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A Question of Identity: A Simon Serrailler Mystery (Chief Superintendent Simon Serrailler Mystery) Hardcover – November 8, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The title of this, the seventh in the Simon Serrailler mysteries, gives a hint at the complexities of identity. In the novel, identity is something police and prosecutors must establish to link person and scene of the crime. It also becomes something much more fluid and pernicious as it relates to character and deception. Past informs the present here—in 2002, a serial killer in Yorkshire has, incredibly to all the trial watchers, gotten away with his murders. Quick cut to 2012 and Hill’s fictional town of Lafferton. An elderly woman is murdered in her home. Detective Chief Inspector Serrailler suspects a serial killer from the start. His profiling skills, based on the evidence at the scene, are impressive. Sure enough, more murder follows, with Serrailler and his squad desperately trying to catch the cunning killer. The novel is spiked with the killer’s musings, which heighten tension and illuminate a very dark space. Very spooky, tick-tock suspense. --Connie Fletcher

Review

"Not all great novelists can write crime fiction, but when one like Susan Hill does it,the result is stunning." — Ruth Rendell

"As every Trollope reader knows, English cathedral towns can be hotbeds of viciousness and vice. And so it is in Lafferton, where Susan Hill sets her thoughtful mysteries." — The New York Times Book Review

"Hill is a fine writer ... Brooding, downright ominous." — Entertainment Weekly

"Crime fans on the lookout for intelligent examples of the genre will enjoy." — Time Out
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Product Details

  • Series: Chief Superintendent Simon Serrailler Mystery
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (November 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781468300505
  • ISBN-13: 978-1468300505
  • ASIN: 1468300504
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #403,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Jadwin on December 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read all of Hill's Simon Serailler novels, and a few of her others. At her best, she's a terrific writer who can give us a vivid impression of a character or event with only a few strokes of detail. She does much more with the police-procedural genre than most other writers, focusing on an entire extended family and their town, the fictional Lafferton, showing how complex and compelling an 'ordinary' community can be.

But this novel, like the previous one, suffers from repetition and digression. Her longstanding concern with death - so brilliantly handled in the death of Chris Deerbon and several other characters' deaths - keeps pushing the detective story to the side. Simon's sometime romance with Rachel is growing tedious, and as another reviewer has said below, the perpetual state of crisis that plagues Cat and her family is starting to strain credulity.

Hill's most compelling energies are devoted to musings about the indignity and complexity of 'natural' deaths from disease rather than from violence. In the Serailler series, the detective element increasingly seems tacked on, even gratuitous. In "A Question of Identity," I found the contrast between the hideously cruel murders and the nuanced emotional effects of ordinary death unsettling at best and offputting at worst.

I hope Hill sorts this out because I've become very attached to her characters and the world she's created.

On another note, she might consider making the self-promoting-faux-book-reviewer Harriet Klausner (see below) her next murder victim. It'll be a hard one to solve - there will be so many amazon.com suspects. ;-)

.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ruby Soho on June 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed the earlier Serrailler mysteries, but this book and the one before it proved rather disappointing. Thankfully, "A Question of Identity" has only hints of the heavy-handed obsession with opposition to assisted suicide we endured in "The Betrayal of Trust." Instead, we are treated to more of Simon Serrailler's incongruous mooning over Rachel. The juvenile texts between the two of them and the uninteresting plot line would have detracted from the real mystery if there had been one. Instead, the mystery involving new identity and old habits was glossed over and the most interesting aspects of it left unexplored or unexamined. Story lines about Judith (which, frankly, came out of the clear blue), Cat, and the suddenly horrible Sam managed to both bore and irritate me. There were details from the previous book that were recounted in this novel with total inaccuracy. I am also left wondering how this rather small cathedral town manages to still exist in the face of so many gruesome murders. Surely everyone still standing would have left for safer digs by now.
I can only hope that the next installment will bring back the well-crafted plots, lovely prose, and interesting food for thought Hill created in her earlier Serrailler novels.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 14, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
British author Susan Hill is quite a prolific writer. In addition to her Simon Serrailler police procedural series, she's written many works of fiction and non-fiction. Her play "Woman in Black" had been presented in London's West End since 1989. I've read her Serrailler series and many of her other novels. I suppose I'm writing this to establish that I've been a long-time reader of Susan Hill. And so, I think I can say that in her seventh Simon Serrailler novel, "A Question of Identity", she comes up a bit short of her previous novels in the series.

One of the joys for a reader of series novels is to receive the newest book. Characters who have long been "old friends" to the reader are revisited and lives are updated. Sometimes character development is second to plot, actually, and plots often unwind to keep the character development moving forward. That's rather the story with Hill's Serrailer series. Set in England's Yorkshire area, senior cop Simon Serrailler battles both crime in the area and his family's dynamics. If Tolstoy's right about unhappy families, the Serrailler family has it's share of unique ways to be unhappy. Father and step-mother, Simon and his widowed sister Cat, her children, and various friends all seem to exist in perpetual low-key turmoil. Simon, an excellent policeman and artist, never quite has his love-life under control in the books. He's deeply at odds with his doctor-father, who was disappointed that his son became a police officer rather than a doctor, like his other two children. (The other son's gone to live in Australia, thus skipping out on the family friction.)

In "Question of Identity" a serial killer has struck in the village of Lafferton.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Walton on February 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Essentially, this almost defines mediocrity. Serrailler's preachy diatribe to his nephew, without flushing out why the nephew was troubled is a prime example of the cliche protagonist detective. Nothing special going on here.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Beverley Short on January 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
DCC Simon Serrailler leads a complicated life trying to juggle his professional career and the demands of his difficult family. Susan Hills stories of this detective are very satisfying and intelligent. I would compare her to Dame P D James. It is probably better to read earlier books in this series first to get up to speed on the background.
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