Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Betrayal of Trust

The sixth book from Susan Hill to feature the inhabitants of Lafferton. The two main characters are siblings Dr Cat Deerbon and top cop DCS Simon Serrailler. The plots and themes explored usually feature the family's ongoing story and topics and situations thrown up by the pair's respective professions; health or lack of it, crime in society - all sensitively addressed in Hill's brilliant prose and her thoughtful insights into human emotions. Crime fiction? Well yeah, but not really comparable to much of the genre's staples and conventions.
In this one flooding in Lafferton has unearthed the bones of a young girl missing for 16 years, a mystery from the past that caused a big splash on the national consciousness. But alongside them are the bones of another young woman whose disappearance contrastingly caused not even a ripple. Serrailler is tasked with the cold case but is hampered by severe budget restrictions and he's just met the love of his life. Cat Deerbon deals with financial problems directing the local hospice, calling on the expertise of a newcomer to the town who is setting up a new care home for Alzheimer sufferers. In her general surgery she is consulted by a woman called Jocelyn with the early symptoms of Motor Neurone Disease, which leads to the thorny subject of assisted suicide. I think Hill tackles the subject as objectively as possible, though of course her characters are more swept along with the emotions of the terrible choices they face. Age, mortality, memory, lives lived and lives cut short, all played out in the setting of a Cathedral town and tied together with the lines of synchronicity within a cold case murder inquiry. I would add the advisory that this one is probably going to have more resonance with older readers or folk who have had their lives touched by terminal illness.

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