I have read some of the earlier books in this series but then Simon Serralier inexplicably dropped off my radar, as soon as I read the first few sentences I knew that this would be a book that I would enjoy.
All is not going smoothly for Simon as he struggles to accommodate his latest girlfriend Rachel in his life and the tensions are growing between the two when everything changes when Simon is summoned to a top secret meeting. Simon is being sent off on an undercover mission to a secure unit that seeks to rehabilitate child abusers, a tough subject to cover but Susan Hill handles it incredibly well as she portrays these men as individuals but without sympathy and as the reader we are invited to watch their therapy sessions where they seek to rationalise their past behaviour with worthy words of how they are going to change, to become better men and live, either in prison, or out of it, cured of their habits.
Meanwhile unknown to Simon, his father, Richard is becoming more boorish and his wife Judith is assessing whether they can ever capture their earlier happiness. Cat, Simon’s sister is also having a hard time readjusting to life now the aims of the hospice have changed leaving her with less contact with patients so when a terminally ill patient in the Lafferton needs someone to listen she is glad to make a difference.
Susan Hill’s writing draws you into the story which is populated with a multitude of characters who feel so realistic. I may not have liked many of those I met in this book but they were far from two-dimensional characters and the writing flows so well so that even the subject matter of this book is extremely dark at no point did it feel too much. This is partly because the awful acts are not described but rather happen ‘off screen’ which allowed me to sympathise with the victims and decry the perpetrators without the awfulness perpetuated page after page.
Simon’s family provide a number of side-plots, all with thought-provoking issues which neatly dovetail into the main plot. Susan Hill cleverly uses these sub-plots to keep the reader’s interest and move the story along at a good pace throughout cleverly building the tension before a heart-stopping finale which had me racing through the pages at the end of the book.
Reading this book has convinced me to go back and read those I have missed in the intervening years as I have been missing out on an excellent series.
I’d like to thank the publishers Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for giving me a copy of this book to read in return for this honest review.