The Vows of Silence – Susan Hill

After reading something a little out there for me as my first read of 2010 and before I headed into the wonderfully bizarre world of Murakami I thought I would go with a book I could almost guarantee would be a straight forward read that I would enjoy. What could be better than the latest offering in a crime series you love, though as you may have seen yesterday the next one is almost out as Susan Hill is bringing out Simon Serrailler for his fifth outing. Back to his forth outing though with my latest read and a read that gave me a reaction I wasn’t expecting.

Susan Hill writes good crime, simple as, and ‘The Vows of Silence’ proves this once again. In the town of Lafferton a gunman is terrorising the inhabitant’s lives, with a particular penchant for younger women. Who is this killer and why is he killing what the police believe are random victims. You as the reader are party to the killer’s thoughts as these are interspersed within the chapters of the lives of the victims, though you are not aware who the killer is, unless you follow the clues very carefully. The fact that Susan Hill lets you get to know the victims in these novels adds an emotional twist, a particular murder of a single mother I found quite harrowing to read. I cared that she died; she wasn’t just another body in a crime novel. That in part is what makes this series special.

By this novel, the fourth instalment so far, we are getting to know Simon Serrailler better though having said that he still remains some what of an enigma, maybe its more we know the people around him and their reactions and thoughts of him. We know his family, co-workers and the few people of Lafferton that he socialises with, unless of course Susan Hill kills them off and these books do have a high death toll, this one being no exception. In fact is was one story about one of the main characters partners becoming terminally ill which actually pushed me over the edge and made me weep, seriously a crime novel having that effect!

This latest in the series I think is the most stand alone of the books since the The Various Haunts of Men the first in the series and the first book I ever blogged about.  You could read the rest alone the latter two, The Pure in Heart (which I cannot believe I have never reviewed on here, but I haven’t) and The Risk of Darkness are quite linked though I shall give no more away. In this book we meet some new faces, I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Helen and Phil even if there is a tragic end, and a face from the past comes back into Simon’s life. Like any other back stories you will find yourself soon up to scratch though in my humble opinion I would read them in order as it will hit you harder emotionally. It was the emotional force of some of this book that I wasn’t prepared for; either that or I am getting softer and weepier in my old age.

This is a great series and so far I think, though it could be because it’s the most recent one that I have read, this is my favourite of the series. It’s a gripping and psychological thriller that has a very tender heart in the centre of it. I don’t know of many books in the genre like that other than another of my favourite authors the wonderful Kate Atkinson. I am already looking forward to the next Serrailler book and have of course added it onto my wish list, its out in a few months, not that I am hinting.

Have you read any of the Serrailler series? What other crime series would you recommend that can grip you with its thrills and its heart?


Filed under Review, Susan Hill, Vintage Books

17 responses to “The Vows of Silence – Susan Hill

  1. I have a whole list of crime thrillers that I read, but I’ve never read this one. Sounds like I need to! Lawrence Block writes a couple of series…the Burglar series is humorous and the Mathew Scudder series is deliciously dark. There is the manly, testosterone-filled Lee Child series about a character named Jack Reacher. Robert Crais writes an excellent series that includes several characters that intermingle between the different book. There are two books by Benjamin Black that are excellent…Christine Falls and The Silver Swan. I should just shut up because I’ll never list them all.

    • You are a fan of your thrillers Sandy and I think that you would like these. They are very gripping and very human and emotive (particluarily this one) too. I shall have to take a gander at some of your recommendations and see if should add them to the wishlist.

  2. fleurfisher

    I agree with your every word. My only concern is that too much is happening in one place and to one family. Maybe book 5 will open things out a little. We shall see!

    • I get what you mean but then some families do just have lots of bad luck. I am intrigued by the synopsis of book five and will be interested to see how much more we get to know of Mr Serrailler.

  3. Dot

    I haven’t ready any of these, but they sound really good, thanks for the review Simon!

  4. I’ve read a lot of SH now, but none of the crime ones, so it looks as if I should look out for them too.

  5. I don’t read tons of crime, but one author who really knocked my socks off last year who I would HIGHLY recommend is Tana French. I know you read In The Woods and felt let down, but I would strongly suggest you try The Likeness, because that is a better book in my opinion.

    Also, I’m reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson right now, and it sounds like the kind of book you might be looking for. I know this one has received mixed reviews, but so far it’s pretty good.

    • I dont have the Likeness but might look for it in the library, sadly that book just really really disappointed me and it has put me off her. I havent heard many rave reviews of it but the fact you enjoyed it means I might just too.

      I have The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo to read in the not too distant future.

  6. I have read the first three but not this one — should get it before no.4 comes out!

  7. Hello there, Simon! I haven’t read any yet by Susan Hill, although I really love reading crime fiction. Of course, my favorite is the Ripley series from Patricia Highsmith. Those novels are just so sublime! And the other non-Ripley Highsmith novels are quite good too.

    Among contemporary crime fiction, I couldn’t highly recommend Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. The first one, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is an excellent mystery that has a closed room murder mystery theme. The other two novels are more on the thriller side though. Still, all three are very, very satisfying.

    If you want to sample a crime series with a touch of supernatural/esoteric elements, the Pendergast novels of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are a treat. I think there are more than five novels that feature Pendergast. And there’s a running storyline among these novels too. So it’s always a good thing when the latest one comes out, as you get to know more about the mysterious Pendergast.

    • Hey Peter, Susan Hill I personally think is great at crime, literary fiction and non fiction. I have yet to try her short stories but bet they are good too! This series is wonderful.

      I have some Highsmith I really must give her books a try! The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is on my TBR pile so that will get read soonish.

      Never heard of Pendergast!

  8. novelinsights

    This sounds brilliant and a little bit upsetting. Especially the bit about how she lets you get to know the character emotionally before killing them off – that’s pretty unusual.

    • It is really brilliant Pol. I think you would like these. The first one is a slow starter but ends up being brilliant (it took me two tries but am glad i finished it). I think the way we get to know the victims and then see them killed adds to the tension. Also some people are killed off you werent expecting. As you get to know all the characters it could be any of them!

  9. Pingback: The Other Half Lives – Sophie Hannah « Savidge Reads

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