One of the Good Guys
“I guess I’ve learned over the years that if you just shout about something, people stop listening. You have to find inventive ways of getting your point across.”
-Melanie “Mel” Connelly
The first third of Araminta Hall’s thought-provoking One of the Good Guys gives us Cole Simmonds in his own voice trying to understand why his wife Mel is divorcing him. He’s confused and confounded as he thinks he’s done everything that most men don’t in a relationship. He wanted to be totally in tune with Mel, both physically and mentally. He not only desperately wanted a baby, but he helped her through the difficulty of IVF even though he felt the stress of her job was responsible for the failures of their pregnancies. Then Mel hits him with the devastating news she is divorcing him, selling their flat, and destroying the three remaining embryos. Cole begs her not to destroy the embryos. He’s convinced that he and Mel need each other and doesn’t think Mel can cope without him.
Distraught, he finds a job keeping people safe from a dangerous area along a coastal cliff and makes friends with Leonora, an artist, who lives in a cabin along the seaside cliff where he is also housed for his job. Some of Cole’s activities are questionable, such as his killing and butchering rabbits, and leaving their internal organs outside Leonora’s cabin so the foxes howl and eat them. He does this so Leonora will rely on him to make her feel safe. He’s trying to make a point.
During this time, two young activist women with Walk for Women and a large following camp along the coastal cliff. Cole finds them sitting on the edge of the cliff, a dangerous place to be. He tries to talk the women off the cliff, but the women get hostile and threaten to call the police. The next day, the women disappear, and their tent and gear are left nearby. He becomes a suspect in their disappearance.
Mel’s story takes up the second act of this thriller, starting with how she and Cole met, fell in love, and how and why she could not be with him anymore. We also learn of Cole’s sexual kink.
Twist after twist takes the plot to the final third where the author uses social media messages, Leonora’s voice, and newspaper articles to follow what happens with Cole, Leonora, Melanie, and the two activists. The big reveal at the end crushes anything that seemed possible, yet at the same time feels perfect for the situation.
One of the Good Guys is not only difficult to review, but challenging as no one is particularly sympathetic. However, the characters are so sharply realized that you know they aren’t meant to be sympathetic but are necessary for an understanding of where we currently are in the gender divide. This quote is used in the thriller’s promo: “If most men claim to be good, why are most women still afraid to walk alone?” That sums up where the “me-too” movement leaves us. As far as the future of the movement, this work of fiction seems to bring us to the next stage, which is quoted at the top of the review. This tightrope of a feminist thriller comes to us from Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn’s imprint ZandoBooks. I hope she continues publishing books that push our societal and cultural norms.
Thank you to Zando, Gillian Flynn Books, Araminta Hall, and NetGalley for a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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