The Review: The Soul of Discretion by Susan Hill (2014)



Title: The Soul of Discretion
Author: Susan Hill
Date Of Version Reviewed: 2015
Publisher: Vintage
RRP: £7.99
ISBN: 978-0-099-57594-8


The premise of Soul of Discretion is sound though the execution does not meet the lofty standards of previous Serrailler instalments. It is unfortunate because given the level of talent possessed by Susan Hill one would expect a more elaborate plot with spectacular finish. Instead the reader is subjected to a fairly long build up to a lacklustre finale. I can only suspect that in the planning process Hill wanted to try something a little edgier but she simply bottles; implying vaguely at the hideous underbelly of child molesters. In the hands of a more daring writer this could have been a gritty, hard but gripping read. When one writes about molesters of children it is near impossible to bring the whole subject to life by tip-toeing around the grizzly, painful realities that come along with such a subject matter. Whilst Hill makes reference to ‘snuff’ movies we do not get anywhere close to a depiction that makes us loathe the ‘good guys’ and will on Serrailler to put them in the dock.

Hill is, however, impressive when it comes to the finer aspects of the novel – for example Serrailler’s inner turmoil at being close to people who are essentially monsters. He acknowledged that the men he was locked up with were normal looking men; not the old, seedy men one brings to mind when thinking of molesters. There are fleeting moments of Serrailler feeling an affinity with the criminals but Hill whips out the carpet from an intriguing side-line just as it gets going.

Serrailler is his usual commitment phobic, work-a-holic, heart breaking self. There is something likeable about the Chief Superintendent though he is not at his best here – probably as he is going undercover and so has to reign in his usual tendencies. His father on the other hand is a hideously horrible human accused of rape. This part of the tale falls flatter than the ending of the kiddy-fiddler chasing through the countryside. In fact I am unsure why the sub-plot featuring the rape-y senior Serrailler was included other than to fill a few pages. One would hope that this would move forward but it sounds as though it was cut short before it got going.

Sister Cat is somewhat incongruent in this novel. She is pulled between private GP practice, the NHS and a hospice job and talks at length about how she feels torn between her values and her financial situation. She then shrugs off the news that her father is a rapist with a non-emotive ‘I’m not surprised’ kind of comment. Surely she would be torn up about the news and the potential catastrophic consequences for her father, her own reputation and the fact her brother is the head of the police CID. Apparently not. I am not a huge fan of Cat – once a fairly enjoyable character has turned holier than thou and it’s not that pretty.

The writing is fairly straight forward with some good descriptive pieces – easy to read though definitely shines within the crime procedural genre. Hill can – as shown in The Woman In Black – write brilliantly when the subject matter is tame enough and the story solid. Unfortunately she was unable to take on such a tricky subject matter with conviction and as such the book was somewhat disappointing.

Rating: 5/10


What folks at Goodreads said…

‘Susan Hill does it again! Great storyline that came out of nowhere but she made it work.’ Kayz 4/5

I’ve read all the Serrailler novels and this was the most disappointing.‘  Kirsty 3/5

This is another excellent novel in the Serrailler series. Susan Hill has created a remarkable sequence of novels, I think, which deal with important human issues – most notably people’s responses to death – while bringing us exciting, engrossing stories and thoroughly believable characters.’  Sid Nuncius 5/5

This book was extremely well-written, but it was just too dark for me.‘  Kristi Lamont 2/5

‘I cannot say enough good things about this book and series. Hill takes some very horrific and complex issues and breaks them down for us through the eyes of various characters and always leaves you wanting for more.’ Mike Gabor 5/5

I love Susan Hill’s writing style but I’m so fed up with the sadness and violence in all the books of the series. Four stars for her writing and two stars for the content.‘  Ingrid 3/5



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