It’s not my normal modus operandi to read novels in reverse order when they are a series. But this is what happened in this case, as I had overlooked this one. I really like the way Hill writes, and unlike some novelists whose focus is on the word crime in the phrase crime thriller, Hill spends a lot of time on characterization, and her central characters are quite interesting, though of course flawed like all of us. This particular novel is what one would call a psychological thriller. In it Hill explores the psychology of a person recovering from losing a limb, the psychology of a criminal mind, and in this case a very bright criminal who likes kidnapping and killing young ladies, without sexually assaulting them, the psychology of a transgendered man who appears to be a woman, and everyone is convinced is a woman, and much more.
Yes there is action in this novel, including the attempt to unravel a series of puzzling arsons in Lafferton. And one keeps asking…. what is tying all these loose threads together if anything. Equally interesting are the family dynamics involving the detective Simon Serrailler, his sister Dr. Cat Deerbon, their father Richard Serrailler, the Chief Constable Kieron Bright who has recently married Cat, and is still the boss of Simon, and then the various children of Cat. The novel could be called— all in the family. What I particularly like is the family interactions, both functional and dysfunctional. Simon is buttoned up and doesn’t like to share his feelings, even with his sister Cat, with whom he is close. Richard the father was a good doctor, but he has become a lousy patient. And then there is Sam the child who can’t make up his mind about his future career.
In this novel crime is not a subtext, but it also is not the main subject either. Hill plays to her strengths. While her descriptions can be spare, they are also evocative, especially when describing life on the remote, lonely, windy Scottish island of Taransay where Simon is recovering from his surgery. I hope Susan will keep going with this series, as even if you have only read a few of the ten novels, you really care about the central characters in these novels, and oh by the way— you want Simon to solve the who dunnits too.