The Vows of Silence, Paperback

The Vows of Silence Paperback

Part of the Simon Serrailler series

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


A gunman is terrorising young women. What links these seemingly random murders? Is the marksman with a rifle the same person as the killer with a handgun? Or do the police have two snipers on their hands? Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Serrailler is in charge of the case, but is struggling to cope with a tragedy at the heart of his family.

The pressure is mounting...




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This is Book Four of the mystery series by U.K. author Susan Hill involving Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler and set in fictional Lafferton, a Cathedral city in the South of England.This is yet another book in which criminal and medical issues share the stage. In this book, there are two non-criminal issues that most fully capture Hill’s attention. First, she focuses on the pain of the caretaker, who not only has to watch a loved one dying, but also sort out a host of unexpected psychological reactions to the situation. Second, she gives attention to the children, both small and grown, who must adjust to changes in their parents’ lives, either because of death or remarriage.Simon Serrailler, the axle around which the wheel of the story turns, is now Detective Chief Superintendent, and also serves on a special inter-bureau taskforce: Serious Incident Flying Taskforce, or SIFT. He is basically a loner, except for his interaction with his sister Cat - who is a doctor - and her family. There are a variety of plot strands like wheel spokes that eventually coalesce in the center and involve both Simon and Cat.One strand concerns Phil and Helen, two people in their forties who get together via an internet dating service. Both of their first spouses died of disease. Phil wonders how he feels about Helen and in a wonderful, almost poetic way, contemplates the nature of love in a remembrance of his first wife:"What was love? He had loved Sheila. Of course he had, though love had changed every year, as love did. Early love. Surprised love. Warm love. Protective. Married. Parent. Everyday. Companionable. Happy. Frightened. Anguished. Desolate. Bereaved love. Grief.”Helen’s children are still living at home. Her daughter is happy for her, but her son, not the most stable in any event, burns with resentment.Simon Serrailler is in a similar position. His mother died the year before, and now his father has come home from vacation with a younger woman, and they begin living together. Although the rest of the family immediately takes to Judith, Simon can’t stand seeing another woman standing in his mother’s kitchen, using her bathroom, and just being alive when his mother his dead. And Judith’s reaction to Simon’s rejection is so apt. At first she tells herself “Children react like this… The best way was to carry on as normal and let them come round. Or not…..” Still, it’s hard on her. She says to herself:"'I shouldn’t be here…. I am an unwelcome intruder.' She felt, as she had often felt as a widow, ill at ease and out of place in the midst of someone else’s family, another person’s home. It was the loneliest and the bleakest of feelings.”And then there is another strand with one of the recurring characters being diagnosed with a brain tumor. His thoughts about dying, and his wife’s thoughts about loving him desperately but wanting it all to be over with, are beautifully realistic and perceptive. In one heart-breaking scene, the character explains: "'The thing is,' he said, 'it's not only that I don't want to leave you and I don't want to leave the children. I don't want to miss them growing up. I don't want not to be here, doing what we do, in this place. The thing isn't even that I don't want to die.'"We have no vocabulary adequate to describe this frustration and hurt and sense of unfairness. But I think the author does an admirable job of showing that it's there.Of course there’s a serial killer too; one who’s targeting brides. You’d think young couples would get the message and elope, but I suppose even the threat of death doesn’t compare to having the Cinderella moment. Thus the marriage ceremonies continue, until the sniper is surprised by the identity of the bride and makes a mistake.<strong>Evaluation</strong>: I have to say I like the mysteries by Hill more for their medical themes than the criminal activity. She has a lovely sensitivity about problems like disease, aging, dying, loneliness, fear, anger, and other difficult life issues. If she did a television show, I think it would be a combination of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Review by

I can sympathise with people who are finding this series has a bit too much of everything. Simon Serrailler's family have another tragic event to deal with. And he has another serial killer to catch in a small cathedral city. I'm willing to go with the flow though. I liked it and I can take more of it. I find Simon a more interesting character with each book and I think I find him easier to identify with than some readers by the look of some reviews I've read. I think I've mentioned before that this series seems to have more in common with a family saga than a mystery novel and I like it that way. More please.

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