The second book in the Simon Serrailler series (the first book was The Various Haunts of Men), The Pure In Heart takes place just a few months after the events of the earlier book, which ended with a huge shocker that left me reeling. For this reason, I wouldn’t read this book without having read the first book. These are not really “horror” books but they do deal with the darker aspects of life.
THE BASIC STORY
DCI Simon Serrailler cuts short his trip to Venice to return home to the cathedral village of Lafferton when he receives news that his sister Martha is on death’s door. Upon his return, Simon is thrust into a case that requires his immediate attention: the disappearance of a boy named David. Intertwined with the Serrailler family drama and David’s disappearance is the story of a man recently released from prison who is finding is difficult to go straight.
Like the first book, this is really more about the village and citizens of Lafferton than it is about Simon Serrailler (thought we do get to know this enigmatic character a bit more than we did in the first book, where he barely made an appearance). The plot’s main focus is the disappearance of the boy and how it wreaks havoc on his family. I thought this aspect of the story was well done. In the face of an unthinkable tragedy, the family begins to self-destruct rather than finding strength in each other. In addition, the way that Hill describes David’s fate left me feeling like I had swallowed a stone.
The story about the ex-con who is trying to go straight was less compelling to me, but I suspect that Hill might be setting things up for the next book. However, it was easy to see how someone determined to do right might find themselves veering off-track and finding the “real world” a less attractive alternative than prison.
Like the first book, the narrator changes from chapter to chapter. I love this aspect of Hill’s writing, and I never knew where she might take us. (She is not afraid to kill off characters!) In addition, there were some developments at the end of this book that seemed like they were laying the groundwork for future stories. I do plan on continuing on with the third book, The Risk of Darkness, and seeing how things play out.
The bottom line is that if you are looking for a well-written and multi-layered crime novel that is more than just “who done it,” this series would be very satisfying.