Two really good reads over the last few days. First up, the latest Simon Serrailler by Susan HIll, a Question of Identity. I decided I was going to be good and order it from the library but after waiting weeks and weeks and no sign of it arriving, I caved in and ordered it and read it in one fell swoop on Monday when I got back to find it waiting me (along with TEN other books which gob smacked me a bit).
If you have not read these books I can really recommend them, but think it is best to start at number one and read them in order as the pleasure of these novels is to get to know, not only Simon, but the rest of his family and life in Lafferton. Each story references back to the one before and then takes up with the characters and follows them through.
In the last book, SImon had finally fallen in love, after being pretty commitment wary for most of his life. Unfortunately, Rachel is married to a husband with a terminal illness (Susan Hill doesn't make it easy!) and though their love for each other is mutual, it is full of guilt and worry as well. His sister Cat is coming to terms with her tragedy and is raising her children with difficulty, Simon's stepmother is finding it hard to be married to Mr Serrailer senior, always a cold and seemingly remote man, and there are undercurrents and tensions all round.
In the middle of all this, two gruesome murders take place in a new site of sheltered accommodation for older people. Two women are found strangled with electric flex and, a nasty touch, have been placed in chairs in front of a mirror so they can see what is going to happen to them. There seems to be no motive for these senseless killings and the investigating team are getting nowhere until they are pointed in the direction of an old case of similar murders some twenty years earlier. The accused went to trial and, because of a technicality, was found not guilty, was secreted away to save him from the crowd who were ready to lynch him, and given a new identity. He vanished and Simon has to fight hard to track him down.
As always with Susan Hill, immensely readable, beautifully written with an easy style that takes you along. I have mentioned in earlier posts on these books, that I always guess who did the murder, who is guilty and this proved no exception as I got it right again. I don't think I am being particularly clever in this respect but there is usually a moment when something is mentioned which strikes a chord and I think AHA! and then the penny drops. It does not happen until three quarters through so I don't spoil my own enjoyment of it.
I gather there is a possibility of a TV series and I do hope this pans out as I think it would work very well indeed. If not, well I look forward to Simon No 8. These are must read books as far as I am concerned.
Next up, The Flight by M R Hall. When I read the first in this series, I was not sure about it, reviewed it here if you want to see what I originally thought, but have got to really love them and this one was the best yet, IMHO.
A plane crashes killing all the people on board, over six hundred of them. It is a disaster of the utmost magnitude but only one death officially comes under Jenny Cooper's jurisdiction, as the plane came down a few miles outside of her patch. However, this death, that of a man killed in his yacht when the plane hit him as it came down, is problematical and throws up some questions which need answering. His life jacket has vanished, found later with straps cut off, forensics discover traces of explosive and it looks as if he may have died in a way not explained by the crash. Witnesses heard helicopters hovering over the river immediately after the plane came down, denied by the authorities and the initial reason for the plane's 'falling out of the sky' given as being hit by lightening is soon dismissed.
Lots of conspiracy theories, lots of cover ups, lots of intricate layers of lies being peeled away and when we learn that there have been other occasions of computer equipment mysteriously failing and note that amongst those killed on board were a gathering of experts in computer technology intent on uncovering what is going on, the waters get even murkier.
I really really enjoyed this book, another page turner. I am slightly puzzled, however, at just how far a Coroner is allowed to go in getting hold of evidence, calling witnesses etc and rather feel that Jenny Cooper is allowed to get away with an awful lot. The picture I have always had of coroners is that of presiding over an initial investigation into a death and it is all rather matter of fact, it is the detective work and then the trial that usually takes centre stage. Of course, this is fiction so sure the boundaries are stretched a bit but I am not going to complain when it is as cracking a story as this one.
With impeccable timing I had no sooner finished reading The Flight (paperback edition) when the postman arrived with a lovely parcel and inside, lo and behold, the next Jenny Cooper, brand new and shiny and I have already started it and it is already shaping up to be another goodie.
Two excellent series and I really recommend you try them.