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I really have no idea what this book was supposed to be, not least because it didn't hold my attention long enough for me to finish it. It purports to be a kind of murder mystery, which it really isn't, and contains a vast throng of characters most of whom appear to have little or nothing to do with the core of the plot, such as it is. It is very slow, and very long, and for most of what I read of it, almost nothing of any note appears to happen. The only bright spot is that it is well written, but I got fed up with the endless descriptions of fields and hills and what the various characters were thinking and why, and I came to the conclusion that I really didn't care what happened to any of them. The book would have benefited from a decent editor who could cut out most of the dross, slimmed it down and turned into something halfway readable. Needless to say, I will not be venturing into the pages of another book by the same author.
This just did not work for me. It claims to be “Simon Serrailer – book 1” which I took to mean it would be about him, or at least feature him as a significant character, but his is not the case. He is a ghostly figure on the periphery of vision, with no real sense of presence. The clash between the values of a modern GP and alternative medical practice could have been interesting, but the discussion was over-simplified and sacrificed to the plot – which would have been fair enough if there had been much plot. There were far too many irrelevant people (they don’t deserve the descriptor “characters” as they didn’t have any) introduced and the abandoned without their contributions feeling explained or concluded. This may rectify as characters are revisited in later books but I don’t have the patience to find out. The portrait of the small cathedral town is cosy, conservative and cloying. Kind of Midsommer Murders – for those who found Tom Barnaby too liberal and heathen. It lacks the sense of place of Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series, which the cathedral setting reminds me of a little. Ultimately it is just not very good.
Sadly I have to give this book one star, not sure if I can give it nil. The book is rife with class prejudice; the only prole who has escaped the fate of drug dealing/drug abusing/drunkenness/idleness/single-parent-hood/fecklessness is the cheeky-chappie of a DC who knows his place and defers to his betters. Honestly, I really thought that this effort was some sort of subtle pastiche played upon the blue-rinse Daily Mail brigade (even one of the evil, vile practitioners of alternative medicine HAD to be a Guardian reader)...I eagerly awaited the Roger Moore like Serrailer to drop the smooth, smug, aloof superiority, and on the last page, jack the police in, shack up with Tracy the single parent of three, start dealing crack, and drink over-proof cider straight from the plastic bottle...but no. No such redeeming gag from Ms Hill (I hope 'Ms' irritates if you ever read this; your book irritated me, though I suppose the last laugh is on me as you get the royalties).
As far as the writer is concerned, art should have ended with Turner, music with Bach, and (as one of the later books in the series advise us) cuts to the NHS are not down to the Coalition, but 'the last lot who spent it all'. Are these books a pitch to get the writer a safe Tory seat, a peerage...or even noticed by Mr. Farage?
I've been reading a lot of crime fiction recently, though I'm no know-it-all by a long shot. I rely on blurb and reader's reviews; I was impressed by Ms Hill's credentials, so bought most of the series in one hit. Boy oh boy that really was a wrong move. This first effort, as many of the reviews have pointed out already, is not even a moderately well written and plotted police thriller. Some of the later books in the series are an improvement, but are still thoroughly marred by the head-up-their-own-rear-end egocentricity of the upper-middle class main characters; you really only matter if you've had a university education, got private healthcare, wear Chanel (I'm sure that applies to only the women, can't really imagine Ms Hill going in for a tranny good-guy), have a successful career, blah, blah, blah.
I'm generally not a nasty person (I hope) but if one of those military guys, in one of those large bunkers in Texas accidentally elbowed his toggle, and the whole of pro-monarchist, Tory voting, supercilious, snobbish, smug, Aga-loving Lafferton was wiped out by the nuclear armed drone, think I might just have a quiet cackle.
If your views are .1% more liberal that the Mail, do yourself a favour and read Denise Mina or Sharon Bolton if you want to read some well written crime fiction by a woman.
I bought this book on recommendation of Jo Brand that I read in some magazine, so was disappointed that it didn't come up to expectations. Without giving too much away, the plot is sort of Mills and Boon romance with murder included, and the ending is somewhat unexpected as it is not a happy ending. If you enjoy British drama, you will probably enjoy this one. I found it contrived and a bit childish.
This book suffers from many things. Unfortunately none of these are brilliance, originality, wit, or delivery of reader satisfaction. The book is permeated by a complete lack of coherence and long unnecessarily detailed passages which lead nowhere and frustrate the reader. This is a whodunnit that becomes a whydunnit but never gathers the pace, delivers the suspense or indeed the satisfying 'ah-ha' moment.
Ms Hill spends an inordinate amount of time introducing many characters, most of whom are fairly incidental to the main plot, and some of which are almost completely transient. This in itself would merely be annoying if the big characterisations delivered what they should.
This is what makes the author's approach to the two main characters bizarre. The lead persona developed throughout the book is rather casually discarded at a fairly late stage. Readers who invest the amount of time required of this type of character expect a little more return on their investment, particularly with the level of extraneous detail Ms Hill insists in providing. Whereas the ultimate character - Serrailler - is pretty nondescript and entirely uninspirational throughout. This is perhaps an attempt to induce a sense of mystique and intrigue in the character (given Ms Hill has decided to make him somewhat immortal in the subsequent series of books) however it simply makes him one dimensional, bland, and quite uninteresting (but apparently irresistible to women - which is perhaps Ms Hill's target audience?)
Several aspects of the 'plot' are unexplained, events pitched as significant remain entirely unconnected, and the overall storyline never hangs together as anything like feasible. This randomness is perhaps an attempt to aspire to the brilliance of Ms Hill's namesake, the sadly missed Reginald, (who, incidentally would never have stooped to some of the brutally graphic, and totally unnecessary sexual violence on offer here) however this merely results in a cluttered randomness and ultimately delivers a deep sense of dissatisfaction.
I sensed this book may end this way about 20% in, but chose to persevere against my better judgement as I badly wanted it to improve and to have discovered another writer of quality crime fiction.
This was my first Susan Hill novel and it will unquestionably be my last.