You might think you’re one of the good guys, but are you?

Review: Vivien Horler

One of the Good Guys, by Araminta Hall (Macmillan)

One of the Good Guys starts deceptively simply.

Cole has left London for a remote stretch of coast near Brighton (I didn’t know there were remote stretches of coast near Brighton) to outrun his pain.

He has a new job as a wildlife ranger, which comes with a cottage. Cole is a bit of a loner, and this job suits him much better than his previous work in PR.

Cole’s pain is caused by the collapse of his marriage to Mel who was, for six years, the one. They had met on a dating app, and knew immediately they had each found their soulmate. They were so taken with each other that on their first date they both deleted the app in front of each other.

Yet there was a stumbling block in what seemed to be a charmed relationship: Cole desperately wanted children, Mel was not so sure.

She had started her own PR business and needed to give it her full attention for a couple of years; a baby would be a distraction. Eventually, however, she agreed – they were, after all, both in their late 30s and if it was going to happen, they needed to get on with it.

Except, in Cole’s words, they did not get pregnant. Somewhat reluctantly, Mel agreed to IVF, but the first two rounds were unsuccessful. Cole wasn’t surprised – Mel was working way too hard, no wonder she could not conceive. But all his efforts at persuading her to slow down were ignored.

Cole began to wonder if she was deliberately sabotaging the process. And then she left him. He felt, he tells us right at the beginning of the book, as if his heart “had been removed from my body and stamped on”.

But now, living near a crumbling cliff overlooking the grandeur of the sea, he feels at peace. One evening, walking along the cliff path, he passes the old coastguard’s cottage which he had assumed was empty. But no, glancing in through the lighted window he sees the glowing lights of a comfy sitting room.

A woman comes into the room, turns on some music, and begins to dance. Her body is soft and undulating, so unlike Mel’s sharp lines.

Cole is charmed, but walks on, not wanting the woman to see him and possibly feel afraid. He realises he is lonely, and misses a companionable home life.

Not long after, Cole’s boss Holly organises a Christmas party at the local pub. The woman, of course, is there.

Holly mentions that she wants Cole to pay special attention to the barriers along the coastal path; two young women are walking from Cornwall to Brighton to raise awareness and funds for a domestic abuse charity.

Cole looks them up on the internet and discovers Molly and Phoebe, both 23, are determined “to make as much noise as possible to get this conversation on the national agenda”.

This depresses Cole, because he isn’t like that. They remind him how polarised society is. It’s a cliché to say “not all men”, he muses, but genuinely, it’s not all men. Cole knows he is one of the good guys.

And so the scene is set. Gradually we begin to realise this is not a story about a kind and lonely man looking for comfort and starting a new life, but is a far darker, creepier tale.

On her website writer Araminta Hall, author of five previous novels, says One of the Good Guys was “inspired by a groundswell of anger I’ve been feeling myself and among the women I know. Because if we don’t feel safe in the world, then it’s still a very unequal world. This is my answer to what happens when women have had enough of being scared.”

She also says: “I’d love to know if you guess the twist.” I certainly didn’t – but I did realise all was not as it seemed.

A thoroughly good read.

  • This is one of Exclusive Books’s top reads for April.


2 thoughts on “You might think you’re one of the good guys, but are you?

  1. David Bristow

    Sounds like a good one. But about remote beaches (depends on what your definition of remote is) – what wildlife!? I call my “ranger” mate in England (formerly of big game reserves) a badger wagter.


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