The Shadows in the Street by Susan Hill

The Shadows in the Streets is Susan Hill’s fifth Simon Serrailler crime novel. I’ve read the earlier books which I enjoyed, although I found the fourth book, The Vows of Silence rather a gloomy book not just because of the murders but also because of the unhappy state of Simon and his family. So, I decided to wait a while before moving on to the fifth book. And I am now way behind in reading the series, which will reach book 8 in October!

Susan Hill’s Serrailler novels, whilst being crime fiction, concern moral and social issues. They also follow the lives of the Serrailler family, the main characters being Simon and his sister, Dr Cat Deerbon, which is why I think it’s best to read them in order. I noticed that in this book there are references to events and characters in the earlier books and I had to look back to refresh my memory. Without knowing what happened before those incidents would not have made much sense. The books are character-driven, concentrating on the people involved in the crime rather than the police investigations, although that of course is also part of the story.

There are two major themes in this book. One concerns the murders of local prostitutes, found strangled and Susan Hill draws a sympathetic, but never a condescending or judgemental view of these women’s lives, resulting in a moving storyline of a young woman, Abi who is a single mother. Alongside this is the problem of mental illness, with Ruth Webber, who suffers from manic depression. She is the wife of the new Dean of the Cathedral and arrives full of plans to change things, which causes problems. When she too goes missing there are fears she may become one of the murder victims.

I think of these novels more as psychological studies than crime fiction – the characters and their lives predominate, whilst the police make slow progress in finding the murderer (much like real life, maybe). Anyway it’s the characters and their problems that interested me more in this book than the police procedures.

The Shadows in the Street is a complex book, but it is immensely readable and once the mystery really got under way it’s tense and full of suspense. I really enjoyed it.

8 thoughts on “The Shadows in the Street by Susan Hill”

  1. I love this series, and I agree that they are more psychological studies. I like that Simon’s family gets a lot of attention and that the characters are fully formed. They’re good on audiobook too, if you want a quick way to catch up!

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  2. Margaret – I’d heard that this series was as much about the characters’ lives as about anything else, so I can see why one would want to read the books in order if possible. Glad you enjoyed this one, and thanks for reminding me of the series.

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  3. I’m glad you enjoyed this. I’m afraid that for me it was the weakest in the series. I found it very stereotyped. Did you know that Hill has published a Kindle single in the series called ‘A Breach of Security’? It came out a couple of weeks ago.

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  4. I had forgotten about this author even though I enjoyed the previous books that I read. I think I should refresh my memory with a look at the series before picking up where I left off.

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  5. I think I may have one – in fact, possibly more, in some of the boxes we haven’t unpacked since we moved, picked up in charity shops. I think from your comments Margaret I’d be best starting what sounds like a good series from the start – can anyone recall the name of the first in the series, so I know if it rings a bell, thus making it worth a rummage? I like Susan Hill, but always see her as more of a “ghost story” writer; I think many do. She’s great when it comes to them.

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  6. Thanks for your comments.

    Alex, it’s so long since I read the earlier books I can’t really compare them (apart from the fourth book I read them pre-blogging days, so didn’t record my thoughts!). I did know Susan Hill had published a novella – haven’t looked at it yet.

    Linda Boa – the first book is The Various Haunts of Men. See Fantastic Fiction for the full list – http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/h/susan-hill/

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