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For those of us who have followed this series from the start, the soap opera aspect has always been at least as important as the police one, and this book was very necessary to wrap up the many threads left dangling at the explosive end of the previous book. The feeling at the end of this one is very much of finality and I will be surprised if SH gives us another Serraillier book. It's hard to see where she could take the characters next, she's reduced them so ruthlessly and brought them full circle as to relationships.
One of my major problems has always been the alienness of the south of England prosperous upper middle classness of it all, and in this one I'm afraid SH has gone the same way as P D James did in old age and given in to the temptation to dump chunks of undigested Tory dogma, in the shape of enthusiasm for private GP provision, into the text, where it sits steaming gently and smelling rank. Saint Cat's so-called mental turmoil about her deceased husband's views on private medicine were only ever going to end in one way, and come across as perfunctory at best. SH makes no secret of her political views in real life, but until now she has managed to be more subtle, and the unvarnished reality isn't pretty. On the up side, I now know exactly what the Hill Approved Diet consists of - much fish in many guises, lamb, lamb and more lamb, green beans, preferably home-grown, and eggs, bacon and toast for breakfast. Plus of course gin, whisky and wine. You really can't help knowing, because every morsel the characters swallow is lovingly described. Positively Blytonesque.
Of the characters: Simon is as cold and detached as ever, and the description of his hair as "wheat in sunshine" is both jarring and uncomfortably reminiscent of another high-profile Tory whose predilection for Europhobia is well-known (surely not, Susan?); Cat's Teflon coating is unscratched; Sam starts off as repellent as ever but by the end of the book may actually be showing signs of humanity at last, and boy it's been a long wait; Father Richard fails to raise even the slightest sympathy in me despite his creator's best efforts, after his thorough demonisation in previous books. New husband (no spoilers) is solid wood. Scottish islanders are cardboard cliches. Worried elderly lady (who can't actually be THAT elderly) and villain are characters SH has done before, many times. I do regret that we won't see the new young DC Monroe again - she has a strong feeling of Freya way back in the first of the series and could be a strong character if developed.
Style - SH has been slipping, for some time, into a peculiar quirk consisting of a string of single-word sentences to set an atmosphere or speed quickly through some action. She does it so much now that it feels like being hit on the head. Please tone it down.
And yet, it kept me reading, so a grudging 3 stars.
I've been an eager follower of Susan Hill since the 1970s, even including her as a main author in a University course on contemporary women writers. I've enjoyed the Serrailler series - though, in comparison with much of the excellent crime fiction there is these days, I haven't thought the novels worth the very high praise lavished on them. The Comforts of Home is, however, an enormous disappointment. It is the work of someone who - almost exactly my own age - is tired of the job, and who felt obliged to give her characters one last outing to tie up the loose ends. At best, it has an evensong melancholy about it; at worst, it irritates in its complacency. Too much space is - again - spent on Hill's obsession with the NHS and the plight of General Practice. Her answer? Live in a small cathedral town (Lafferton doesn't feel like a city), and pay some £100 plus per month to a group of GPs who are willing to set up a private practice. 'Most medicines are cheaper than NHS prescription charges, so people can afford them.' Anything extreme? Over to the NHS. This is immoral. The fierce life-long objections of Cat's dead husband, Chris, to private medicine makes her think only a moment before she joins the scheme. After all, she's now happily married to Simon's boss, the Chief Constable, and has the happiest of youngsters - Felix, get it? - as a 'choirboy' (why not chorister?) at the Cathedral, so, in spite of slightly awkward other son Sam (who works his problems out with Simon, and, again happily, ends up a hospital porter), her life is Aga-cosy. Hill has touched on a very serious national problem that is a crisis for many people. Her 'answer' is worse than complacent, and an insult to the many who live beyond laughable Lafferton's material 'comforts'. And what is Hill's obsession with food? It's worse than Iris Murdoch's. She seems to be filling in any narrative gap with a detailed list of every component of every meal. And there are quite a few. This is gourmandise as a substitute for inspiration. There are three stories going on in this novel: an island murder - so easily solved by Serrailler that it's really an independent short story; a cold-case of a missing girl whose mother still persists in calling the police to account for not solving the mystery of her disappearance. (Unlike many of us, she has access to the Chief Constable to make her complaints.) Serrailler easily sees that the original investigation was very slapdash indeed, and solves the case with a few DVD images. Ends are tied and knotted when the complaining mother dies in a fire. The third story involves a series of arson attacks in Lafferton. And this annoyed me more than anything else in this weak and pallid fiction. The first attack is announced by a massive explosion. These days, here as elsewhere, that immediately says 'terrorism,' and raises one of the most serious problems facing us today. Furthermore, by a stroke of irony, just before The Comforts of Home was published, the cathedral city of Salisbury was the site of a very nasty terrorist attack. So what does Hill think she is doing by turning this narrative strand into petty arson, again easily solved so that the novel can come to its comfortable end? Val McDermid is showing signs of tiring, too. But her latest novel, Broken Ground, showed this in an impatience with getting the novel down on paper. One almost felt as if one was reading notes rather than a rounded and honed novel. And this is because she still has so much to say. I'm not blaming Hill for not being McDermid. I'm accusing her of complacent irresponsibility. I'm disappointed. The author of I'm the King of the Castle has become Enid Blyton. 'Let's all go home and have tea'.
