The Shadows in the Street
is the latest example of crime fiction from the talented Susan Hill. Hill, of course, has shown that she is adept at a variety of literary forms, notably the supernatural story -- where it can safely be said that she has few peers. But crime fans were pleased when she began to write about the detective Simon Serrailler -- pleased, that is, after an initial reluctance to accept that this creator of wonderfully distinctive ghost stories could make a mark in such an overcrowded field of crime fiction. But five books into the series, it is clear that Serrailler (and his well-characterised team) are here to stay.
Serrailler has just put the final touches to a particularly challenging at assignment for SIFT (The Special Incident Flying Task force) and is enjoying a well-earned rest on a sedate Scottish island. But his sabbatical is rudely interrupted when he is called back to Lafferton. Two prostitutes in the area have disappeared; their bodies are subsequently discovered -- both women have been strangled. Is the killer a disturbed individual with a pathological hatred of prostitutes, as was felt to be the case with the most famous serial killer of all, Jack the Ripper? There is, however, more to the town of Lafferton then its red light district -- the Cathedral close holds a very different position in the social strata, but has its own problems -- notably a particularly acrimonious series of ecclesiastical squabbles. As Serrailler desperately tries to track down a vicious murderer, he is all too aware that the clock is ticking. Then a piece of luck moves events along in a very surprising fashion.
Hill's particular achievement in The Shadows in the Street is to maintain two very different narratives simultaneously, while not allowing the more sensational of the two plot strands to overcome the more intimate one. There will always be those (this reviewer included) who would be happy if Hill were to spend the rest of her life producing her superlative ghost stories, but few will be complaining about her forays into the crime fiction field when she turns out books as authoritative as this. --Barry Forshaw
Hill continues to engage us with fresh characters and intriguing story lines. (MostlyFiction