1st October 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-52911054-8 (PB)
Something which has always intrigued me is the way authors of series
fiction succeed in ringing the changes, so that stories involving the same
characters and set in the same environment remain fresh and engaging.
There are always new
characters, of course, some just passing through, others destined to stay
around. Sometimes, too, the environment changes; the two previous titles in
Susan Hill’s Simon Serrailler series took place away from familiar territory.
But in The Benefit of Hindsight, the tenth in this absorbing series, the
action is firmly back in the cathedral town of Lafferton, which Serrailler
himself and most of his family call home. And the result is a novel which feels
both familiar and new.
Serrailler is back in his old
job, head of CID at Lafferton Police, despite having lost an arm in the course
of an undercover assignment in an earlier volume. His prosthetic is working
perfectly, and in most respects he is back to normal – until a case of robbery
that escalated into murder means he has to visit a victim in hospital. He finds
himself crippled by flashbacks and panic attacks, which begin to affect his
ability to investigate not only that robbery and murder, but also two
associated crimes – though being the strong, silent type, he is reluctant to
In true Susan Hill style,
there’s a lot more going on as well. Serrailler’s other life as a talented
artist takes him into the roof of the cathedral, and to London, where the panic
attacks reach crisis point. His sister Cat, the kind of GP we all wish would be
around when we’re ailing, has a mystery of her own to solve. Cat is married to
the Chief Constable, which can give rise to a whole other set of issues. Other
family members have their own problems. And romance lurks around the edges;
after all, Serrailler is single, comfortably off and drop-dead gorgeous.
I’ve been an unashamed fan of
this series since it began sixteen years ago, and though I was happy to follow
Simon Serrailler to whatever part of the globe his adventures took him, it was
good to be back in the comfort zone of Lafferton. For a small and fairly sleepy
cathedral town, it does seem to play host to a remarkable amount of crime;
robbery and violent death are only part of it this time around. It was
interesting to see the cathedral through the eyes of an artist; and watching
Serrailler’s very normal family interact always offers an occasional relaxing
interlude in the course of the crime-fighting.
The Benefit of Hindsight
is definitely a novel I’d recommend for rainy weekend afternoons on the sofa.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Susan Hill has been a professional writer for over fifty years. Her books have won awards and prizes including the Whitbread, the John Llewellyn Rhys and the Somerset Maugham; and have been shortlisted for the Booker. She was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Honours. Her novels include Strange Meeting, I’m the King of the Castle, In the Springtime of the Year and A Kind Man. She has also published autobiographical works and collections of short stories as well as the Simon Serrailler series of crime novels. The play of her ghost story The Woman in Black has been running in London’s West End since 1988. She has two adult daughters and lives in North Norfolk.has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.