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.
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.