CHATTO & WINDUS £12.99 Order for £11.69 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Shadows in the Street, By Susan Hill
Mystery has Victorian values
Monday 10 May 2010
Susan Hill's detective, Simon Serrailler, has now reached his fifth mystery, a complex series of prostitute murders.
Hill's deep interest in the psychology of her characters means that she empathises with the potential victims as well as with the middle-class do-gooders who are trying to get them off the streets. Among the latter category is a lonely librarian who carries out Gladstonian activities with street walkers, taking them sandwiches. The librarian is a natural target for police suspicions, particularly those of young DS Vanek, just starting at the local nick under Serrailler.
We do not see a great deal of Serrailler, who has been staying on a remote Scottish island where he has been enjoying an uncomplicated sex life. He enters the action in order to take up the investigation of a 17-year-old girl who has been strangled and thrown into the river. Another prostitute is missing: will it be a case of murder?
The dangerous lives that these young women lead amid violent boyfriends, drug addiction and chaotic childcare are touchingly evoked as we follow them into the risky territory they must inhabit at night. And when the apparently highly respectable wife of the new Dean of the Cathedral goes missing, opinion is divided as to whether a serial killer has widened his net beyond prostitutes or whether there might be more than one murderer at work.
Serrailler's sister, the recently-widowed Cat, is a significant figure for much of the book. It is through her eyes we encounter the major players in the game, who include several members of the local clergy. One of these is married to a character with a serious psychological disturbance. Hill is notably emotionally aware of the inner turbulence of someone who is trying to care for someone with bipolar disorder, as she is about the psychology of grief. These psychological understandings are aspects familiar from her other fiction and one admires her unwillingness to be bound safely within the respected limits of the "literary" genre.
The Shadows in the Street does rather take it too much for granted that the reader is going to care about clerical arguments, and the device of having a victim who is recovering from an attack conveniently remaining unable to speak until the plot has almost run its course is a bit far-fetched. But there's still something reassuringly Victorian about Hill's literary values.
ReviewThese heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies after injuring spine doing somersault celebration
- 2 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 3 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Lynda Bellingham dead: Loose Women presenter dies after battle with colon cancer
Breaking Bad season 6 is still not happening
Doctor Who, Flatline - review: Clara isn’t half bad as the Time Lord
Downton Abbey review series 5, episode 5: Period drama falls disappointingly flat
Star Wars Episode 7 has almost finished filming
X Factor 2014 results: Chloe Jasmine and Stephanie Nala sent home
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'