Saturday 31 July 2010

Susan Hill

Just reading the newest Susan Hill, The Shadows In The Street. It’s her fifth detective novel, all featuring a police, Simon Serrailler. Forget the Ian Rankins and Peter Robinsons or whoever else. She is simply the very best in the field. All of the novels are so superbly textured, with characters who are totally, utterly alive and three-dimensional. It’s what I aspired to in The Broken Token and also in the new one, but reading her makes me realise just how far I have to go. These are books about characters with full lives – even the confirmed bachelor Serrailler – where the mystery comes second. You feel these people, you know them you’re sorry to feel them go when the book ends.
I’d just re-read The Pure in Heart, the second in the series, and even there it’s note-perfect. She’s an acclaimed writer, of course, although the other books of hers I’ve tried haven’t touched me like these. With these, it seems, she’s opened up a beautifully rich vein, and she deserves to be celebrated for them. If Richard Nottingham and my other creations can come close to this level I’ll feel I’ve done something. The mystery novel is all too often derided as genre fiction (albeit less than used to be the case) but Susan Hill creates literature of the highest order.

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