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The Vows of Silence by Susan Hill

The Vows of Silence (2008)

by Susan Hill

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Young women are being shot, but by the same person? The first uses a rifle and shoots from distance, the other shoots face-to-face. Different modus operandii, different killer? One serial killer in a small town is rare, two serial killers in a small town at the same time is beyond apprehension. The thing that sets Susan Hill’s crime novels apart from the rest, for me, is the way she deals with the violence. It is there in the storyline but not on the page, we feel it through the reaction of Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Serrailler. Susan Hill writes page-turning crime novels about ordinary people, people we can identify with, but people that extraordinary things happen to.
Cathedral town Lafferton is the setting, and Prince Charles and Camilla are due to attend the wedding of the Lord Lieutenant’s daughter, not a great idea when a shooter is on the loose. A shooter who no-one sees, who plans meticulously, and who leaves no clues behind. As women keep being killed, Serrailler’s brother-in-law is diagnosed with cancer and his widowed father suddenly has a girlfriend. Elsewhere in Lafferton, widow Helen meets widower Phil, but her newly-religious son Tom disapproves. Quite how much he disapproves, Helen doesn’t appreciate. As the murders continue, the police focus on the forthcoming high profile wedding and the town’s Jug Fair. Both are ideal settings for another shooting.
This was the first of the Simon Serrailler books that I read, and I was immediately hooked in the way that finding a new detective series hooks you. I re-read it recently in one sitting. I’ve read many of Susan Hill’s other books too, favourites being ‘I’m the King of the Castle’ and her ghost stories ‘The Man in the Picture’, and ‘The Woman in Black’ [also a stage play and now a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe].
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Nov 5, 2015 |
Where I got the book: audiobook on Audible.

Ah, Lafferton, Lafferton. A small cathedral town must be a terrible place to live if serial killers pop up as regularly as they do in this series—I wouldn’t dare leave the house. Add in the high incidence of Sudden Death from natural causes, suicide and bizarre accidents, and you get the impression that the Grim Reaper once visited the town for a short vacation and liked it so much that he stayed.

The Serrailler family and friends soap opera really lets rip in this novel, with Simon suffering much angst over his sister’s personal tragedy, having a fit of the sulks over his father’s love life (I wouldn’t say he’s cold, our Simon, as much as immature) and SUFFERING from, yet again, thwarted love. Because letting your detective have a normal love life would be—what? Too cheerful? Hill’s actually not all that good at the love bits and certainly not great with sex, which sort of happens offstage and is referred to in a very offhand British way without anyone ever getting worked up. I always find myself thinking of that scene in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life where John Cleese and his wife make mundane small talk while performing the act for a classroom full of bored schoolboys.

There’s an extensive subplot about a widow who finds love, creating conflict with her born-again son, which I have decided was put in there partly as a red herring and partly to express Hill’s obvious dislike of evangelical Christianity, which she seems to conflate with the charismatic speaking-in-tongues end of the denominational pool. Faith is definitely something that Hill’s interested in, but she seems to prefer a more traditionalist Anglican flavor. I always start laughing when narrator Steven Pacey does his Anglican priest voice…

Oh yeah, and somewhere in there there’s that serial killer who shoots at brides. Much as I howl at yet ANOTHER serial killer, I would have liked this murder mystery to have contained a little more murder mystery, and this plot really wasn’t bad and should have been made more of. But there was all that subplot and soap opera, and when the crime resolution came it was kind of pushed into a corner and rushed over. Just another day in the life of an English detective, eh chaps? ( )
2 vote JaneSteen | Jan 5, 2015 |
The fourth novel in the Simon Serrailler series. The third, The Risk of Darkness, was a masterpiece of using a murder mystery to explore family ties, romantic attachments and the dynamics of commitment, risk, betrayal, meaning, identity, etc. Vows of Silence continues to explore these sorts of issues intelligently, but the mystery side looks a bit arbitrary and imposed here. Still good and well worth reading, but not a high point in the series. ( )
1 vote ehines | May 26, 2014 |
great series. ( )
1 vote | ccayne | Feb 14, 2014 |
This is a Simon Seruiler mystery, which means that aside from the particular mystery, it has the backdrop of Chief Superintendent Simon Seruiler, an artist detective with an attraction for and a reluctance to be committed to women, along with his sister, Cat, a doctor, and her family, and his father, mother, and later stepmother, along with various other characters who continue for varying lengths through the novels. The location is the cathedral town of Lafferton, in England, not tiny, but not too big. Simon is a likable and interesting character, despite his imperfections. He has strong emotions and connections with his family. His sister, Cat, is the heart of the extended family, and the one he goes to for comfort. Simon plays somewhat of a father role for his nephew, Sam. This backdrop is interesting in itself, and then, the extended family is often drawn into the particular mysteries as well, with lingering effects on them.

This particular mystery is about a series of murders of young women. Susan Hill, in my opinion, is up there with the best in terms of mystery writing, on a par with P.D. James, and Aka Edwardson, and the writing and suspense and depth of character is right up there in this novel, but I have to admit to a bit of a disappointment at the end, in learning the identity of the murderer. Nonetheless, I recommend the book, as well as the whole series. ( )
1 vote solla | Jun 24, 2013 |
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To The Wedding Guests
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They had climbed for two hours. Then they had come into the low-hanging curtains of cloud. It had started to drizzle.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099499290, Paperback)

In the peaceful cathedral city of Lafferton, a gunman is terrorising young women. What - if anything - links the attacks? Is the marksman with a rifle the same person as the killer with a handgun or do the police have two snipers on their hands? Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Serrailler is in charge of the case, but he is also struggling to deal with a tragedy at the heart of his own family. Two forthcoming events - a local fair and the high-profile cathedral wedding of the Lord Lieutenant's daughter - only add to the pressure.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:39 -0400)

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A gunman is terrorising young women in the cathedral town of Lafferton. What, if anything, links the apparently random murders? DCS Simon Serrailler tries to 'think' himself into the gunman's head.

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