Oh the horrible horrible priggish Serraillers, the dodgy knowledge of police procedures (a detective superintendent trawling through cctv footage in person - really?), the smugness, the self-satisfaction, the snobbery. Why did I read it?
I was so disappointed when Susan Hill said she was giving Simon Serrailler a rest after the traumatic events of Book 8. I was, therefore, delighted to discover she has returned to this engrossing series. I can see why there has been some criticism of the lack of action. However, in reintroducing the characters after a hiatus, the author obviously felt that readers needed time to reacquaint themselves and to absorb the inevitable changes time has brought to the characters' lives. I am enjoying this process and look forward to further developments in future. Having reset the scene with her usual expertise, Susan Hill owes her loyal readers further involvement with the Serrailler clan.
Having waited for so long for this latest offering, and being laid up with bronchitis, I reread the preceding eight Serrailler novels before tucking into number 9 - just to remind me of previous plots and character development. Unfortunately this merely served to show up The Comforts of Home as a weak and unworthy successor to what has been, until now, my favourite crime series. The aftermath of Simon's dreadful experience is well handled, but I found the crime on Taransay too obvious a mechanism for persuading him back to work. I also felt that there were far too many loose ends and unexplained incidents, including the bizarre encounter between Simon and Rachel, the disappearance of Judith despite her previous close relationships with Cat and Simon, the continued 'elephant in the room' approach to the ghastly Richard and the unrealistically rapid development of Cat's children from the previous novel . Never one to insist upon everything being tied up neatly, I found that there were simply too many oddities in this story and never any repercussions or explanations for them - the oddest perhaps being the final scene where Simon rediscovers his beloved flat. I shall, of course, read the next one in the series, if there is one, but have been left, for the moment, feeling very unfulfilled. Sorry Susan Hill - you are one of my favourite authors but this book lacks substance.
Oh dear, what a disappointing book. Nothing like any of the previous series of excellent books. Like other readers anxious to read a new book, this one was like reading a fill in Soap tv episode before the action is going to start on another story line. The police investigation stories, were just a side line. No wonder it was called Home Conforts. Will never pre-order this series of books again, but wait to review what readers have said before ordering.
A strange and somewhat disappointing follow- up to the last Serrailler book. This is a novel has an awful lot of plot lines, none of which is of which is satisfactorily concluded as far as I am concerned. The books ends suddenly and it felt to me as though the writer either ran Up against a publication deadline or ran out of enthusiasm for the characters and the story. I can only assume that a somewhat more substantial sequel will appear in the near future because this felt like only half a book.
Before starting on this I made the mistake of reading through all the previous Serrailler books, and realised they are full of inconsistencies and not as well written as I had thought. This last book has finished me with the series. It’s more family than crime, and what a disfunctional, boring lot they are! Disappointing, poor and boring. I struggled though to the end as I hate to give up on a book, but I’m done! Simon Serrailler is a sham.
This is a bizarre 'neither one thing nor the other' book. If you were expecting a thriller, move along, there's nothing to see here. I was very disappointed with it. There's very little pace and no thrills. A number of plot areas are left unresolved and there are some oddities. Having enjoyed the previous books in the series, I was left deflated.