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April 29, 2013

The Shadow in the Streets


The Shadow in the Streets by Susan Hill
Mystery
A Simon Serrailler Crime Novel (#5)
2010 Chatto & Windus, London
Finished on 4/8/13
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)




Publisher’s Blurb:

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.

15 comments:

  1. You have made the perfect argument for reading a series in order. There are a few - like Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin that really, really don't matter. But in my reading, I've found that most of them are a continuation of time and character development.
    I am sure I did a post about a book that noted the police initials at the start to help with American confusion, but I can't seem to find it just now. I watch/read so many British procedurals that they are almost second nature to me now. :<)

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    1. I found a copy of the second book in this series at the library, but have decided to keep searching for the first, so I can read these in order. My mom is reading the most recent in the series and agrees with me on my thoughts about the lack of substantial backstory. I may have to read the entire series back-to-back! Or take notes on the list of characters! ;)

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  2. I love books that keep me guessing! I'm glad to know you were able to figure out the acronyms - they confuse me sometimes!

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    1. I don't know if I figured out all of the acronyms, but I got to the point where I just glanced at them without giving them any additional thought.

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  3. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. An author I've had on my list for some time now. It seems to me that I started the first one in this series at one point and then put it aside for some reason. Never picked it up again, but I don't think I wasn't enjoying it. Hmmm....anyway, good to know that these might be a good match for me. The acronyms, well, like Nan, I watch an awful lot of British crime TV and read so much British mystery books. I think I have most of them down now. They are confusing though, certainly, and it's hard to relate them to their US counterparts at times. I'm always getting MI6 and MI5 mixed up - which is the one most like the FBI and which is the one most like the CIA - and then there is Special Branch - counterpart is Justice Department, Secret Service, Treasury Department. Sigh.

    I keep thinking I'll let go of the whole "read in order" compulsion - haven't done it yet though. :-)

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    1. I'm fairly certain that this is a series you would enjoy, Kay!

      Funny. Other than Foyle's War, I'm not sure I've watched any other British crime programs. Must remedy that!

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  4. Interesting . . . I thought pretty much the same thing about #1! I'm looking forward to getting to the second one, along with many, many other books. Sigh.

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    1. You've read this series?! I need to pop over to your blog and see what you wrote! I have the second book (got it from the library), but I want to read #1 first. Hoping to get it from the library. If not, I'll buy the ebook for my Nook.

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  5. I have read the first four books in this series, and really enjoyed them. Sometimes though the other people involved are on the periphery, or else the family drama outweighs the policing.....but somehow it all comes together in a satisfying way. I'm looking forward to #5, and it's on my shelf as we speak, waiting for me.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this one, especially as you read it first before the others. Thanks for the good review, Lesley.

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    1. I'm so glad to hear that someone else has enjoyed this series. My mom thinks the books are all very good and I gave her the new one for Mother's Day. Maybe she'll let me borrow it when she finished. ;)

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  7. This one sounds great!! Being the way that I am, I'm sure I would have to start at the beginning of this series. I've never heard of this author!!

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    1. This is definitely a series you want to read in order! I'd never heard of the author until my mom mentioned her to me, although Joy has read the first book, so maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I have heard of Hill, but she fell under my radar until I actually had one of her books in hand.

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  8. This is unbelievable. All it took was that quotation to throw me right back into a post I wrote after Hurricane Ike. It began:

    "The first sentence of this week's Write on Wednesday prompt stopped me as surely as an unexpected storm surge: "Earlier tonight I was tearing around the kitchen in my usual mad dash to get dinner - putting dishes away, feeding the dogs, preparing a marinade for the salmon, cleaning and chopping some carrots..." There was nothing extraordinary about Becca's description of her evening routine, and that alone made it seem utterly extraordinary, a glimpse into a half-remembered world where the simple realities - dinner, dishes, dogs - could be counted on to sustain and enliven the routines of life. "Chopping some carrots..."

    Ordinary life does save us, in more ways than I can count.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this, Linda. And for stopping by, once again. Yes, ordinary life does save us, thank goodness. Especially a life with dogs. And boats.

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