I’m going to start with an unusual disclaimer here…

If you already know you want to read this book, don’t read my review – don’t read any reviews – and definitely don’t read the praise inside the front cover!

What’s it about?

Sal and Charlie are married. They love each other – supposedly – but they aren’t happy. The blurb informs us that: ‘Sal can’t leave, no matter what Charlie does – no matter how much it hurts.’

Mysterious, eh? After a quick, dramatic prologue, we’re immediately into Sal’s thoughts and the heart of the matter:

‘The first time you hit me it was a shock, but not a surprise. Surely this is the natural progression of things? Starting with the little things, like wanting to know where I’ve been, who I’ve spoken to, escalating to a little push here and a shove there, until now, when a slap almost feels like a reward – and I’m thankful that it wasn’t something worse, that there are no bones broken this time.’

Charlie hurts Sal, so why can’t Sal leave? The answers won’t surprise you; this is a classic case of domestic abuse, so expect a story full of manipulative, controlling behaviour and abuse.

What’s it like?

Not quite as advertised, whilst simultaneously doing exactly what it sets out to do. I’ll explain. Hall presents us with a classic case of domestic abuse and we obviously want Sal to realise there are options beyond simply waiting to have your face smashed in. The incidents described, and how Charlie and Sal treat each other, are spot on and it’s a convincingly depicted abusive relationship. But.

When is a psychological thriller not a psychological thriller? When the ‘thrill’ resides in a twist that’s, unfortunately, rather easy to spot. I’m going to give Hall the benefit of the doubt here: Goodreads is full of five star reviews enthusing over the ‘twist’, so it might just be that I’ve read too many of this type of story lately, but to me, the supposed twist was so obvious from, literally, the first chapter and therefore not a twist, that I felt like I was twiddling my thumbs a little, waiting to be hit by the real twist, only to reach the end and realise, nope, that really was meant to be it all along. Oh.

I did enjoy the sort of sub plot involving a shady business character that rose halfway through the story; to me, this created genuine tension as I was intrigued to see how that storyline would develop whilst also feeling anxious for Sal, who was bound to suffer badly if Charlie’s schemes went awry.

Final thoughts

Though it was very accurately portrayed, I’m a bit uncomfortable about using domestic abuse as the central plot for a thriller, there was no ‘twist’ for me and, actually, I don’t like the intended twist. I feel like it was done purely for shock value and that Hall is confirming our assumptions rather than challenging them.

As an aside, I wonder whether, in a similar manner to TV shows which cover domestic violence, there ought to be relevant helplines referenced in the book’s endpapers.

While I’m identifying niggles, Charlie and Sal’s alternating accounts of events includes a lot of repetition, as they are not challenging each other’s stories, or even providing a subtly different slant on events, but simply providing their inner thoughts – which we could have guessed based on our knowledge of their characters.

Speaking of their characters, these are very polarised and quite simplistic. Despite Hall’s attempts to flesh out Charlie’s background to explain that overwhelming desire to control, ultimately Sal is an angel and Charlie is a control freak with no moral compass, making it hard to care about either of them.

‘between you and me’ is an easy read and if you’re just looking for a thrilling twist, this might provide it. It brought to my mind ‘a suitable lie’ by Michael J Malone, which is another thriller using domestic abuse as its backdrop, but which has an ending that I found genuinely surprising.

I read this quickly and easily and I’m still tempted to try Hall’s third book, ‘The Party’, as the premise sounds intriguing and like there might be a bit more of a mystery.

‘between you and me’,
Lisa Hall,
2016, Carina, paperback