"A Question of Identity" by Susan Hill
Published by The Overlook Press, 2012
Hardcover Edition: 354 pages
The first chapter of Hill's seventh Simon Serrailler mystery, A QUESTION OF IDENTITY, begins with a bang. In 2002, inside the four walls of a courtroom, a man--Alan Frederick Keyes--is accused of murder. Three counts of murder against elderly women.
In the dead of dark, he supposedly stalked all three women in their living spaces. But months later, he is acquitted of those ghastly crimes on the grounds of insufficient evidence. The people of Lafferton are in an uproar. And soon Alan Frederick Keyes is a hunted man from the angry denizens of Lafferton. But the defendant's wife, Lynn, is in fear for her life--from her husband. Even Lynn's sister, Hilary, turns her away when Lynn raps on her door to be let in out of the cold, securely hidden away from her husband. The feeling of terror is palpable throughout the novel, which is Hill's strong suit, awakening every sense of fear inside you with believable, evocative storytelling, keeping you gripped until the end.
Ten years later, life in Lafferton seems quieter, the lives of Alan and Lynn Keyes go unnoticed, off the radar. Where have they gone? Life goes on, as it always does, never stopping for anybody. But when two other elderly women, Elinor Sanders and Rosemary Poole, are discovered murdered at their Duchess of Cornwall Close residence, the sudden news rocks the small English town. And across the way, when gunshots ring out in a public location close to Reynaldo's Club, involving Lafferton's citizens Harry and Karen Fletcher, Lafferton's DCS Simon Serrailler receives a call from his stepmother, Judith, after an especially close death call with Molly, Cat's medical student lodger. And as a snowstorm rages into Lafferton, a deranged madman is on the loose, and with great fear, everyone is looking over their shoulders, trying to keep safe.
Hill revisits old characters from her previous outing, The Betrayal of Trust, but briefly. Jocelyn Forbes, the woman living with motor neurone disease, or MND, is still alive, but barely, and Hill seems to have a keen interest in MND and its debilitating affects on a person's body. Also, Rachel Wyatt and Simon Serrailler's rendezvous continues in the latest mystery, and though the relationship adds nothing to the meat of the main story, Hill creates interesting characters that her readers care about and hope to revisit in future stories.
Striking dialogue and top-notch storytelling, Hill writes with determination, as if her hair is on fire, hitting another home run with the newest novel in the ongoing Simon Serrailler mystery series. Publishing would not be the same without quality, thought-provoking stories by smart authors like Susan Hill. Highly recommended.