EXCERPT: The cat had reappeared on the top step. Cat went up and rang and knocked hard again. The sounds died away, and then the echo of the sounds. The entrance hall was probably high ceilinged and spacious, without furniture or soft flooring. There was no answering sound. The cat brushed against her leg.
And then she heard something. Or perhaps not. Or perhaps.
It had come from the house, a voice but not a voice. A sound that might have been a cry, something that was possibly not human. Another cat. The cat that was outside the door now had its paws up against it and was asking to be let in. Then the cry again. Cat turned the brass handle and the door opened easily.
The cat shot between her legs and raced up the stairs leading from what was, exactly as she had imagined, a wide, handsome hall with a cupola above that let in the light, and black and white tiles in lozenge shapes on the floor. It was the perfect imitation of a grand English country house except everything was new, shiny, clean.
But she had only a moment to take it in because she heard the sound again, a muffled, strangulated noise, coming from above. She took out her phone and kept it firmly in her hand as she ran up the stairs. On the landing the ginger cat was now wailing, but behind that noise and the faint muffled murmur, there was a strange and disturbing silence, which had a depth to it that signalled more than the emptiness of a house whose occupiers had gone out.
Two doors were standing open. One led into a small room fitted out as a library with a curious mixture of matching leather bound books, spines exactly aligned and which looked as if they had never been taken from the shelves, let alone read, and a hotchpotch of paperbacks. But no one was in the room and it seemed undisturbed until Cat noticed two small alcoves with shelves for ornaments. The shelves were empty.
The cat was trying to trip her up now, weaving in and out of her legs, then leading her through an open door opposite.
It was a handsome, brilliantly lit sitting room with another cupola and a row of tall sashed windows. Cat took in the sight of a woman lying on the floor, a lot of blood, and a man tied to a straight backed chair, with more blood, on his head and face, and a gag tight round his mouth. His eyes were half open, and he moaned before his head slumped suddenly to one side.
The cat was back at her feet now,distraught, eyes huge, still wailing.
ABOUT THIS BOOK:
On the face of it DC Simon Serrailler has had time to recuperate after the violent incident that cost him his arm, and nearly his life. He is back in harness at Lafferton CID, but is spending his spare time high up in the cathedral roof, making drawings of some medieval angels which are being restored.
Lafferton is going through a quiet patch, so far as crime is concerned, until one rainy night two local men open their front door to a couple seeking shelter. A serious error of judgment in the investigation puts Simon’s reputation on the line and calls into question how full his recovery has really been.
In her new role as a private GP, Simon’s sister Cat’s medical and counselling skills are tested by terrible and unexpected events at the homes of two very different Lafferton women. Simon and Cat’s unreliable father, Richard, has returned to live nearby, in a luxury apartment for the well-heeled over 60s. He’s soon up to his usual tricks.
In this, the tenth Simon Serrailler crime novel, Simon must battle his own demons as Lafferton struggles to cope with a series of crimes that threaten the very sanctity of hearth and home.
MY THOUGHTS: I may have said this multiple times before, but I love Susan Hill’s writing. Her characters are very ordinary while being absolutely extraordinary. Don’t expect a racy plot, or high drama. Her writing is measured, comfortable, and absolutely brilliant. It would be hard to find an author as adept as Hill at setting a scene, creating an atmosphere.
The Benefit of Hindsight is the tenth in the Simon Serrailler series, and yet the plot is so fresh that it could be the first. I have read two thirds of the book this afternoon, despite the fact that I should have been doing other things. I find her writing compelling and absorbing. Her characters are old friends. Much loved old friends.
I have read all ten books in this series, and loved them all. I sincerely hope that she is hard at work on the next in this series. I can’t wait to meet up with Simon, his family, lovers, friends and work mates again.
I recommend that you read this series from the beginning, otherwise you’ll not understand the various dynamics between the characters. It is worth reading. I unreservedly recommend this series, this author.
THE AUTHOR: Susan Hill was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire in 1942. Her hometown was later referred to in her novel A Change for the Better (1969) and some short stories especially “Cockles and Mussels”.
She attended Scarborough Convent School, where she became interested in theatre and literature. Her family left Scarborough in 1958 and moved to Coventry where her father worked in car and aircraft factories. Hill states that she attended a girls’ grammar school, Barr’s Hill. Her fellow pupils included Jennifer Page, the first Chief Executive of the Millennium Dome. At Barrs Hill she took A levels in English, French, History and Latin, proceeding to an English degree at King’s College London. By this time she had already written her first novel, The Enclosure which was published by Hutchinson in her first year at university. The novel was criticised by The Daily Mail for its sexual content, with the suggestion that writing in this style was unsuitable for a “schoolgirl”.
Her next novel Gentleman and Ladies was published in 1968. This was followed in quick succession by A Change for the Better, I’m the King of the Castle, The Albatross and other stories, Strange Meeting, The Bird of Night, A Bit of Singing and Dancing and In the Springtime of Year, all written and published between 1968 and 1974.
In 1975 she married Shakespeare scholar Stanley Wells and they moved to Stratford upon Avon. Their first daughter, Jessica, was born in 1977 and their second daughter, Clemency, was born in 1985. Hill has recently founded her own publishing company, Long Barn Books, which has published one work of fiction per year.
DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of The Benefit of Hindsight by Susan Hill, published by Chatto & Windus,
Penguin Random House, from Waitomo District Library, although I plan on buying my own copy to add to my collection. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
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