"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Question of Identity by Susan Hill (review)

A Question of Identity
Author:  Susan Hill
Published: January 2013
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Canada a division of Random House of Canada Limited
Pages: 336
Edition:  Hardcover
ISBN 9780307363022
Source:  This is my personal copy.
Also available as an e-book.


A Question of Identity is book 7 in the Simon Serrailier crime series.

Duchess of Cornwall Close: sheltered accommodation, a mix of bungalows and flats, newly built and not quite finished. Despite the bitterly cold weather, elderly residents are moving in. They don't notice the figure in the shadows. Someone who doesn't mind the cold.

Then, one snowy night, an old lady is murdered - dragged from her bed and strangled with a length of flex.

DCS Simon Serrailler and his team are aware of bizarre circumstances surrounding her death - but they keep some of these details secret, while they desperately search for a match. All they know is that the killer will strike again, and will once more leave the same tell-tale signature.

The break comes when Simon's former sergeant, the ever cheerful Nathan Coates, tracks down a name: Alan Keyes. But Alan Keyes has no birth certificate, no address, no job, no family, no passport, no dental records. Nothing.  Alan Keyes does not exist.

A Question of Identity introduces a new and chilling element into the Simon Serrailler series: it takes the reader inside the mind of a deranged killer. This is Susan Hill's most thrillingly imagined crime novel to date.

THE SIMON SERRAILLER CRIME NOVELS do not have to be read in order.  (but it might help.) Here is the list.
1.The Various Haunts of Men
2. The Pure in Heart
3. The Risk of Darkness
4. The Vows of Silence
5. The Shadows in the Street
6. The Betrayal of Trust
7. A Question of Identity.

My review:

Oh, how long has it been since I read a book that was riveting...that I couldn't bear to put down....whose suspense filled me with anticipation?  As I began to read Susan Hill's A Question of Identity, this was my thought process.  I was hooked!!

"It's like your brain's bursting.  It doesn't happen all at once, it builds up.  And then your brain's going to burst until you do something about it.  You do it. You have to do it.  Then it's all right again for a bit, 'til it starts again." (page 2)

Susan Hill reveals a bit of the killer's psyche, just enough to catch your attention and she continues this pattern, prefacing each chapter, revealing more, a brief nibble at a time, until it all culminates in the end.  

Just as Susan Hill introduces the madness of the killer, she makes the introduction of the cast of Simon Serrailer, his team, and his family.  We also meet the victims before they become such, which I haven't encountered much before reading Hill's crime fiction, creating empathy with the reader and hostility towards the murderer.  And yet, curiosity takes hold as we learn more and more of the perpetrator.  

We begin with a trial, an acquittal and a change of identity.  Span forward ten years to the current crime.  Two murders with the same m.o. have been committed in a town near London, England where DCS Simon Serrailer must lead the task team in search of the killer.   Without clues and significant evidence ... without criminal error.

A Question of Identity is more well-rounded than a typical crime thriller, as Simon's friends and family, and the complexities of their relationships,  thread another storyline.  Here is where we learn of past lives that were born and existed in the six previous books of this series and of another facet of Simon's life and personality.  I was lost a little as Molly, a friend of Simon's sister, added another angle to the story, so I believe one would benefit from reading the previous six books of the series to understand the complexities in her storyline, though they were alluded to in A Question of Identity.  It certainly piqued my desire to read the previous six, so I consider that an asset.  

A Question of Identity is a fine thriller that held my attention, obsessively so, though I would have liked to have learned more about the killer's background.   A psychological background was pondered but never corroborated. It left me wondering, what fuelled his passion?

Did you know... Susan Hill also wrote the The Woman in Black, a short story which played on stage in Britain before becoming the horror film starring Daniel Radcliffe (of Harry Potter fame)?

"Susan Hill was born in North Yorkshire, England and educated at King's College London.  She is married to the Shakespeare scholar Stanley Wells, and they have two daughters.  She lives in Gloucestershire, where she runs her own small publishing firm, Long Barn Books." (from the dust cover)

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