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The residents of Lafferton wake up to find themselves stranded in their homes as wild storms have flooded the town. Whilst they slept the storm water swept soil branches and stones down the moor and uncovered a shallow grave.
Detective Simon Serrailler makes his way to the site where the forensic team are already hard at work. His hopes that these are nothing more than animal remains are dashed when he is told they are those of a young female.
It doesn't take long to identify the victim ,teenager Harriet Lowther who disappeared 16 years earlier. Simon has the unenviable task of breaking the news to her father and has to deal with a cold case with resources already stretched to the limit.
What Do I Think?
When I bought this book I didn't realise that this was the sixth in a series featuring Detective Simon Serrailler .Had I known that I would have read them in the order they were written as the book also focuses on Simons life and his relationships, particularly with his sister and her children.
The book deals with the investigation into teenager Harriet's murder, which is understandably quite difficult given it, happened 16 years before the discovery of her body. Simon's sister Cat is a doctor and there is a strong theme running through the book that explores how families and society deal with people of all ages who are dying, have dementia or who want to end their life through assisted suicide. Some of which makes this a difficult read at times and really makes you think about how you would cope in the same circumstances.
Whilst I was reading this I wondered how all the characters and threads would all fit together, something I enjoy in a book as it keeps you guessing and because of that I raced through the book.
I haven't read any of Susan Hills previous books, her most famous one being the Woman in Black. I picked this book because of the reviews on the back, which as you would expect are complementary, and one comment is that Hill can't write a bad sentence, which I would agree with. Her writing style is clear and the book moves at a nice pace and I was happy to read about the various characters without really knowing what if anything connected them.
I didn't guess who the murderer was, so it was a satisfying read in one sense, but I had some difficulty in getting to grips with how what appeared to be a small town had a Detective Chief Superintendent heading the inquiry. A minor point really but the blurb on the back describes Simon as an Inspector but he is addressed as Superintendent in the book.
The book feels quite current as it is talks about cuts in the police budget and the difficulties the hospice has raising funds. Hill has clearly researched terminal illness and how this affects the patient and the people caring for them. Cat ,Simon's sister is heavily involved with the local hospice and we gain an insight into respite care and how the patients face up to death and how the staff cope with this on a daily basis.
What was very disappointing was the abrupt ending, it almost felt like there was a chapter missing, as it seemed to end mid flow. In particular the police investigation, but also how things turn out for one of the characters Jocelyn who has motor neuron disease. Having shared her story throughout the book I felt a bit cheated and thought Hill should have explained this more. The other issue I have with this is the way the police investigation turns out, I can't say any more as it would give too much away, but I thought it was totally implausible and would not happen in the real world.
I did enjoy this book and I was able to get to grips with the characters even though this was the sixth book, but it would have been better had I known more about Simon and his sister. My fault really as I should have spotted this.
The death and dying theme was harrowing and thought provoking so I would not recommend this if you are feeling low or dealing with this type of issue yourself.
The abrupt ending made me think it was deliberate so that the author would leave you wanting more and buy the next book, but for me the final chapter was really weak and felt unfinished.
I will try the earlier books, as although I thought there were flaws with the ending; I liked the writing style, pace and the characters in this book. Most important is that I didn't guess who dunnit.
4 stars from me purely because of the last chapter.
I bought mine from Waterstones on a buy one get one half-price deal. RRP is £7.99 for paperback. Amazon are selling this for £3.85 at the moment.
Published by Random books in 2012
The latest in a series of books featuring Detective Simon Serrailler.