I first 'discovered' Susan Hill about this time last year when I read The Betrayal of Trust - the sixth in her Simon Serrailler Crime novels. (my review). I was really looking forward to her latest - A Question of Identity - and I wasn't disappointed!
A Question of Identity opens with an italicized paragraph that hints at a dark mind and darker things to come....deliciously creepy.
"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."
The book opens with a murder trial from 2002 - three elderly women have been horrifically murdered in their homes, strangled with a piece of electrical cord. The verdict is not what was expected.
Cut to present day and DCI Simon Serrailler, who works in Lafferton, an English town not far from London. And a new murder to investigate - an elderly woman has been killed in her home - strangled with a length of electrical cord........
What makes this series a stand out for me? Hill successfully combines a riveting and clever mystery with characters that I'm genuinely interested in. Both plot lines are done equally well. Those new to the series may have a wee bit of difficulty getting to know everyone at first, but will quickly become engrossed in their personal stories. Simon, his sister Cat and her family, the elder Serailler and his wife as well as the supporting cast from the station. Hill explores everyday life with a keen and discerning eye - sibling rivalry, depression, domestic abuse and more are all touched upon and examined realistically.
Back to the crime - at the opening of every chapter we are privy to more and more of the killer's thoughts. His violence and madness is escalating. I was able to suss out who the killer was midway, but it certainly didn't detract from my enjoyment of this book. Instead, it really heightened the tension.
The crime is solved by the end, but the lives of Simon et al are far from settled - I can't wait to see what direction Hill takes in the next book.
I love British procedurals and this author is one of the best. Truly, if you're looking for an intelligent mystery series, pick up Susan Hill. Read an excerpt of A Question of Identity. You can find Susan Hill on Twitter.