredibly annoying Old Windbag who cannot cope with living by himself, as his wife took care of him for their entire marriage. This actually becomes a plot point during The Reveal.
    • Richie and Kristy too, Richie being The Slacker who refuses to get a job and Kristy is severely mentally disabled.
  • Mama Bear: Amber is fiercely protective of Dinah and Nonie, even saying she wouldn't have biological children of her own in order to focus on raising them.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Dinah is the Red Oni to Nonie's blue.
  • Tragic Monster: How the novel paints Jo, who became a narcissist thanks to the unwitting abuse of her own mother.
  • Villainous Breakdown: A truly disturbing example with Jo, who begins behaving exactly like her mentally handicapped sister as Simon's interrogation of her drives home what a horrible person she's become and it's left ambiguous as to whether or not she can and will recover.
  • Wham Line: Dinah revealing she and Nonie are the ones who invented 'Kind of Cruel'
    • Olivia revealing that Jo knew Kat Allan, thus connecting her to both cases.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Gibbs notes that Sharon's killer is unusual in this example because they were perfectly willing to burn down a house with an innocent woman inside, but went out of their way to get Dinah and Nonie out and warned them to run away.
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