The Shadow in the Streets by Susan Hill
A Simon Serrailler Crime Novel (#5)
2010 Chatto & Windus, London
Finished on 4/8/13
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)
Simon Serrailler has just wrapped up a particularly exhausting and difficult case for SIFT – Special Incident Flying Taskforce – and is on a sabbatical on a Scottish island when he is recalled to Lafferton. Two local prostitutes have vanished and are subsequently found strangled. By the time he gets back, another girl has disappeared. Is this a vendetta against prostitutes by someone with a warped mind? Or a series of killings by an angry punter? But then one of the Cathedral wives goes missing, followed by another young married woman, on her way to work.
Serrailler follows lead after lead, all of which become dead-ends. The fear is that more women will be killed, and that the murderer is right under their noses; meanwhile the public grow more angry and afraid. It is only through a piece of luck, a chance meeting and a life put in grave danger that he finally gets a result…
Susan Hill has a genius for evoking atmosphere and suspense, and her characters are so real that the reader is caught up not only in the mystery but in the drama of their lives.
Susan Hill’s novels and short stories have won the Whitbread, Somerset Maugham and John Llewelyn Rhys awards and been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She is the author of over forty books, including six other Serrailler crime novels (The Various Haunts of Men, The Pure in Heart, The Risk of Darkness, The Vows of Silence, The Betrayal of Trust and A Question of Identity). Her most recent novel is The Beacon. The play adapted from her famous ghost story, The Woman in Black, has been running on the West End stage since 1989.
I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery, which kept me on the edge of my seat (and reading late into the night) for most of the second half. Hill kept me guessing and it was only at the very end that I finally sorted out the clues, threw out the red herrings, and worked out the identity of the killer. I rarely ever read a series out of order, but I had this book in my stacks and decided to give it a try without realizing there were four others leading up to this one. My only complaint is that the lack of substantial backstory forced me to flip back and forth between the early chapters, trying to piece together the relationships among the main characters. The introduction of new characters throughout the mystery also added to my confusion, making me stop and question their importance to the narrative. As I’ve discovered in other crime novels I’ve recently read (especially those set specifically in Great Britain and Ireland), I came upon quite a few abbreviations (PC, DCD, DI, DS, DCS, DCI, CID, OIOC), but eventually was able to sort them out, pretty much in time to realize their lack of importance. However, initially their presence disrupted the flow of the narrative. I guess that’s more than one complaint, but they’re very minor quibbles and I’m quite anxious to read the other titles in this series, as well Hill’s stand-alones.
On life after loss:
Ordinary things, Cat thought gratefully. Washing up the coffee cups. Making a lamb stew. Chopping vegetables. Ordinary life. That’s what saves us.
Final Thoughts: Susan Hill, where have you been all my life?! I loved this mystery! Readers who enjoy Tana French and Mo Hayder will likely concur.