It is easy, all too easy, to underestimate how difficult it is to write a whole series of novels with enough variety and differences on the one hand, and enough continuity on the other to make it continually interesting. I should know, I’m just finishing up the first draft of the seventh novel in my Art West thriller series, and A Question of Identity is Susan Hill’s seventh in her detective crime series starring Simon Serailler and his sister Cat Deerborn.
I would rate her latest entry in the series one of the top three in the series, and it is different by nature because it deals with the complex situation where the government gives someone a new identity and then turns around and erases their old one. The old person virtually vanishes from all form of record-keeping, and the new person is not seen to have any connection with the old one. But what if this person is not in a witness protection situation, but rather this has been done to a psychopathic killer, who preys on old women and strangles them, in order to prevent vigilante justice happening to him, after a technicality gets him off the hook for his first three murders. But then ten years later, with his new identity, he starts killing once again. You can see how messy this can get.
Many crime novels are who dunnits…. but in one sense we know who has done these crimes, that Simon must put a stop to. The MO is identical to the crimes from ten years before, down to the toenails (read the novel, you’ll see my point), but the problem is figuring out who is wearing that new identity and still committing his old style crimes. In this novel, just when you think you’ve got it sussed out (as the British would say), you are proved wrong.
This particular novel does not really have a Christian subplot like the majority of the others in this series do. Instead, we deal more with the intricacies of the family issues of the Deerborns and the Seraillers. One of the things that keeps readers coming back to this series, is that it has some very likable characters, especially Cat Deerborn. You actually empathize with her situation and difficulties as a widow and a parent of three young children. Simon, while likable, is a lady killer, and it’s hard to empathize with his woman woes, when they are largely of his own making.
This novel is also different from the others in this series in that it is only help from the outside, outside information, that eventually leads to the interesting outcome in this novel. Like novel five in the series, this one is readable in a day, at 354 fast moving pages. I liked this novel quite a lot, but it would not be my first recommendation from this series.