The Shadows In The Street: Simon Serrailler Book 5
- Publication Date:
- 01 September 2011
- Modern & Contemporary
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<em>The Shadows in the Street</em>, the latest addition to Susan Hill's Simon Serrailler mystery series, showcases the author's amazing ability to balance the elements of both plot and character without sacrificing one for the other. Hill allows her characters to simmer and become full-bodied persons who walk off the page and into the reader's mind where their stories intersect and blend to reach a very satisfying conclusion.In <em>Shadows</em> the cathedral town of Lafferton is a cauldron of old and new. Simon still occupies his apartment in the Close near the cathedral but when the story opens he is on holiday off the Scottish coast. His twin sister, Cat Deerborn, a physician, is still seeing patients but is struggling to adjust to life without her husband, Chris, who died a year earlier of a brain tumor. Their father, who remarried after their mother's death, still disapproves of his son's two professions, artist and detective with the Lafferton Police Department. However, Cat and her stepmother have become quite close, and Cat relies on her to help with the three children. But the cathedral has a new Dean who, together with his wife and long-time friend and assistant, have upset the congregation with aggressive plans for changing the way the church conducts its services and community outreach. The Lafferton Police Department also has a new member who wants to work with Simon and learn his methods. And then there's Chantelle, the newest member of Lafferton's group of girls who work in the oldest profession, plying their trade along the tow path by the canal. When Chantelle is murdered, the hunt for her killer begins, and the plot begins to thicken. Hill builds her characters' stories in targeted short bursts that reveal their strengths and shortcomings along with their hopes and heartaches. Short chapters move the focus rapidly from character to character and scene to scene, which keeps the narrative fast and fresh. Hill never judges her characters but manages to grant them all some measure of respect and dignity despite their failings. This sensitive treatment builds a foundation of trust between the author and her audience. She then leaves us to our own judgment of the murderer.<em>The Shadows in the Street</em> if the fifth entry in the Simon Serrailler series after <em>The Various Haunts of Men</em>, <em>The Pure in Heart</em>, <em>The Risk of Darkness</em>, and <em>The Vows of Silence</em>.
Reason for Reading: Next in the series.I enjoy Susan Hill as a writer so much, even though I've only read three of her books so far! Fortunately she has an extensive backlist that will keep me busy for a long time. This latest Simon Serrailler novel continues on very much with the private lives of the Serrailler family, namely his sister and her children and his father and his new wife. They dynamics of Simon's private life takes up a good amount of space in these novels. The book also starts out by introducing all the characters and having them going about their daily lives that one becomes wrapped up in the story and is well into the book before a murder even happens.Prostitutes are being strangled and found in the river of the Chapel town that Simon and his family live in. They have two strong suspects but neither can be proved nor do they really seem to fit as the unsub. Trying to work an angle involving an unsub who has some psychological reason for going after prostitutes is thrown for a loop when the resident Dean (Reverend)'s wife goes missing, then next a married a mom with two children. A case that has Simon and his teams going nowhere fast as every clue ends up back where they started.I enjoy these mysteries tremendously. The characterization is wonderful. All players are fully fleshed out with backstories and personalities. The mystery is intelligent and clever. I had my eye on the culprit but can't really say I solved this one as I also had my eye on a few others! I read the book quickly over the weekend; it was one of those can't put it down 'til I'm finished books. The type of mystery found here is best described as a psychological suspense. The pace of the writing keeps in tempo with the pace of the case, at times slow as we bang our heads on desks trying to make sense of it all and then boom! we're off on another lead or another body has been found. Another great entry to the series. Recommended.
This is the fifth book in the Simon Serrailer Detective series, an interesting conceptual deviation because Simon Serrailer doesn’t figure much at all in the books. Moreoever, these are character-oriented books; the mystery is just an excuse, it seems, to explore the lives of the individuals Hill creates. And because the hallmark of her treatment is compassion, the reader comes away with a very human face for conditions such as - in this book, prostitution, bipolar disease, and grief over a loss.Simon’s twin sister Cat lost her husband to cancer, and she and her children are still adjusting. She is now a single mother with a demanding job and feels overwhelmed:"Missing Chris, feeling totally bereft of him, wanting him back, sinking to the depths every time she remembered that he would never come back, longing for him so that she felt ill and incapable of functioning as a human being – all of it needed no prompting, like some memories that were touched by a piece of music, or a chance remark, or going into a particular building. All of it was now part of her, wrapped around her like a second skin.""Bereavement, she had discovered, was about many things, but one of those, and the one which few people seemed to know or warn about, was a long-lasting, overwhelming physical and mental tiredness. Even now, a year after Chris’s death, she felt exhausted for much of the time, with an exhaustion that seemed to be beon-deep and to bear no relation to whatever else she might have been doing or even to how much sleep she got.”And yet, she still has room within her to feel ruthful for the prostitutes who have started to haunt the streets:"She looked at the girls again as they stood by a street lamp lighting cigarettes. They were probably no more than twenty, thin, hollow-eyed, their legs without tights under the short strips of skirt. Sexual disease. Drug-related illnesses. Every sort of violence. Even just exposure to the cold. Those were only a few of the risks they ran every night….The street lighting threw hard shadows, but when they turned their faces to it, they were the faces of children.”When some prostitutes turn up strangled to death, Simon is called back from his vacation in Scotland to investigate. The police immediately focus on a lonely man who brings the prostitutes food and hot tea several nights a week: why would anyone do that for nothing, they wonder? To them, a single man who lives with his mother is a living embodiment of the serial killer profile. The new Anglican Dean of the Cathedral tries to help, but he has his own drama: his wife has bipolar disease, and as soon as she starts to feel stable, like many bipolar patients, she stops taking her medicine. Hill’s portrait of a man trying to remain loyal to a sick spouse is masterful. Can love survive the emotional toll? And if not, how does one deal with the guilt?<strong>Evaluation:</strong> By using the pretext of murder mysteries, Hill is able to advocate for a number of social issues that demand our compassion and understanding. Her powerful portrayals of people who suffer the everyday slings and arrows of outrageous fortune make her books compelling journeys into the human psyche.
Thoroughly enjoyed this book and finished it in a couple of days. I had never read a Simon Serailler novel before and although there are references to his life and cases he has worked on, this didn't distract from my enjoyment. What I liked most was the lack of forensic detail which is often inexplicable unless you're a follower of CSI. The story was told from a variety of viewpoints which were well meshed together without being too contrived.
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