Having departed from Elizabeth George some time ago, I was looking for a good, traditional British crime writer who would restore my faith in the genre and, to some extent, Susan Hill filled that role: excellent characterisation, great country 'mood', believable characters and story lines that, despite not being groundbreaking, certainly ring true and depict human nature in a honest, if slightly pessimistic, way. The issue I have is with the main character, DCI Simon Serrailler: whereas little is revealed in the first book, in the second there is almost an overload of information. Melancholy, uptight, prone to self pity and partial to overanalysing his emotions (man up!), he really does not strike a chord with me. Nor he seems to have a life of his own, his whole existence being consumed by his rather dysfunctional family: a bitter mother, a disapproving father, a severely disabled sister and a much more agreeable sibling whose warm personality and idyllic family life offer a painful contraposition to the void of his own. A totally unlikely sleuth, if there ever was one. But the story is strong and the pages keep turning, hence the four stars.
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