The children are disappearing.
The town of Lafferton is devastated.
There are no witnesses or leads, just a kidnapper on the run.
Then Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler gets a call: a boy has been kidnapped in Yorkshire. Has he attacked the kidnapper again? And will they find this child alive?
As a blogger and reviewer, I consider myself extremely lucky to be offered titles to review from time to time. These offers usually have a fairly standard format. Am I interested in reviewing them? this book by this author? Graeme Williams recently approached me with a more unusual proposition: would I be interested in reviewing a novel by the well-known author of a popular crime series? The capture? I wouldn’t know the author, book or series until it arrived. I was immediately intrigued and sent in my choice of the five short synopses I was given to choose from. The book arrived, and I was delighted to receive a copy of The risk of darkness by Susan Hill, book three in the Simon Serrailler Serie. Susan Hill is not a new author to me (I highly recommend Black womanparticularly this time of year), but hadn’t read anything in this series before and was thrilled at the opportunity.
Starting with the third novel in a series is not something I would normally recommend, but in this case I didn’t feel at a disadvantage at all. This is despite the fact that the case in question, that of the missing children, begins in the previous novel with the disappearance of a child. The reader is told everything they need to know about the background to this and it is clear that no progress has been made in the investigation until we come to this novel. I also like the hint that these novels aren’t always tied right at the end and that the links between them go beyond character and setting.
Simon Serrailler is an interesting character who leads an unusual double life. On the one hand, he is a hard-working detective chief inspector, irritated by paperwork and wanting to get back into the action involved in solving a crime. And he’s clearly a man of action, as we see when he chases a suspect off a cliff at night. He is not a man who shies away from danger, and I have a feeling that he acts fairly towards his subordinates: he would not deliberately put others in a situation that he himself would avoid. In his second life, he is a successful artist with several sales under his belt. It’s an unusual hobby, but it works as a way to escape some of the darker elements of the job. It was also quite refreshing to have a cop lead who doesn’t get lost in the bottle every night, trying to drown the demons out of it. He clearly has had moments in his past, and yet he seems relatively content with his life.
The risk of darkness It’s not a fast-paced novel, but I did enjoy the gradual developments in the plot that include some surprising elements that challenge the reader’s assumptions and expectations. And I liked that the police have several things going on simultaneously: the case of the missing children is the main focus of the novel, but there are also other problems to solve, including a hostage situation, among other things. It is an exciting and engaging read as there is always something going on.
One aspect of the novel that I found somewhat unusual is that we meet the perpetrator and yet never understand his motive. They remain a closed book at all times, not revealing much to the police or the psychiatrist assigned to them once they’ve been incarcerated. I think there are cases where a motif is never revealed, but it’s unusual in a work of fiction. Be warned: if you like straight answers about who, what, when, where, and why, you might find this a bit frustrating, although this may be explored further in the next novel, as there’s clearly some overlap in the cases.
Taking place in a town, we are introduced to a lot of characters pretty quickly and it was a bit confusing for me to figure out who is who and what their role would be at first. This gets easier as the novel progresses, though there were a few moments where I had to remind myself who a particular character was. I felt there were some stereotypes included, and in particular Natalie Coombes, a reckless single mom who barely keeps it together and seems to be constantly yelling or fighting with her daughter, Kyra. It strikes me as a perpetuation of the “working class” mother stereotype, and while it works for the story, it left me a bit cold.
The risk of darkness is the third in the series of eleven, with the most recent novel, A change of circumstance, which has just been published in paperback. As Graeme very aptly pointed out when he contacted me about this opportunity, diving into a series, particularly one that is well established, can be a daunting prospect. To be completely honest, I’m not sure I chose this novel, as much as I’ve enjoyed Susan Hill’s other works, myself. But this novel works well as a standalone, and I enjoyed it enough to read more in the series.
theImon Serrailler The novels are published by Vintage. Many thanks to the editor and Graeme Williams for the copy of The risk of darkness.
Disclaimer – I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced my review in any way.