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!