Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill

I am reading a review copy of The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill which came to me via Early Reviewers at I have read the two previous Simon Serrailler books and enjoyed them. I have read about half of this, the third in the series.

The Risk of Darkness is a very complex book, and in order to do justice to the review I will write, I am going to record here some of my thoughts. Those who have not read the book might want to skip these posts, because there are likely to be spoilers. I feel I need to take this approach, however, in order to organize my thoughts.

There are several simultaneous plots in The Risk of Darkness, one of which carries over from the second Simon Serrailler book, The Pure in Heart, concerning the unsolved abduction of schoolboy David Angus. Another child has been abducted in a nearby town, and Simon becomes involved in the effort to find the child and capture the abductor.

When I read a book, one thing that plays a role in determining whether I like it or not is whether I care about the characters. I cared a lot about Simon and Freya Graffham in the first book of the series, The Various Haunts of Men. I found the ending of the first book shocking, which probably contributed to my very strong anticipation for the second book.

The complexity of The Risk of Darkness arises from at least two causes: there are several concurrent plots; and Simon, himself, is a very complex person. In addition to his law enforcement career, Simon is an artist who spends time in Italy, exhibits his drawings and is apparently quite successful financially as an artist. He has compartmentalized his life, working to keep the two parts separate. Although he would almost certainly be an artist even if he weren't in law enforcement, there is no question that Simon uses his art as an escape from the pressures of his police work.

At least three of the subplots in The Risk of Darkness concern women who are assaulted and explorations of how each of these women deals with the assault on their bodies and the shattering of their feelings of safety.

Mother-daughter relationships form another group of subplots.

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