The Risk of Darkness and The Vows of Silence by Susan Hill

13 October, 2009

The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill The Vows of Silence by Susan Hill

I first picked up Susan Hill‘s crime series featuring DCI Simon Serrailler purely for it’s beautiful title, The Various Haunts of Men. I think at that time I was going through a phase of reading Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels, so Susan Hill’s book caught me by surprise because it was unlike any other modern crime novel I had ever read. There are some shocking twists and it was definitely more atmospheric and creepier than some of its fellow crime thrillers. I then followed it with The Pure in Heart, the second in the series, which left me disturbed and terrified, although Hill’s book is not a horror. So it took me a few years to go back and get her third in the series The Risk of Darkness. And when I finished it, I went straight out and got her fourth, The Vows of Silence, from the library. They were that good. And also perfect for Carl’s R.I.P. IV Challenge.

I don’t know what it is about her writing, but she does creepy really well. There is a pervading sense of unease underlying all of her novels. Even though they are set in Lafferton, an idealic cathedral town with its choir and friendly neighbours, Hill dots her fictional landscapes with modern problems, sink estates, hoodies and all the other little terrors that modern city dwellers deal with everyday. The cosy clashes with the uneasy, and it’s not a comfortable read.

I like her detective Simon Serrailler too. Of course, he’s handsome, blond and way too attractive to women. But he’s a flawed hero. He can’t commit, he’s a bit of a loner and has a prickly personality with a quick temper. Hill’s books in the Serrailler series are emotive rather than descriptive, psychological rather than physical, and she likes to shock her readers. She is unafraid of voicing dark thoughts which we normally bind tightly deep within ourselves and are too afraid to reveal just in case it lets out something unsightly that we can’t quite control. Hill has said she is interested in exploring the effect of violence and crime on people and society and she does this exceptionally well.

But then she is the acclaimed author of The Woman in Black which has spooked countless fans. I’m still undecided as to whether I should see the play or read the book first.

And I have been reading lots of lovely reviews including those by dovegreyreader scribbles and Stuck in a Book about her latest book Howards End is on the Landing which is Hill’s account of spending a year abstaining from buying books and reading only the ones from her TBR shelf. Sounds like something I need to do.

7 Responses to “The Risk of Darkness and The Vows of Silence by Susan Hill”

  1. diane Says:

    I so want these 2 books! I have a few others by Hill now.

    • chasing bawa Says:

      Hi! You might want to read the one before, The Pure in Heart, as The Risk of Darkness follows on from it. They are brilliant, but prepare to be creeped out!

    • chasing bawa Says:

      Hi Diane, I’ve only read Hill’s crime novels so am looking forward to reading her other books too. That is, after I’ve made a dent in my TBR pile!

  2. Susan Says:

    I’m not familiar with Susan Hill’s work. But now I want to investigate it. Thanks for your well written review.

  3. Danielle Says:

    I’ve been in the mood for a really good crime novel or thriller and haven’t been sure what to pick up (should really not pick up anything as I already have plenty of books started). I was thinking something by Ruth Rendell, but maybe I should give Susan Hill’s Various Haunts of Men a try. I’ve been meaning to read that for a while. Am rereading The Woman in Black at the moment, too.

  4. Mystica Says:

    I havent read Susan Hill but now am intrigued. There have been several reviews (all good) on these books. My crime reading has been restricted to Patricia Cornwell and Ruth Rendell. I think I should branch out!
    Tks for the review.

    • chasing bawa Says:

      Oooh, you might also want to try Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Tana French’s In the Woods which I really enjoyed this year.

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