Sophie Hannah: Kind of Cruel

There would seem to be a major flaw with novelist Sophie Hannah's newest release, Kind of Cruel. All the characters are irritating and/or obnoxious. Hannah somehow pulls off the impossible and manages to create irritating and/or obnoxious characters who are likable — or at least interesting. Leading the cast is Amber, a walking psychotic episode with so many nervous tics, runaway mental diseases and delusions that there's a page in the DSM-5 index devoted just to her. There's her sister-in-law Jo, who would rather cram her extended family uncomfortably into her much-too-small house than be accused of not taking care of them. And there are Amber's adopted daughters, tiny emotional terrorists who each demand 100 percent of her attention all the time and gleefully point out every time she fails — again — as a substitute parent. There are also some cops, investigators, wannabe investigators and a hypnotherapist with questionable skills. What’s tying them all together? A piece of paper with the words ''Kind of Cruel'' written on it. It's evidence in a cold-case murder, and only the cops know about it. When Amber says she's seen it but can't remember where, she gets hauled in as a suspect. You may not like the characters in Kind of Cruel (you probably wouldn't want any of them living next door to you), but you've got to admire Hannah's skill in spinning an intriguing story.

6:30 p.m. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-524-8597 or visit Free.
Thu., Aug. 8, 6:30 p.m., 2013

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Olivia Flores Alvarez