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The Pure in Heart by Susan Hill

While digging around the shelves of Lewisham Library to pick another Reginald Hill story about Daziel and Pascoe (my recent and much belated discovery as a source of UK police novels) I came across a couple of books by Susan Hill (no relation as far as I am aware); this is my review of one of them:

The Pure in Heart by Susan Hill

August 11, 2008 by Wulf Forrester-Barker
Book Review

Rating: 2 / 5

Book cover

Susan Hill and her fictional detective, Simon Serrailler, come with impeccable recommendations from the likes of Ruth Rendell and glowing comparisons to P D Jame’s aesthetic and sensitive Adam Dalgleish. Having read The Pure in Heart, I think these crowns are too big, or at least not fitting, setting up unreasonable expectations.

Serrailler is an artist but he is less gentle and kind than the saintly and generous Dalgleish, hung up with the thoughts of a relationship that might have come to pass with a former colleague (murdered, probably in the first book in the series) and cruelly spurning the attempts of his former paramour who seeks emotional engagement or at least some connection.

He seems a very thorough and considerate senior police officer (in fact, it is notable how all the top brass are respectful and go out of their way to not make the lower ranks seem put out) but, truth be told, seems largely ineffectual in the all-important task of detecting and getting to the bottom of the mystery at hand. Of course real police work must often be like this, hard work and few breaks, but the only crime mystery that gets solved in the course of the book is a minor sub-plot (and that only at a distance, once information has been passed to Interpol).

Susan Hill writes very well. I can happily praise her in that respect. However, plotting the book out so that the main crime is unresolved, and others don’t even get detected, breaks the contract I expect to enter into when I pick up a police detective novel. The Pure in Heart is a crime novel for those who like reading about people and families but not such a success for fans of the police procedural genre.

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