When Britain’s murder toll under lockdown reached one hundred in May, the criminologist David Wilson remarked that what ‘underlies that statistic is misogyny’. With typical timeliness, Amanda Craig has made violence against women a key subject of The Golden Rule, her twisty, meticulously plotted tenth novel, but she also goes one step further, suggesting that ‘it may only be a matter of time before some women become as dangerous to men as some men are to women. Perhaps they already are.’
Our heroine, Hannah, is a struggling single mother who fantasises about how much easier life would be without having to deal with her abusive, manipulative husband, Jake, from whom she is estranged. On a train to see her dying mother in Cornwall she meets the bewitching Jinni, who is also in a disastrous relationship. With the help of plenty of alcohol, Jinni convinces Hannah that they could murder each other’s partners: no one would suspect them, since ‘nothing but this journey connects us’. Will either woman uphold her side of the bargain?
This is, of course, the plot of Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train with a female twist, which Craig admits openly. The Golden Rule is extremely self-conscious about its influences: Hannah is a product of the books she has read growing up, mistakenly believing herself to be the hero of