Tuesday, 12 February 2019

The Risk of Darkness


The Risk of Darkness is book three in Susan Hill's 'Simon Serrailler' (I still don't really know how to pronounce that surname properly) series of murder mysteries. It's my fifth book for Bev's Calendar of Crime reading challenge and covers the February category of 'Author's birth month'.




A child abductor is still at large in England (see book two). It's a source of huge frustration to the police in Lafferton from where one of the young boys was snatched. Despite all their efforts they were unable to catch the culprit.

A sudden phonecall takes DCI Simon Serrailler to Yorkshire where a young girl has been abducted from beside an ice-cream van... there are witnesses this time. They pin the person down but a car chase ensues. Serrailler ends up on a cliff ledge hundreds of feet above a stormy sea with the fugitive but there is something rather unexpected about this abductor of small children...

That seems a bit brief but that is the basic storyline. There is of course a lot more to this novel. The abductor is caught early on in the story with a child in the boot of the car. So we know who it is. The novel is really about how the police go about proving the same person is responsible for the other abductions. There is also heaps about Serrailler's private life, his family, especially his sister, Cat, and issues she has with her job and husband. Simon's treatment of women once again rears its ugly head, I liked the way his sister read him the riot act over this.

And there is also a lot concerning periphery characters. A subplot concerning a bereaved husband becoming mentally unstable for instance and holding a female vicar hostage. In fact the poor female vicar suffers endlessly. Knowing that Susan Hill was against the ordination of women back in the day made me wonder if she had an ulterior motive here. The family of the child abductor also feature a lot, their reactions, their actions, the terrible effect it has on them which will now never end... it's perhaps something we don't think about enough, a nightmare scenario that we all hope never to go through.

It's not an easy read this book. Susan Hill writes in a way which really gets to you. And I'm a bit of a wimp about child abduction in crime stories anyway, so I must admit to being a bit dismayed that the case wasn't sewn up in book two and continues on into this third book. It's quite psychological, motivations feature a lot, sections are written from the point of view of the perpetrator's of awful crimes... it's all fascinating but not comfortable reading. It's a pageturner, I tend to read Hill's crime books fairly quickly in four or five large chunks (the book is nearly 500 pages long) but after this I will need something much lighter. And shorter!

~~~oOo~~~

8 comments:

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Susan Hill is one of those author's I've always meant to try. Curious what your favorite book by her is?

DesLily said...

Hmmm, after readying what you said, I am a bit surprise that you managed to read the whole book! I have her Bio.. if I ever get to it.!!I am already way behind in my reading. I guess it is what it is. I do finally have a book post to put up though!!

Kay said...

Cath, as it's been a while since I read this book, I went back and read my thoughts on it. I noticed that in my review I said that I wanted to 'smack' Simon a few times. And I also said the book made me want to go hug my daughter. When I read this one and several others, I was on a series binge - listened to them on audio and the narrator was very good. I also said this book was quite dark. Susan Hill seems to be an interesting person - maybe not one I'd want to be best friends with. Ha!

TracyK said...

I just commented at Kay's blog re stopping reading this series after about 5 books. I became frustrated with some aspects of the books. But I loved the first few and I am sure you will continue to enjoy them. She certainly creates characters that the reader gets invested in.

Judith said...

Hi Cath,
Like Diane (above), I'm a newcomer to Susan Hill's work. I'm really interested in "starting off" with her, and am wondering what you'd recommend. And I know what you mean about child abduction. For me, sometimes, there's only so much I can take on.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I read a lot of Susan Hill's Simon Serrailler books years ago. I was very keen on the earlier books. This was before I wrote my blog so I have just a few notes about them - for this one I noted that it was 'good, sombre, sad, mysterious'. I read books 4-7 later - and then stopped after starting and not being able to continue book 8 as I couldn't stomach the child abuse. As you say they don't make comfortable reading, but they are page turners. definitely 'dark' and gloomy books!

I hope you're reading something lighter and more cheerful now.

I think of Serrailler as 'Sir Ryer' - if that makes sense - that's the way I say it to myself any way.

Yvonne@fiction-books said...

Hi Cath,

I keep browsing through this author's books whenever they are donated into the charity shop and she has been recommended so many times by fellow bloggers, I just can't understand why I haven't read her before.

I must admit that I would probably choose one of the stand alone novels over this series, which is now up to book 10 coming out this year, as it really feels that I would need to go right back to the beginning, to understand this complex character.


There have been several books out lately were child abuse and abduction have featured as storylines and I have quite a few in my TBR pile. Whilst these darker aspects of crime / thriller writing don't really bother me to any great extent, I think that if I were you, I would probably be looking for something much lighter to read next.

Thanks for such a thoughtful and honest review.

Happy Reading :)

Yvonne xx

Cath said...

Diane: My favourite book by Susan Hill would probably be The Magic Apple Tree which is a non-fiction book charting a year in her previous Oxfordshire home. But her ghost stories are excellent too, especially The Woman in Black. Plus she has two books about books out too, both wonderful.

Pat: What's the 'Bio' (Biography?) book you have called? I didn't know she'd written one.

Kay: Yes... a really dark book but I suspect the whole series is? She doesn't shrink from tackling very serious subjects. I agree with some of her opinions but others I definitely do not. But her writing is sublime.

Tracy: I can see why you became frustrated with aspects of this series. Possibly the same aspects as me.

Judith: It's difficult to advise on a starting point with an author whose work is so varied... it just depends on what you fancy trying. She has two books about books which I adore, Howards End is on the Landing and Jacob's Room is Full of Books. She's also a noted ghost story writer, the best probably being The Woman in Black.

Margaret: 'Dark and gloomy' describes the series very well. Superbly written though which probably is why they're so effective! I think you probably have the right pronunciation for Serailler, but I can't help reading it as Ser-al-ier which is miles off. Never mind.

Yes, thank you, I've just started Aoife's Chariot by Katherine Pathak, crime and family secrets in the Western Isles of Scotland. Whizzing through it on my Kindle.

Yvonne: Susan Hill has written such a lot and in different genres that it's hard to advise on which of her books to read. Her ghost stories are excellent, but she also writes some wonderful non-fiction, especially her books about books.

Yes, I've chosen a much lighter book for my next read, I'm in Scotland on a wonderful island in the Western Isles.

Have a nice weekend!