British,  Crime fiction

A Question of Identity by Susan Hill

I was kindly sent a review copy of A Question of Identity by Susan Hill a few days before it was released. I had no idea Hill had a detective series and I really wanted it to be part of my Halloween reading. Eventually, it took me longer to finish, but now I can finally say I know who Simon Serrailler is!

From Book Depository:

This title is the seventh “Simon Serrailler” crime novel. How do you find a killer who doesn’t exist? Duchess of Cornwall Close: sheltered accommodation, a mix of bungalows and flats, newly built and not quite finished. Despite the bitterly cold weather, elderly residents are moving in. They don’t notice the figure in the shadows. Someone who doesn’t mind the cold. Then, one snowy night, an old lady is murdered – dragged from her bed and strangled with a length of flex. DCS Simon Serrailler and his team are aware of bizarre circumstances surrounding her death – but they keep some of these details secret, while they desperately search for a match. All they know is that the killer will strike again, and will once more leave the same tell-tale signature. The break comes when Simon’s former sergeant, the ever cheerful Nathan Coates, tracks down a name: Alan Keyes. But Alan Keyes has no birth certificate, no address, no job, no family, no passport, no dental records. Nothing. Alan Keyes does not exist. “A Question of Identity” introduces a new and chilling element into the “Simon Serailler” series: it takes the reader inside the mind of a deranged killer. This is Susan Hill’s most thrillingly imagined crime novel to date.

At first, it took me some time to get to know the characters, plus I had never heard of Serrailler, so I had no idea who was who and how they were related. As I kept reading, I slowly met the characters and hinted their relationships that, for now, have been developed in the past seven titles, so I do not really think I grasped everything as it is. I must admit this might have been one of the reasons why I did not really enjoy the novel. Sure, the characters are well-developed, clearly intertwined and the crime Serrailler faces is a good one, but I felt I was a stranger to everyone in the novel.

The case is very interesting and very Criminal Minds. Don’t get me wrong, those of you who think the TV show is nasty, there is nothing like that in the book, but there is a psychological background that reminded me of Quantico team. Hill clearly explores the problems of identity and reference. Are we the same although we change? If we are chubby and we lose weight, do we really feel different? And, if you really want to do something but suppress your desires, are you a better person for doing so?

I am really happy I read A Question of Identity at this time of the year. The whole novel has snow, rain and coldness that make the crimes even more uncomfortable. This is not a cozy mystery/crime novel although there is no blood or too many descriptions. The novel focuses on characters and the psychology behind them, what motives them, what makes them act like they do, etc. So, I would describe it as a psychological crime novel.

For crime fiction fans, I would say A Question of Identity is an entertaining book and it has all the previous Serrailler success behind, but I must say I hinted who the killer was. Not that I had any evidence, I really do not think Susan Hill gives so many clues, but there was something. What? I cannot tell you. Those of you who read crime novels know what I am talking about. It felt awkward.

Regarding Serrailler and my first impressions. All I can say he is the kind of semi-tortured, sexy English detective that appeals to a wide audience. He is blonde, he is intelligent, he is a great detective and he cares for his family, but there is something dark about him (probably explained in the previous novels, but I do not really know for now).

So, I would recommend this novel to anyone who already knows Simon Serrailler. For those who, like me, had no idea he is, I recommend it too, the story is good, but I think we would had better started from the beginning. Every time I feel like reading a good but quick and easy crime novel, I will think of Simon Serrailler.


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