I only knew Susan Hill from her thriller The Woman in Black so I was really curious to see how she would adapt to this different genre. I am extremely glad I picked up this book because it is one that challenges you and doesn't let go.
The cathedral town of Lafferton seems idyllic, but in many ways it is just like any other place. As part of the same rapidly changing world, it shares the same hopes and fears, and the same kinds of crime, as any number of towns up and down the land.
When one day DC Simon Serrailler is called in by Lafferton’s new Chief Constable, Kieron Bright, he is met by four plainclothes officers. He is asked to take the lead role in a complex, potentially dangerous undercover operation and must leave town immediately, without telling anyone – not even his girlfriend Rachel, who has only just moved in with him.
Meanwhile, Simon’s sister Cat is facing difficult choices at work that will test her dedication to the NHS. But an urgent call about her and Simon’s father, Richard, soon presents her with a far greater challenge much closer to home.
To complete his special op, Simon must inhabit the mind of the worst kind of criminal. As the op unfolds, Lafferton is dragged into the sort of case every town dreads. And Simon faces the fight of his life.When I started this book I had no idea that it was the 8th in the Simon Serrailler series. I had never even heard of the series and yet I never once found myself lost while reading. Hill does very well at creating an environment for the reader that is inviting and interesting. She doesn't assume you are already familiar with it but describes the town of Lafferton in a way that is relevant for the story of this novel. Each of the characters are given a place within the narrative while also getting their own development. Hill takes enough time to set up her characters all over again and then gets the actual plot rolling, which then takes off at high speed. Hill doesn't linger too long on events but allows the story to develop at something that feels like real-life speed.
There is a very realistic feel to the story. People are struggling with money, worry about their future and their relationships. Hill describes these struggles in a very realistic and honest way which makes the characters all the more likable. Hill switches between different narrators between chapters and this means that the reader is always aware of what different characters are thinking and feeling. This sometimes leads to the fact that what is shocking to the characters is no surprise to the reader, but Hill's writing makes sure that this doesn't become a problem. Especially the character of Cat is very interesting, especially in the way Hill writes her. She is an independent woman who struggles and survives without it taking centre stage. I think these kind of women are very important in literature because they show readers that a problem doesn't have to take centre stage to be serious.
Hill's writing style is very intimate despite the terrible subject matter. Because the synopsis doesn't give it away, neither do I want to, but it is potentially quite triggering and it could have completely back-fired in the hands of a different author. As it stands, Hill manages to introduce characters from all different sides of the issue with some delicacy. Hill picks up on a whole range of issues, most of which seem to centre around relationships. What happens when certain boundaries are crossed? Who is a victim, who is innocent and what is simply wrong? She picks up on a lot of issues which exist concerning gender nowadays and I really enjoyed seeing these actually be addressed in a novel.
I give this novel...
I really enjoyed reading The Soul of Discretion. There was a real tension during the novel, leaving the reader desperate to figure out how it will end and what will happen. The characters are very interesting and a lot of them likable. I recommend this both to readers who are already fans of Susan Hill and of the detective and crime genre.