Looking for an audiobook in the library I spotted this by Susan Hill, and took it out without a second glance - and so hadn't noticed it was one of the Simon Serrailler series. I'm a bit cross with myself, as I would have preferred to start with the first in the series.
This is the hunt for the serial killer of prostitutes in the cathedral town where Serrailler lives (although he is away on leave for the first few chapters). It brought to mind the almost local case in 2008 of the girls killed in Ipswich - and presumably it was the starting point for this novel in Susan Hill's mind, as it was published in 2010. I was a bit uncomfortable with that association, although the killer in the book branches out a bit.
There are some 'obvious' suspects, especially in light of the Ipswich case, but I couldn't believe she'd be that crass. I did figure out who the murderer was before the reveal, but it was probably the least likely suspect.
There are some touches of Barchester (which are acknowledged) in the Cathedral politics, which was mildly amusing.
What I found immensely irritating was the frequent use of the phrase "You do understand that, don't you?" I can't quite remember if it was Serrailler himself, or his GP sister , or both who used it, and don't know if I would have been just as irritated by it on the page, but hearing it so often almost had me throwing the CDplayer at the wall.
Someone please tell me that this patronising phrase is not a feature of all the books in the series, because I'll give the rest a miss if that's the case.
This is the latest, as far as I know, in the Simon Serrailler series by Susan Hill. As is usual for this series the book is as much about the family of Simon Serrailler and happenings in Lafferton, the town in which it is set, as it is about any of the crimes described. Again if you are looking for a hard hitting police story with descriptions of how crime is solved this book is probably not for you.
As with other books in this series I found Cat, Simon's doctor sister, to be the most likeable character. Simon himself often does not appear that much and when he does I have always found him to be a rather remote character. This does not change in this book although we do get less involved in his love life than we have in others which some readers will prefer! The case on which the book is losely based is an especially nasty one and involves Simon working undercover. When I started reading the book and found out what it was going to be about I was not sure that I wanted to continue but although much is suggested not much actual detail is given thank goodness although I suspect that just the suggestion that this sort of crime does exist may well be enough to put some readers off.
Once again the story is told from several points of view and once again other issues are dealt with within the book as well as the main crime. One other reader of a previous book in the series critised Susan Hill and suggested that she almost used the books to air her feelings regarding The National Health system amongst other things. This book is no different and much is made about hospice care, the way that our society deals with death and in many ways the diminishing of any faith within the process. Having lost a close member of my family not that long ago I found some of the points quite interesting but can understand how others might not be so impressed.
To sum up I would have to say that this book follows the same pattern as previous books in the series. I read the books as much to continue Cat's story as I do for any crime involved. I would have to say to that on the whole I think that the books are getting a bit weaker. Once again a decent read but not an outstanding one.
A Question of Identity is another in Susan Hill's Simon Serrailler crime series. The same set of characters, namely Simon and his extended family and a few other members of the police force for which Simon works, reappear once again.
For me the books have always been as much about the happenings within Simon's family as the crimes the books portray and A Question of Identity is no exception. I know that other readers find the lack of hard crime writing a bit of a let down in the books but have found that this does not bother me. In fact I found the crime element within this particular book to be very good and although there is never any great crime plot I have always found that the crime element of the books have always been strong enough to keep me turning the pages.
And so to Simon's family and his love life! I found that Simon's difunctional love life intruded less in this book than it did in the past book. As usual nothing ever runs smoothly for Simon, a rather austere character, but in this book I found the situation he found himself in and the way in which he and Rachael handled it both believable and very sad rather than annoying.
I find the happenings of Simon's sister Cat and her family some of the most enjoyable parts of the books and have really come to like Cat very much. I suspect that it is more because of Cat than Simon or any crime element that I persist with the books at all. I find the continuing saga of Cat's family very enjoyable and feel that often real issues within family life are dealt with without me feeling that said issues are all the books are about.
When reading other books within this series both I and other readers have made comments about Susan Hill using the books as a means of putting across her feelings regarding certain life issues such as alternative medicine. In the last book I for one did wonder if the personal rant aspect of the book imposed iteslf just a little too much for me. In A Question of Identity I was far less aware of any such rant. I felt that the book was probably much better for it. Although I am quite happy for such issues to play their part I have found Susan Hill's slant on some of the issues to be a little biased.
All in all I found this to be a really enjoyable and worthwile read. In the book before this I was beginning to wonder if the series was running out of steam but was pleasently surprised with this one. I will certainly be buying the next one when it comes out in paperback.
By Ragamuffin Gunner
Recently finished this, the sixth in the Serrailler detective series, and just started to find myself thinking that things were beginning to weaken. I've enjoyed the series up until now, and while I'm not saying that this book has completely turned me off it, this seemed to me to be the weakest so far.
The crime itself, and its eventual conclusion, was, I felt, a bit lame which didn't help but for me the weakness of the book was primarily when Serrailler encountered a certain Rachel Wyatt, and from then on it all felt like it was descending into Mills and Boon territory. Now I must point out that I have never read a Mills and Boon (no, really!) but they always seem to be held up as the yardstick by which, how shall I put it, soppy romance is measured.
After their initial encounter there follow many instances where "unspoken thoughts", "meaningful looks", "acute longing" etc. etc. feature; you get the picture by now. She's married to a man roughly 40 years her senior, also with Parkinson's Disease (I think), so she's "torn between my duty to him but my love for you". It all got a bit 'reach for the bucket' for me, but I fancy it's not over yet, as I will no doubt find out as and when I tackle the seventh book.
As usual, I continue to like the interactions with the family, but this series needs a really good meaty crime to get stuck into, although I do think the core of this series is as much the characters as the crime element.
Not the best of the series.
Susan Hill continues her series of little ghost/horror stories with Printer's Devil Court. This outing is about body snatching, bringing the dead to life - the stuff of Burke and Hare and for more cinematic consumers, Flatliners. 3 medical students make a pact to bring a body back to life however rather than re-animating a corpse they fuse a dead man with a recently passed yonger body.
Usually I am a fan of Susan Hill - I love her previous scary books, notably The Woman in White which has taken on a life of its own, and her straight family dramas - but this book is devoid of life, much like a reanimated corpse or the body parts scavanged to do so. It truly was a chore to read and for a tiny book of 106 pages, this is quite disappointing. I feel that it may have been a better read at one sitting but I won't know now. Ironically, I think it was too cold, too clinical and we were held at a distance from the events by the framing technique used. It just didn't work for me.