Do unto others

© C A Lovegrove

The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig.
Abacus, 2021 (2020).

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Luke 6:31

A little way into this modern morality tale Hannah – poverty-stricken, downtrodden, and en route to see her dying mother in Cornwall – is invited into a first-class carriage by Jinni. To Hannah’s surprise she finds herself making a pact with Jinni for each to murder the other’s husband, consciously echoing the central concept in Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train. All that remains is, apparently, to see how this plays out.

I see, however, that I’m not the only reader to find this mix of mystery thriller and misery memoir hard going, primarily because anyone familiar with domestic abuse – personally or through a family member or acquaintance – will recognise all the classic signs: the physical and psychological abuse, the bullying and the financial strictures, the control exerted through coercion and threats, made especially unbearable when there are children involved.

So, if it weren’t for the murder mystery element in the novel and the literary parallels which the author referenced the sheer misery of proceedings would’ve been enough to have depressed this reader immeasurably. However, Amanda Craig raises hopes here that guilty parties will get their just desserts, not just echoing the Sermon on the Mount but also, as some may know, Charles Kingsley’s fairy Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid, the counterpart of Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby in The Water-Babies. Will Hannah – her name in Hebrew means ‘grace’ or ‘favoured one’ – conform to the hypothesis of nominative determinism?

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